Wabash Blogs Wabash West
 

Main | December 2006 »

June 18, 2006

Wrapping Up An Incredible Two Week Visit

Howard W. Hewitt,  Oakland,  Calif. - It's Sunday evening and I fly home quite early Monday morning. This is a short "travelogue" entry for the wine folks who've read the blog and share my interest in wine. I don't want to take space from the quick look at my visits with the Wabash alumni that  you can read below. I spent almost three days doing wine country and I've attached a photo album with a little longer information on each picture for those interested. And I am bringing home a little wine; ok, maybe more than a little!

Be sure to look for the Wabash Magazine stories and website profiles later this year on the nine alums we came out here to see. And by mid-week I should have a story up featuring Bronson Frick '95 and his view on a timely Surgeon General report due out before the end of the month.

Finally, thanks to  the many folks who left comments on the blog and all the e-mail about the trip. I can't wait to start writing the stories about these fascinating Wabash men!

June 16, 2006

Pavy '81 Goes From Yale to Software to Wine

Howard W. Hewitt, Sonoma, Calif. – Like so many Wabash men it took a few career turns for Stephen Pavy ’81 to find the right niche.

Pavy attended Yale Divinity School after Wabash graduation and ministered for a while. He worked in higher education. Then he met two friends in Chicago who were doctors. One of those friends was dabbling in medical related software. That led Pavy into California’s software industry and after just a few years to his real passion.

Pavy did well in that business but eventually resigned to work on a stunning home atop the Sonoma Mountain. Pavy did much of the landscaping, planted a vineyard, and completed substantial work himself on the more than 6,000-square foot home.

But all along his interest in wine was getting stronger. So he started in a tasting room at St. Francis Winery and worked his way up through other winery hospitality positions. He loves the interaction he gets with the customers who trek through wine country.

He took a big step up recently when he became wine educator for Joseph Phelps. Phelps makes outstanding wines and last year Wine Spectator named Phelps ‘Insignia’ the No. 1 wine on its annual list of Top 100 wines.

But working in the industry isn’t enough for Stephen. He is using the knowledge he gained at St. Francis and hopes to gain at Phelps to make his own wines. He’s not a bonded winery so he makes it for friends and to just give away. But he has his eyes on the future.

He admits the possibility of combining the wine with his sprawling home to create some sort of a hospitality business. He has a barn on the property that was built for horses that he has converted to his make-shift winery.

He is making a Sauvignon Blanc and a Bordeaux blend red. He poured both during our chat Friday night. It was rather amazing to see this small vineyard near his home and then taste his two wines that held up well against much of what you’d taste in the valley. His Sauv-Blanc was outstanding.

He’s not sure where these combined interests will lead him but he’s energized when talking about the possibilities.

Read a full story on Stephen’s career path and interest in wine later this year in Wabash Magazine and the Wabash College website. 

Notes:

- I left San Francisco this morning under bright sun and probably the warmest day of the year for the Bay City.Temperatures inland reached near 90 degrees Friday.

I was headed up to Sonoma to meet Stephen Pavy but had all day. I made a stop after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to take a few photos. I have a small photo album here from my day's travel.

I spent a couple of hours in Sonoma and visited a couple of wineries between Sonoma and the Inn where I'll spend the next two nights.

A story: I had lunch in the Swiss Hotel in Sonoma, which is probably the most famous restaurant in the area. Sitting beside me at the bar was a rather talkative woman that turned out to be the tasting room manager at Ravenswood Winery, just oustide of town. She gave me lots of suggestions and then went to her purse and pulled out a complimentary tasting pass for Ravenswood's reserve wines.I've found the Bay area different than many large city areas I've visited. The people just seem far more approachable and friendly!

Ravenswood makes pretty good Zinfindel that can be found in most of the country. The reserve Zins are available in restaurants and at the winery.

