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Magazine Roll Out "A Wonderful Evening"

Steve Charles — Just got back from our reception at the John Pence Gallery in downtown San Francisco, a wonderful evening in so many ways.

Surrounded by the art that John exhibits there—the American realism style I’ve admired for years — I couldn’t imagine a better place for a Wabash gathering.

(See previous blog entry below for photos from Friday's event. And for a bit of a humorous look at my travel companion's obsession with grape juice, click here to read about dinner after the reception. And be sure to check Monday for a look back at the trip, and an invigorating Saturday north of the city.)

Wine provided (and some made) by alums Stephen Pavy and Doug Sparks. A warm welcome from John Pence, who recommended President Pat White’s From Center Hall column in this issue of Wabash Magazine.

Howard clearly relished this reunion with the alumni he visited last summer and who are featured in this issue, enjoying even more the honor of introducing them to the gathering and telling a story or two about these men.

Bob Hobson, stalwart supporter of the College in so many ways, introduced Pat White.

Then Pat glanced around the gallery and recalled his days as a freelance art critic. This is his first visit with San Francisco area alumni since being named our 15th president, and he saw analogies between understanding art and learning to be a college president.

Both require “patience before the work,” he said. You must take time to contemplate and understand the College just as you would a fine painting. Meeting these Wabash men in San Francisco was part of that contemplation, a time of listening.

Understanding art and being a college president also require humility, he said, adding that while great college presidents were also once the chief educators and teachers at their institutions, with the fine faculty at Wabash, his role is that of "chief learner." As he conversed with alumni during the evening, he was that same eager student we’ve seen on campus ever since he arrived.

Chris White thanked the San Francisco group for their hospitality and spoke of the kindness and hospitality extended to her during this trip. In some ways, she said, "we haven’t been at Wabash long enough to feel so much a part of the College, to feel so at home. But thanks to your welcoming and openness, we do."

Pat then brought up his favorite topic—Wabash students. He said that Wabash is a place where young men can be better, can be more than they ever imagined.

And looking around the room at these alumni he saw living proof.

For me, the evening was chance to meet many alumni we’ve featured in the magazine but I’d never met face to face.

Guys like Steve Miller, now professor emeritus of archaeology at Berkeley. Steve now lives in Nemea, Greece, where his work as an archaeologist  helped revive the town and the ancient Nemean games. He’s finishing books on that work, and hoping to keep the games going in 2008. Like so many retired Wabash men I meet, his retirement seems to have little with slowing down and much with focusing his energy and time on those things that matter most to him. (We need to do a theme issue on these guys).

Seeing Ernie Vela again, I was reminded of the students he’s brought to Wabash, of his poignant talks to students during our admissions visit days. A highlight of the evening for me was hearing stories from Ernie and Anthony Avitia about the early days of the College’s Hispanic Society, about their decision to change the name to Unidos por Sangre and the roots of the group’s tutoring program. I wrote about that group’s work a couple years after Ernie and Anthony had graduated—it’s such a vital group in the Wabash and Crawfordsville communities now. Listening to Anthony speak so eloquently about it, how it had helped him deal with his own issues of identity, affirmed to me the value of such organizations in the education of Wabash men.

So much of what transforms our students into being “better than they’d ever imagined” happens outside the classroom—with help of faculty and staff, for sure. But our students also learn so much from each other as they work together.

And, of course, there were other stories. The last half hour was pure joy for me, listening to Ernie, Anthony, and Hector Mariscal recall some of their Wabash adventures. I hadn’t laughed so hard in a long time. These are the stories we rarely get to publish—misadventures of looking for dates at other schools, that experience with the professor or staff member out of the classroom that was so unexpected, fun, or just funny. Even Hector’s experiences as Wally Wabash, back when the only costume was a pair of Sphinx Club overalls and that awful papier mache head.

I’ve got to figure out a way to gather these.

Not surprisingly, Howard shared what may be the best story of the night.The guys on the cover of this issue of the magazine had all been at the John Pence Gallery just one time before—more than a decade ago when they were being recruited as students. An amazing convergence that underscores both John Pence’s commitment to Wabash and Pat White’s point about Wabash students becoming “better than they’d ever imagined.” You see that in the lives of men like Hector and Hugo Mariscal, Ernie Vela, Anthony Avitia, and in the work that you can read about in this issue of the magazine.

Meeting men like these, you realize Wabash is so much more than a campus in Crawfordsville, so much more than four years in our students’ lives; and we have so much to learn from them.

“Where ever you go, Wabash goes with you” Pat White wrote in this issue of Wabash Magazine. That’s certainly been true for us on this trip. In this diverse and dynamic city 2,000 miles from Crawfordsville, in the not altogether unlikely confines of an art gallery celebrating American realism, those of us traveling from Wabash felt very much home, very much at Wabash.

But we didn’t bring Wabash with us — we met it here in these men.

In photos: Top right, Pence makes opening remarks. Center, Chris White talks about the warm reception she and the President have received on their visits. Lower left, Avitia, Mariscal, Vega, and Hewitt re-unite.


Thank you for a great review.

“Where ever you go, Wabash goes with you”

So true.