The sound of the Caleb Mills bell echoed throughout Pioneer Chapel as Wabash College welcomed its newest class of students Saturday during its annual Ringing In ceremony.
“Today, all of you officially become Wabash men – though I suspect most of you have proudly used that title for months,” President Scott Feller addressed the Class of 2026 at the start of the event as they sat in the Chapel balcony, surrounded by their family and friends seated below.
This was the first time in two years that Ringing In was held in its traditional spot inside of the Chapel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, students were rung in at Little Giant Stadium.
With that in mind, Feller challenged the 267 new students to reflect and think about how they can make the most out of their liberal arts education over next four years.
“How will you ensure that – four years from now – you are not looking back with regret at opportunities lost because you didn’t step up to embrace them,” Feller asked. “I need you to listen carefully: How you define your Wabash experience over the next four years is entirely up to you.
“I know this to be true because I’ve witnessed it for 25 years, young men arriving on campus and setting a course for themselves that leads to remarkable achievement. Take advantage of this incredible opportunity,” Feller said. “I promise you that if you are all-in at Wabash, you will develop the capacities of resilience, care, and collaboration that will prepare you to be the leaders our world so desperately needs.”
Using the hand bell that once belonged to Wabash’s first educator, Caleb Mills, Feller rang in the class, using the same bell that will toll once again when the class graduates in 2026.
“Men of the Wabash Class of 2026,” Feller said, “welcome to the brotherhood.”
The potential success of the Class of 2026 is evident in its diversity and accolades.
The class includes students from 22 states and 11 countries. Among their peers are 54 legacies (meaning a family member is already a Wabash man) and 73 first-generation college students. Five were valedictorians of their high school class, while 10 were Eagle Scouts. The average GPA of the class is 3.86.
Dean for Enrollment Chip Timmons ’96 shared stories of the class that show bravery and empathy.
One student defeated brain cancer and another is the vice-president of a group called Cancer Care and delivers food and supplies to families with children battling cancer.
One student founded an organization that raises money to provide Christmas gifts for senior citizens.
Other new students include a 1920’s ballroom music aficionado, a sports talk show host, a state powerlifting champ, a custom clothing designer, and the host of a weekly jazz podcast.
“Gentlemen, this is not the last four years of childhood or a period of prolonged adolescence. Instead, it’s your first real step into adulthood,” he said. “Wabash will provide you, our sons, the opportunities to succeed and fail, to become the best scholars, leaders, athletes, friends, men you can be – all the while surrounded by a community that will encourage, love, and unconditionally support you, just as a family should.”
Kip Chase ’03, president of the National Association of Wabash Men, repeated one phrase that many students will be sure to hear repeated: “Wabash won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.” He explained that Wabash is a place that will help students become good men, and it will do so by pushing limits and challenging students academically, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“My advice to you is, embrace the point that this college will raise the bar of expectations for you,” Chase said, “and therefore so should you of yourselves and each other.”
Chase also emphasized that students will be surrounded by and create close friendships with their peers, professors, staff, coaches, and alumni who all want to see them succeed during their time here and beyond.
“This place will not ask you to do this alone. It will support you in ways that will change your life. Special friendships will develop. The ones that last forever,” Chase said. “These relationships will be sharpened by respectful discourse and trial and error. Enjoy the challenge and beauty in all of this and remember the African proverb, ‘smooth seas, do not make for skilled sailors.’ Wabash College knows well how to prepare its students for what lies ahead and this good place calls out for you.”