- My California visit comes to an end this weekend. I've booked myself into a nice bed and breakfast inn south of Santa Rosa and I'm going to be doing wine country for the weekend (my expense, not Wabash!)

I'll return to Indiana Monday and tackle the mountain of interviews and photographs I've taken over the past two weeks. Again, the stories on these nine alums will appear late this year in Wabash Magazine and on the Wabash College webisite.

June 15, 2006

Pence Driving Foundation Awarding LGBT Scholarships

Howard W. Hewitt, San Francisco, Calif. – John Pence ’58 might be the godfather of a renewal in American realism painting.

After an 8-year stint in the Navy, which included serving Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson in the White House, and seven years working in the airline industry he opened an art gallery in San Francisco.

Pence, 70, decided to concentrate on American Realism because people can easily recognize talent in realist paintings. He also put his focus on young people and helping establish young artists. He brought young artists into the field when most major museums and galleries were displaying only American Realism paintings by deceased artists.

Today galleries like The John Pence Gallery have sprung up in San Francisco and across the country. There is one such museum in Evansville, he added. Pence even good-naturedly complains New York galleries often steal his up-and-coming artists.

His fashionable 8,000-square foot gallery near Union Square in San Francisco has housed more than just art over the past 32 year too. Pence has used his gallery for many charitable fundraisers, political fundraisers, and other gatherings.

“I think I’ve hosted a fundraiser for every woman who ever ran for anything in this city,” he said with a laugh. Pence loves talking about his work with young artists, but never strays too far from his Wabash political science major. He becomes energized and animated when discussing politics and its players.

He has devoted much of his life to those charitable organizations.  He is national chairman of The Point Foundation. The Point Foundation funds college scholarships for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender students. The one common thread among recipients is they have had some estrangement if not outright rejection from their families.

He is a behind-the-scenes organizer and “big idea man” for what is now one of the five largest LGBT charities in the nation. When the idea of forming a scholarship foundation for such young people was discussed, several of the organizers were thinking about making it big enough for the state of California. John urged them to think big and build it as a national organization.

It now consumes him every bit as much as his gallery. His charitable work has benefited from his years of work in Washington D.C. and the White House. He’s rubbed elbows with the very powerful and very wealthy.

He’s using his “negotiating skills,” he calls it, to bring people together to send disenfranchised young people to college. He said the Point Foundation work is part of the legacy he hopes to leave behind. But he doesn’t intend for that to be any time soon.

When he turned 65, he made a commitment to run the gallery until he was 75. So today John Pence is halfway there, but he’s a man who clearly has never done anything with only 50 percent effort.

A full story on John Pence will be published later this year in Wabash Magazine and the Wabash College website.

Notes:

- Ok, I rode a cable car, walked Fisherman's Wharf and visited Chinatown. I thought that was enough "San Francisco experience." But this morning I was awakened from a light sleep by what seemed like a jiggle in the bed - sort of like a water bed. I didn't think much about it and went back to  sleep. Imagine the mild surprise then when I was watching morning news to hear a 4.3 earthquake struck about 45 miles away. Indeed, that jiggle was a quake. I didn't need that S.F. experience!

- I've received e-mail from several Wabash alums in the Central California area, and elsewhere, saying stop by if you're in the neighborhood.
And there certainly are several men in the Bay area that could have been on our visit list. Jonathan Walsh '98 contacted me by e-mail suggesting together just to talk about Wabash and such and we pulled that off this evening. He works downtown for Washington Mutual in its credit card division. The Gary, Ind., native has been living and working in the city for four years after starting his career in Chicago post-Wabash. We talked about Wabash, wine, and the city. It was a nice visit.

- Today is the last day I’ll spend in San Francisco. I’ve now seen 8 of 9 alums planned for this visit. I wrap up the working portion of the trip Friday with a visit to Stephen Pavy ’85. Pavy was on campus for Big Bash and hosted a popular colloquium on wine and food pairings. So it’s back to Sonoma for the wrap-up!

