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‘Wabash is home’: Fathers and Sons return for Big Bash

Zack Havlin ’19 anticipated his dad would bring lots of energy to the Alumni Chapel Sing competition, but he still found himself overcome by laughter and pride as he watched Bill and his Class of 1984 peers proudly march through the crowd and up the Pioneer Chapel stage to belt out “Old Wabash.”

“I know the showman that he is,” said Zack, who lives in Denver, Colorado, and works as an early childhood special educator. He joined his dad and returned to campus to participate in his first ever Big Bash Reunion.

Bill Havlin ’84 (center) giving 'Old Wabash' his all during the annual Alumni Chapel Sing competition at Big Bash.

“That level of energy—that’s my dad,” he said. “It was very fun to see him up there with so many other familiar faces.”

Bill put the weekend on the calendar a year-and-a-half ago when he realized both of their reunion schedules lined up—this being Zack’s fifth and Bill’s 40th. The duo had been looking forward to the event ever since.

“I haven’t missed a reunion year since I graduated,” said Bill, who lives in Zionsville, Indiana, and works as the senior director of risk and compliance at OPENLANE, Inc., a vehicle remarketing company.

“I always look forward to catching up and sharing old war stories with whomever shows up each year,” he said. “But this year is particularly special for me since I got to share it with Zack.”

In between spending the night in Morris Hall and attending the various Big Bash events including the Wally Wabash golf outing, “Wally Belongs” symposium, picnic lunch, and various colloquia, the Havlins spent the weekend walking around campus, reminiscing about their time as students.

Bill was a physics major and math minor, a member of Sigma Chi, Sphinx Club, and the wrestling team, and he worked as an intramural referee. Zack was a psychology major and was a member of Phi Delta Theta, Sphinx Club, College Mentors for Kids, and a handful of other academic clubs for psychology, Classics, and rhetoric.

Zack ’19 and Bill ’84 Havlin

Bill said he always hoped Zack would be interested in attending Wabash, and he remembers taking his son to football games and other events with his pledge brothers.

“I hoped he would see the camaraderie and brotherhood that we shared, but the ultimate decision was his to make,” Bill said. “It was very rewarding to watch Zack mature and work through both the academic and social challenges that Wabash presents to young men.”

“We came to campus as a family so frequently growing up, as far back as I can remember really,” Zack added. “Wabash is home. It has always been a fun and important part of my life.”

Another father-son duo that participated in Big Bash included Alex ’19 and Rob ’92 Rudicel.

Rob said one of the highlights of his weekend was watching Alex, Zack, and Spencer Newmister ’19 participate in the annual Alumni Chapel Sing. Although the class representation was small, the Wabash pride was loud and mighty.

“I wish they had a better showing, but I’m proud of the guys,” said Rob, a member of Wabash’s Board of Trustees who lives in Fishers, Indiana, and works as a pediatrician.

“It reminded me of watching both of my sons (Alex and Austin ’20) participate in Chapel Sing as students and hearing about when my dad (Max ’66) participated when he was here,” he continued. “It was a very different experience, but it’s a really neat commonality and memory that we share.”

During his time at Wabash, Rob was a biology major and Classics minor and was a member of Phi Delta Theta and The Bachelor. Alex, who lives in Fishers, Indiana, and works as a cyber security analyst, was an English major, member of Phi Delta Theta, and participated in intramural sports.

Alex said his favorite Wabash memory was celebrating passing senior comprehensive exams.

The Rudicel family enjoyed all the Big Bash Reunion Weekend festivities.

“It was really cool to see how proud my dad was of me when I said I got a high pass on comps,” Alex recalled. “My GPA was probably the lowest of the four Rudicels who have graduated from Wabash so far, but I was the only one to do better than pass on comps.”

“I often say being a Wabash dad is better than being a Wabash grad,” Rob added. “I was so proud of my sons while they were at Wabash. They both faced struggles and both persevered. They worked hard, and became the thoughtful, caring young men that Wabash produces every year.”

The Rudicels encourage all alumni—no matter how far out or recently they have graduated from Wabash—to participate in future Big Bash Reunion Weekends.

“This place changes a lot of lives—it certainly changed mine—and I know many others who I have graduated with feel the same way,” Alex said. “Why wouldn’t you want to relive what you experienced five years ago?”

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