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Alumni and Friends Paved the Way for Class of ’09

The Class of 2009 will be graduated from Wabash this Sunday afternoon at 2:30. Please pray for sunshine — commencement ceremonies at Wabash are so much more memorable when the event is held on the College Mall in the shadow of the Pioneer Chapel.

The men in the Class of 2009 will have much to reflect upon as they prepare to march on Sunday. They’ll probably focus on the friendships they have made with their classmates, professors, coaches, and people on the staff. They will remember specific moments from their classes that were turning points in their academic careers. They’ll remember big hits — on the football and baseball fields — and performances on stage by their fellow students.

Each graduate owes a great debt to the alumni and friends of the College, whose gifts to the endowment and to the Annual Fund have strengthened the College over 176 years.

I was reviewing the list of graduates the other day and just kept smiling as I thought about the many accomplishments of these talented, curious, and bright young men. I know a good many of them personally, and those I don’t know, I have followed from my perch in Kane House.

I wish I knew Kyle Prifogle better. He’s one of our top students in mathematics and — in good liberal arts fashion — chose to minor in music. As a musician, he’s one of the most talented pianists to come through Wabash in decades, and he was also a pivotal leader of our world music ensemble, Wamidan.

Andy Leshovsky, who came to us from St. Paul, Minnesota, really struggled his first year at Wabash. But he quickly turned things around to become an amazingly talented student and accomplished leader. His work ethic drove him through his time at Wabash, and is one reason why Dean Gary Phillips selected him to give one of the two commencement addresses this Sunday.

The other address will be given by "Duncan" Dam, who is an international student from Hanoi, Vietnam. Not only did he graduate with Phi Beta Kappa honors as a chemistry major, he sang in the Glee Club and was a tour guide for our Admissions Office.

There are some pretty amazing student-athletes graduating this weekend, too. Baseball players Matt Dodaro and Jake Thomas annihilated the record book as hitters and willed their teammates to the conference playoffs, a feat never before accomplished since Wabash joined the NCAC. 

Thomas not only set the single-season hits record, he earned a spot on the Academic All-District team with a sterling grade point average.

If you talk about athletes and grade point averages, Brock Graham quickly comes to mind. Technically, he’ll graduate this weekend, but he finished up all of his course work in December — in just five semesters and with a grade point average just shy of perfect. On the football field, there was nobody any tougher when it came to picking up short yards or catching the ball in traffic.

Jay Horrey and Sean Clerget are among my favorite tennis doubles partners ever. See, these two guys were recruited as tennis players and both joined Beta Theta Pi fraternity. They chose to major in political science as pre-law students, and they traveled Europe together as juniors.

What makes them such good friends, though, are their differences — perhaps. Jay was president of the College Democrats; Sean edited the campus conservative journal, The Phoenix, and had an internship with Republican Senator Richard Lugar. Only at Wabash.

Most people know Rich Lehmann as a linebacker on the football team. Most don’t realize that he’s likely to pursue a career as a professional singer.

Speaking of singers, seniors Royce Gregerson, Justin Bilby, Jay Brouwer, and Tom Pizarek made up the backbone of the stunningly impressive Wabash College Glee Club these last four years. And if they didn’t have other options, I suspect all could join Lehmann in pursuit of professional singing careers.

Matt Goodrich is another amazing senior. Over the last four years, he’s starred in about every role imaginable on the Wabash stage — from villain to hero to lover.

Asher Weaver won the community service award during the end-of-year academic convocation. As two-year president of Alpha Phi Omega, Asher volunteered literally hundreds of hours of service to this community, and under his leadership, APO donated upwards of $25,000 to local agencies in the last two years.

Nathan Rutz didn’t receive honors for his service — to the state of West Virginia, where he has been an activist in the fight against the coal mining technique known as "mountain top removal." Take a moment to read about his fight for mountain justice to better understand the type of young man Nathan is..

I could go on and on about the men in the Class of 2009. Each young man is a story. Each young man made his own way through Wabash, created his own memories, and etched an indelible mark in the College’s history.

Their experiences in baseball and tennis, in theater and Glee Club, and traveling around the world with Immersion Learning Courses, Study Abroad, and Summer Internships all are made possible by gifts to the College. It's simply remarkable the role the Annual Fund and gifts to the endowment play in the lives of Wabash students.

I wish all of the men in the Class of 2009 the best of luck as their lives unfold; I wish them Godspeed.