- Since it is my last day in this magnificent city, one I had never visited previously, I took some early morning time to do more exploring. I took my only walk down through Chinatown.

In photos: Top right: Pence talks about the detail in one of the paintings on display. Center: Pence near the entrance of is gallery. Lower right: One of the most popular and practical attractions in Chinatown is the daily fresh vegetable and fruit market.

Sparks '69 Building Boutique Winery Business

Howard W. Hewitt, Sonoma, Ca., (Carneros Region) – Doug Sparks ’69 got interested in wine a long time ago. He even planned turning his Sunset Cellars winery into a retirement business. But changes in the Silicon Valley consulting business he owned for 25 years accelerated the plan by a few years.

Sparks and his wife now spend their time working with partner farmers, a partner winemaker and handling all facets of the business from their San Francisco home not far from the Golden Gate bridge. He has a partner who makes his limited white wines, while Doug is the winemaker for the Zinfindel, Barbera, and Petit Syrah.

Sparks still does a little consulting and his wife works part-time in a wine shop. But the two-person business requires lots of hours. They rent space where they make the wine in Lake County, north of Sonoma. They buy all their grapes through hand-shake deals with local farmers. Doug hustles distributors to move his wines into restaurants and nice wine shops.

Today he drove through Suisun Valley, which borders Napa, and we visited the grower who provides his Zinfandel grapes. We walked the vineyard and talked about the annual challenges of producing just the right crop.

“It’s all about the wine,” said Sparks’ grower, Roger King. “It’s not about growing grapes.”

Sparks describes himself as part scientist and part artesian. He’s also a salesman and congenial host in a Sonoma County tasting room he shares with four other small, family-owned wineries.

He must operate the shared tasting room each Wednesday afternoon and one weekend a month. He pours wines from all five wineries and answers curious tourists questions about wine and winemaking.

He does it all with a wink and a smile. He admits he’d like to see his business grow some. Currently Sunset Cellars produces about 2,000 cases a year, putting it in the niche of family-owned boutique wineries.

His Zinfandels and Barbera wines have won numerous awards. His wines are currently not available in Indiana. He distributes primarily in California and Texas. He’s working on some other states, including an Indiana distributor.

Sparks full story will be published this fall in Wabash Magazine and on the Wabash website.

Notes:

- A personal note regarding my day with Doug Sparks. He and his grower, Roger King, and I went to lunch at a nice cafÈ near King’s vineyards. It really was a wine geek’s biggest thrill to sit and listen to the winemaker and grower talk about winemaking and the industry.

In photos: Top right, Doug pours one of his Sunset Cellars wines for a visitor to the Sonoma tasting room. Lower left, King and Sparks take a look at zinfindel grapes in their early stage of development.

June 14, 2006

Frick '95, Castle '97 Making Their Mark in Bay Area

Howard W. Hewitt, Berkeley, Calif. – “People have to breathe no matter what their political affiliation might be,” Bronson Frick ’95 explained.

Frick is the Associate Director of Americans for Non-Smokers Rights. He’s quick to point out that the non-partisan organization isn’t a non-smoking organization; it’s an organization promoting the rights of those who don’t smoke against second-hand smoke in the work place and public areas.

Frick, a Nashville, Ind., native has worked in the White House for President and Hillary Clinton, spent a year teaching in Estonia, had a year in France to study abroad, has taught English in Indonesia, and traveled the world working for the United States government.

He’s had all of those experiences at a relatively young age. He brought his political experience to the non-smokers rights group and now finds himself frequently traveling the country as a spokesman, educator and grass-roots organizer.

The organization is based out of Berkeley on a non-descript side street some distance from the city’s famous campus. The organization shares a building with the Sierra Club and the Berkeley Ecology organization – credited with starting the country’s first-ever recycling program.

Frick’s name often turns up all around the country in newspapers and media. The group assists local organizations in crafting and guiding non-smoking ordinances through local government.

