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Fall 2019: From the NAWM


Every year there is one Wabash event I look forward to more than any other, and no, it isn’t any occasion where we beat DePauw like a drum (although those are close seconds!). There is no event I find more satisfying, more representative, or more communally expressive of what it means to be a part of Wabash than Alumni Chapel during Homecoming. It always feels, as WM Editor Steve Charles said to NAWM Vice President Kip Chase before the event this year, “like the whole family coming home.” It’s also where the NAWM bestows our highest honors to those who represent the best of what is Wabash. 

We all know Wabash produces some exceptional people who leave here and then go hone their skills in various crucibles. To see how these talented people’s skills manifest and evolve themselves 5, 10, 15, 25, or more years later is always inspiring. Their examples teach the rest of us. “Inspiration exists,” Picasso once lamented, “but it has to find you working.” 

It always saddens me to see vacant seats in the Chapel on this particular day. In such a volatile world too devoid of true role models, too divisive to find common cause in celebrating the achievements of others whose lives are truly worth lauding, too enamored with and venerating false idols from our movie screens, televisions, or politics, we are graced to have true heroes in our midst. Our community, students, and staff should help celebrate these sons (or, sometimes, honorary daughters) of Wabash, taking great solace and joy in what is right in our world through these people and their stories, in how well they are living their lives. But we don’t, or not enough, and that is a missed opportunity. One I hope you’ll help me rectify next Homecoming, and every Homecoming after. 

These men and women give me hope for what our world, our community, what our Wabash is and should be, whether it’s Marcus Kammrath ’16 answering every call to duty in support of our Career Services Office; Jim Dyer ’82 nearly singlehandedly revitalizing the St. Louis regional association and his Phi Delt fraternity; Mark Shreve ’04 showing how to be a citizen of the world, a thoughtful strategist, a dynamic class agent, or a local volunteer; John Pence ’58 spreading love for Academic Realism through his renowned art gallery or aiding LGBTQ students kicked out of their homes and in need of scholarship lifelines to attend college from his $35 million co-founded Point Foundation; Leonard “Rusty’” Johnson ’63 blazing a career as a medical school educator, doctor, author, and scientist; or Joe Pfennig steering his best high school students toward admissions at Wabash. 

And then there is Professor Rick Warner H’13—historian, teacher, chef, Latin cuisine expert, Vermont native, and California trained but Hoosier through and through—whom we welcomed this year into our ranks as an honorary alumnus. Someone who reminds us again that some of the best reflections of what it means to be a graduate of Wabash might not be graduates of Wabash at all, but exhibit nonetheless every trait of what it means to be “Some Little Giant.” 

Each of these men has put in significant time (lifetimes in some cases) building the success for which we honor them. None has taken the path of least resistance. Some left Wabash and rarely ventured back, instead focusing on their life’s work, creating a dossier of successes within their lives of which to be proud, proving James Joyce’s adage that “when you think you’re escaping and [you] run into yourself, [you learn that] the longest way ’round is [still] the shortest way home.” 

All the honorees carved an enduring path with their dedication, their toil, and their sacrifice. They remind us to continue striving forward. 

We could not be prouder to celebrate these men, and it was my honor to welcome them home. 


President, National Association of Wabash Men