An English/Classics major who will study at Oxford University this fall and a physics major and pitcher still battling for the Little Giants in the conference baseball championship were honored with the top awards for the Class of 2018 during the Deans' Breakfast Saturday.
Cody Cochran, whose seventh victory of the season led Wabash to the North Coast Athletic Conference finals Friday night, earned the Frank Hugh Sparks Award for All-Around Student Achievement. Named in honor of the College’s eighth president, the Sparks Award is given to a senior "who has done the most to promote the true spirit and purpose of Wabash College."
Luke Doughty, whose work with the Indiana Humanities Council and the Wabash Liberal Arts Immersion Program (WLAIP) has empowered students on and off campus, earned the John Maurice Butler Prize for Scholarship and Character. The Butler Prize is voted on by the entire Wabash faculty and is given "to a student of high character and great ability."
Cochran, who earlier this year won the Indianapolis Association of Wabash Men Scholar-Athlete Award and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, could not attend the breakfast Saturday as the Little Giants competed in Ohio for the championship. But the first winner of the Sparks Award, Robert Wedgeworth ’59, was present and has an interesting connection to this year’s honoree: Cochran was also the winner two years ago of the Wedgeworth Research, Scholarship & Creativity Award, funded by Wedgeworth and his wife.
Also elected to Phi Beta Kappa and a George Lewes Mackintosh Fellow, Doughty was a chemistry major until English Professor Jill Lamberton’s Writing with Power and Grace course changed his plans.
“I found a bit of vocation there,” Doughty said. “I realized that studying English was not just enjoyable, but important, and I became interested in sharing my passion for reading and writing.”
Doughty was also a member of the track and cross country teams, where he says he found "the people I will consider my best friends for life.
"I’m super proud of them—I never cared more for a group of people or wanted success more than for those guys."
Dean of the College Scott Feller began the annual Deans' Breakfast speech with praise for this year's class and its commitment to civil conversation. He recalled the many excellent Chapel talks he had heard on campus recently from faculty, staff, and students.
"But the most important messages I heard in Chapel I heard from students. I was proud of the students who spoke, and of all those students who attended and listened. Your commitment to discourse makes me proud and inspires me, and I hope those conversations will be what you remember from this year."
Dean Feller noted that the graduates were about to become alumni whose generosity is part of the structural foundation of the College.
Feller said that although one of the threats to liberal arts education appears to be lack of affordability, the problem is actually the stagnation of family income even as college costs rise.
"Family income has been stagnant for so many years that now a family has to take on such economic stress to afford an education," Feller said. "I hope some of you in this room will work to make income in our country more equally distributed."
Feller offered statistics that showed how a Wabash liberal arts education improves social mobility, and more so than any other school in the GLCA and NCAC.
"When you look at the student demographic in terms of median family income and percentage in the top 1%, Wabash has a more blue-collar clientele than any of those schools, more so even than Purdue. Wabash serves more students of modest economic means.
"And 73% of Wabash students who come from families in the lower 40% of income will be in the top 40% by the time they reach age 35. An elite college like that—like Knox, Berea, and Wabash—serves as an engine of economic mobility and is serving the public good."
Feller urged the graduates to accept their responsibility to support the College, tell the story of their experience here, and to join that work.