Look for more from Frick in the next week on the Wabash website.

San Jose, Calif. – In a stereotypical world people in the Midwest and probably the East Coast think of California and think of wine, Hollywood, or maybe even liberal politics. Certainly the tech boom and Silicon Valley would be right in that mix.

Justin Castle ’97 has experienced the boom, bust and rebuilding of a company during his time with Covad.

Castle, a Frankfort, Ind., native started with US West and CEO Bob Knowling ’77. The former Little Giant football player began his Covad career as part of a management program. He quickly became a dependable up-and-coming manager and eventually took on opening up a new Atlanta office.

Covad is a provider of high speed internet services including DSL and broadband services. But the bottom fell out from under the fast-expanding company and left Castle questioning the company and his future. He had to dismiss the team he had formed to build the business in Atlanta. He called it a tremendous, and emotionally difficult, learning experience.

But he stuck with the company and took a position in Chicago, met his wife, and eventually went back to Colorado.

In order to grow with a company trying to regain its footing he moved out to San Jose two years ago. He explained that every job he has had with the company since the early days has little to do with a title. He’s always been given different tasks and currently provides management leadership to a team involved in the engineering functions of Covad’s services.

He said a liberal arts degree doesn’t make him an engineer but it did make him a good listener, and it helped him learn to surround himself with people he could trust.

Read more about Frick and Castle later this year in Wabash Magazine and on the College website.

June 12, 2006

Seeing City by the Bay on a Two-Day Break

Howard W. Hewitt, San Francisco - You grow up hearing about this beautiful city by the bay but until you experience it, you don't quite get it. This is my first-ever visit to San Francisco and California. One of the Wabash graduates I'm visiting had to change our appointment from Monday to Tuesday so I gained a day off, though I've found plenty of transcribing and planning chores to keep busy.

So today is a bit of a travelogue day but tomorrow I'm seeing two alums and I'll be blogging sometime Tuesday night on those visits.

Sunday was an unseasonably cool, misty, cloudy day even for San Francisco. I had planned on going to see a Giants game and the new AT&T Park. I waited on city transit as two packed buses drove by. After a bit in the cool, misty air, I thought better and decided against the game.

I strolled downtown a bit and found a discount ticket to see actor Leslie Jordan in a one-man autobiographical show just down the street from my hotel. The show "Like a Dog on Linoleum" was hilarious.

You might not immediately recognize the name, but you would instantly know the face and voice. He has had rolls in Will & Grace, Boston Legal, and Sordid Lives. He might even be best known for playing an angel in a 1980s TV commercial for the U.S. Army. I found a picture on the web I've posted here to jar memories.

Today (Monday) was devoted to finalizing appointments and transcribing interviews. I knocked off late afternoon and visited San Francisco's famous Fisherman's Wharf. Here is a photo album of a few shots I took today.

Before making this trip I got lots of advice and it was very split on  the wharf. It's a tourist trap for sure. And I guess that's the advice I now would give: Go see it, knowing what it is. And a final  note - with  what seemed like a 100 seafood restaurants, I miraculously  picked out an extraordinarily mediocre one.

Notes:

- There are things you just have to do when visiting San Francisco. So, today I: Rode a cable car, bought some Sees chocolate, Boudin sourdough bread - and I think broke my little toe. I'd recommend at least the first three.

June 10, 2006

Ludlow '62 Found Success in Seed Business

Howard W. Hewitt, Angels Camp, Calif. – Mark Twain once owned a home just outside of town here. He spent some time in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Of course Twain was quite a story teller. C.J. Ludlow ’62 may not be in Twain’s class, but he sure knows how to spin a yarn. 

Ludlow grew up as a “poor farm boy” from Hillsboro, Ind., not far from Wabash College. He wanted to prove his critics wrong and show he could make something of himself. He has more than succeeded.

 “Jo Jo,” as his friends call him, earned a masters and doctorate from Vanderbilt and a post-doctorate degree from Berkeley. He recently semi-retired from a very successful seed business he still has a hand in at Salinas, Calif.

Angel’s Camp sits about 2.5 hours due west of San Francisco. It’s better known as an old gold mining town than it is for Twain’s occasional visits. Though Ludlow owns property in several other states, he calls a modest one-story home outside of town his permanent residence. 

But there is nothing modest about the “barn” he shares with a friend. The 8,500-square-foot barn actually belongs to a buddy who lives out on Pebble Beach. That friend stores three of his antique automobiles there. The barn has tile floors and a small apartment. Ludlow stores about 20 of his approximate 30 antique or collectible cars in the barn.

Stuffed inside a non-descript barn at his modest home, you’d find a stainless steel DeLorean and a 1989 Jaguar with a ’98 Corvette engine.

Ludlow is a storyteller, salesman and “good ol’ boy.” He loves each role.

All of his cars run just fine, thank you. “Why have these things and stick them in some barn to gather two inches of dust,” he asks. His vehicles are frequently in parades and even the movies! He takes one of his favorites to Las Vegas each year for a big cruise car show up and down the strip.

He has been slowed by a nerve problem in a hip and recent minor heart attack. But he energetically plays with his 6-month old mule Poncho Via.

His friends told him he had no chance of getting into Wabash College. That motivated him, and he proved them wrong. He’s modest about his success, but proud of his advanced degrees, admits his defeats, and enjoys his successes – all 12 cylinders at a time.

Note: Stories about Ludlow and the other alums we're visiting on this Californa trip will be published later this year in Wabash Magazine and on  the Wabash website.

In photos: On  homepage: Ludlow with his favorite car: A 1930 Cadillac once owned by Al Capone's wife. At top right, Ludlow talks about his 1926 Gardner made in Ohio. The car was used in the movie, "Oh Brother, Where  Art Thou," and star George Clooney drove it in the picture. Lower left, some of Ludlow's 'horseless carriages.'

 Notes:

- I’ve now visited four of the nine Wabash alums scheduled for this trip. It’s amazing how much they appreciate a visit and the chance to tell their stories!

- Now that I’m in San Francisco, let the wine geekiness begin. At risk of catching some major flak from a few folks – I’m going to include a comment on those days I find something really interesting. I’ll always put it at the bottom of comments for those rolling their eyes at this point! Tonight I drank Bonarda for the first time. It’s a grape grown in Argentina and a bit like Malbec without the tannic characteristics. Specifically, I had a 2004 bottle of La Posta Bonarda. It’s a grape many people have not heard of, but often used for blending in Argentinean wines. I paid about $20 for it from a wine bar, so I’m guessing it’s probably mid-teens if you can find it in a wine shop. Very drinkable, rather bold, some tannins, and it would be great with food!

June 09, 2006

A Travel Day With a Side Trip!

Howard W. Hewitt, Stockton, Calif. - Today was a travel day. I'm in Stockton, California, home to the University of the Pacific. Stockton is very much Central California, halfway between San Francisco and Yosemite National Park. It's a large city of nearly 300,000.

Saturday I will travel near Yosemite to see Dr. C.J. Ludlow '62. Ludlow has had an interesting career path and lives in the heart of the old gold rush area. He also is a collector of antique automobiles.

Today I was a bit adventurous. I drove out to the Pacific coast this morning and down Highway 1 past Carmel, about half the way to Big Sur. Wow! The views are simply stunning! The drive up through the central part of the state was rather long and hot, but it's interesting to drive by field after field of vegetables then south of Stockton past miles and miles of citrus groves!

So today's entry is just a photo album - some shots I took along the coast!

A Trip to Monterey Wraps Up Salinas Visit

Howard W. Hewitt, Monterey, Calif. - The first two days of this California trip have been rather intense. I've interviewed the three alums mentioned prominently - Ernie Vela,  Hugo Mariscal, and Anthony Avitia - along with two other Alisal officials.

I've taken a couple hundred photos, I suppose. And, I have about two total hours of interviews to transcribe.

But tonight (Thurs.) we wrapped up the visit. I took Mariscal, Avitia, and incoming freshman Miquel Esquivel to dinner. Hugo suggested we go out to Monterey, only 30 minutes west of Salinas. We later met Ernie back in Salinas for one brief drink before I said goodbyes. His daughter had a sixth grade recognition program he had to attend, preventing him from making the Monterey trip with  us.

We went to the fisherman's wharf area where you can choose from several outstanding seafood restaurants. We ended up at a bit of a cultural landmark. We ate at John Pisto's Abalonetti on the wharf. Pisto is a bit of a west coast infomercial, chef, TV personality restaurateur. His restaurants are really top notch.

The trip out was nearly as interesting journalistically as the dinner was socially.

We passed through huge fields of cauliflower, lettuce, broccoli while leaving Salinas. Close to Monterey was the remnants of Fort Ord, the huge military base that was closed several years ago. The military housing which seemed to stretch on along Highway 1 for a mile or two is all abandoned and in disrepair.

But the evening was mostly about camaraderie. The guys occasionally see each other but seldom have the opportunity to spend time. They had a ball. They recalled times in Martindale Hall and the Lambda Chi house. They told stories and talked about old roomates, old friends, and college pranks.

They had plenty of advice, though perhaps a bit jaded by their own Wabash prejudices, for the young 2006 Alisal High grad.

Vela is talking about starting up a Central California chapter of Wabash Men. He promises to talk to Tom Runge.

The thing that's tough to explain here is the appreciation they felt for a Wabash visit. They talked about it in my presence and when I was not around as well. The sincere gratitude and the time they took to share their stories was really special.

We parted with gifts. I brought the yuys new NAWM pins, some Wabash DVDs, and new baseball caps. Hugo gave me a bottle of Monterey County Pinot Noir.

I'm not sure who got the best deal. But I know we all won from a great two days of talking about life, careers, and Wabash.

Notes:

- Friday is a travel day. I have to be in Stockton area tonight for a Saturday morning meeting with C.J. Ludlow near Yosemite in the old gold rush area. So Friday's blog entry may be brief, part travelogue, or ???

In photos: Top right, the Abalonetti Restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf on Monterey Bay. Lower left, looking out into Monterey Bay at dusk.

June 08, 2006

Vela '95 Has Passion for Salinas Students, Wabash College

Howard W. Hewitt, Salinas, Calif.- Many Wabash alums talk of their passion for the College and how it changes their lives. But few exhibit the exuberance and share a life story like that of Ernesto "Ernie" Vela.

Ernie has transformed from a young man with poor grades who hoped to work in retail, to the principal of Cesar Chavez Elementary School with designs on becoming a school superintendent. And soon, he'll be known as Dr. Vela.

He was reluctanct to come to Wabash and wasn't sure how he would do so far away from home. Today he simply credit Wabash for "everything I am today."

One of his mentors, Patrick Egan, helped get the ball rolling in the late 80s by getting Alisal High School students to consider an all-male college in a place that seemed very far away to most of them. He shakes his head thinking his former wide receiver and baseball player will soon be Dr. Vela.

Vela has risen quickly from teacher to administrator and is in his second stint as a principal. His commitment to Wabash extends beyond words alone. He returned last fall during the Top 10 Admission Weekend and he is an energetic recruiter in Salinas always looking for the next possible Wabash man.

This evening all three area grads are headed out to dinner. We're taking Miguel Esquivel with us tonight. Miguel will arrive on campus in August as part of the Class of 2010. He could be the 10th Alisal grad to attend and graduate from Wabash College.

Anthony Avitia '96 found a passion for helping latinos and all those around him, in part, while at Wabash. While on campus, he realized there are lots of different people in the world. He realized many of his friends and young people back home are totally unaware of the world outside Central  California.

Anthony worked for a reading program in San Francisco, with disabled students and parents in Arizona, and for Muscular Dystrophy in San Jose before turning to education. He's on a one year contract at Alisal High in an alternative education program which employs contract learning with students. Essentially he counsels and advises students who have fallen behind.

Avitia plans to finish his masters from San Jose State in December, after teaching summer school at Alisal, with a degree in counseling. He'll seek a counseling position then, with Alisal High School high on his list for permanent employment.

Full stories on Avitia, Vela, and Hugo Mariscal will be published this fall in Wabash Magazine and the Wabash website.

See related story: The three Salinas guys we visited talk about the national immigration debate, click here.

In photos: On home page, Vela congratulates a parent Thursday morning during an awards program for 3rd through 5th graders. Above right, Vela gets students into position for the ceremony. Lower left, the high school sign was flashing congratulations to a handful of students who had won college scholarships. Lower right, Avitia talks to his students Thursday afternoon.

June 07, 2006

Mariscal '98 Helping Alisal Students See a Future

Howard W. Hewitt, Salinas, Calif. – Wabash College has a foothold in many unexpected places – perhaps none less likely than the Salinas Valley in Central California.

Salinas Valley is home to thousands of migrant workers who pick the lettuce, asparagus, and fruit the valley is known for across the land. As a matter of fact, Salinas bills itself as the Salad Bowl of the U.S. The city of more than 150,000 is inland from Monterey and its famed Pebble Beach golf course. 

As a young boy, not yet his 6-foot, 4-inch stature of today, Hugo Mariscal ’98 picked strawberries in the fields with his parents, siblings, and friends. But his father wanted something more for his children. Alisal High School wanted him to excel, to get out of the Valley, and go off to college.

All the 12-year-old Hugo knew was his back was killing him and he never wanted to pick strawberries again.

Mariscal is now back at what we could call 'Wabash West.' Alisal High School has had eight of its graduates attend and graduate from Wabash College. There currently is an Alisal man on campus as a junior and another on the way from the class of 2006.

Ernie Vela '95 explained it all started back in 1986. He was standing under the brilliant California sun Wednesday in front of the Cesar Chavez Elementary School where he is principal. Ernie was truly thrilled to see someone in his office wearing a Wabash red shirt and proudly brought his young daughter out from his office showing off her Wabash College t-shirt.

Ernie explained Alisal High guidance counselors tried to ratchet up the effort to get more of their predominantly Hispanic students to go off to college in the mid-1980s – and they challenged them to look at more than the local community college. Those leaders wanted students to look at Princeton, Harvard – and Wabash College.

The challenge isn’t much different today. About 10-15 percent of Alisal’s 2,100 students go on to a four-year college. Mariscal came home to try to be part of the solution. And he returned because of the strong ties with his parents and seven siblings.

His full story, as all the visits we’re making in California, will be published later this year in Wabash Magazine and on the Wabash website.

But Hugo's story also has an interesting twist -at least as far as this visit to California goes.

Older brother Hector ’96 obviously had an impact on Hugo’s college choice, but you learn how small the world is when you get out of the office. Hugo’s first-ever real contact with Wabash came when he was a sophomore and Hector was a senior. An Alisal guidance counselor took a group of students to San Francisco for a Wabash recruiting event.

The Mariscals, like most of the boys, had seldom been to the big city and had certainly never stepped inside an art gallery. The event was hosted by John Pence ’58 at the Pence Gallery. We’ll be visiting with John next week.

It’s a small Wabash world!

Notes:

- You may have heard of Salinas for yet another reason. The Salinas Valley and Monterey was home to author John Steinbeck. The National Steinbeck Center is in the historic downtown district at Salinas.

- If you watch any of those 'foodie' shows on television, you're always told to ask the locals about a great place to eat. Hugo told me I had to try the In-n-Out Burger, which happens to be right next to my motel. The hamburger patties are handmade and they actually cut their own potatoes into french fries right before your eyes. The fast food joint, with locations in California, Nevada, and Arizona beats the heck out of what you'll get at the more familiar spots in the midwest.Perhaps its not the fine dining of San Francisco, Napa or Sonoma Valley, but it was a darn good burger!

- It's about 100 miles from Oakland, where I spent the night, down to Salinas. It's a beautiful drive once you clear the horrendous traffic between Oakland and San Jose. Oh,  and the cheapest gas I've seen so far - $3.31 a gallon!

In photo: Mariscal leads a section of a program Wednesday afternoon specifically designed to prepare students for college. The students worked on letters of recommendation. At lower right: Alisal High School sits on the southwest corner of Salinas with a scenic backdrop of the Santa Lucia mountain range to the west.

June 06, 2006

A Visit to California Alums to Tell Their Stories

Howard Hewitt, Denver, CO – Wabash College frequently gets advancement officers, college officials, and recruiters out to the far reaches of the U.S. But it is less frequent when a member of the Public Affairs staff can travel to California to collect stories.

Today begins a nearly two-week trip to California to interview nine different alums. On top of that, on a personal note, I’ve never been to California so this will be part blog about seeing Wabash men and part travelogue.

The old newspaper guy in me dies hard so I noticed I datelined this entry Denver. My connecting flight has been delayed two hours so I have a layover. That’s following a one-hour delay out of Indianapolis this (Tuesday) morning. That time proved to be positive though, because Stephen Pavy ’81 was waiting on the same flight.

Pavy was in for Big Bash Reunion Weekend and provided a great colloquium on wine and food pairings. And Stephen is on my visit list. I actually conclude my trip by visiting Pavy in his Sonoma County home June 16. So it was great opportunity to chat and talk wine!

Oh wine! That probably will sneak into this blog over the next few weeks as well – let’s call it a reoccurring theme!

The adventure begins with a drive into the Salinas Valley tomorrow (Wed.) morning. Salinas, as you may know, is known as the Salad Bowl of the U.S. for all the vegetables grown in the area. But it’s also a bit of a hot spot for Wabash College Graduates. More than a half-dozen graduates of Alisal High School have attended and graduated from Wabash College. I’ll be seeing Ernie Vela ’95, Hugo Mariscal ’98, and Anthony Avitia ’96.

Those three have returned to their hometown and teach in the same school system.

Friday will be a travel day and then Saturday I’ll visit with Dr. C.J. Ludlow ’62. Ludlow has led an interesting life. He earned a master's degree from Vanderbilt in botany then his doctorate at Berkley. He’s done many interesting things in his life and now owns a seed company near Salinas. But he lives up in Angels Camp, near Yosemite National Park. He’s also a collector of antique cars.

After Sunday off, I will start the following week by seeing two Wabash grads just outside San Francisco. Justin Castle ’97 works for Covad, the internet communications company, and Bronson Frick ’95 is the associate director of Americans for Non-Smokers Rights.

I’ll spend June 14 with Doug Sparks ’69 who has had a fascinating career in technology and now owns a small boutique winery which produces zinfandel wines.

On Thursday of that week I’ll see John Pence ’58. Pence owns the John Pence Gallery in downtown San Francisco. His gallery is the city’s largest and considered one of the leading galleries for American Realism in the country. He’s also actively involved in the community and serves as chairman of the board for the Point Foundation. The foundation provides college scholarships to gay and lesbian youths.

I wrap up the business part of the trip with Pavy in Sonoma on a Friday. Then I will take the weekend in Sonoma (on my own expense!) to visit wine country.

I’ll be blogging about the trip each day and hopefully writing a couple of other stories as well. But I’ll be writing profiles for Wabash Magazine and the web on each of these fascinating Wabash men. Much of that won’t appear until later in the fall.

So follow along, leave a comment – we’re California Dreamin.’