“No Title, Just Wisdom”

Yesterday, Chapel Talk was given by Jean Williams, Honorary Class of 1953.  Her talk was entitled “No Title, Just Wisdom”, and full of wisdom it was.  Mrs. Williams is 95 years old, and is the oldest honorary alumna of Wabash College.  She loves to travel, and has been to 115 countries (that’s a big chunk of ‘em).

Mrs. Williams began her talk by making the chapel roar with laughter.  She said “What can a 95 year old woman say to a group of men in their late teens and early twenties whos current interests include sex, food, passing midterms, sex, where to go on Spring Break, getting a job…and sex”.

Jean Williams came to Wabash in the 1940s with her husband, a visiting zoology professor. She claims that, while her professors didn’t remember her when she went back to her alma mater, when we come back to Wabash, she bets we’ll be remembered by our professors.

She told stories about how Wabash was a bit different back then. It was smaller (smaller!?).  About 500-600 students attended Wabash then, and many were WWII vets. Many of these students were married and lived in Quonset huts on Mud Hollow with their spouses.  Back then, there were no big dormitories, so most independents, and some fraternity brothers, live in private, off-campus housing.

She told us how the buildings have changed in the 50 years that she has been around campus.  Hays Hall didn’t exist in the same fashion and, instead of bein a biology and chemistry building, it was biology and zoology. Detchon Hall was called Yandes, and was the school library.  Hovey Cottage and Forest was not where it is now, but were by the athletic building.  I think that this campus history is fascinating; it shows that this campus is still alive and evolving.

Back then, much socializing was done by fraternity dances.  ”The young, presumably, innocent females were to be chaperoned around the young, presumably, predatory males by the older, presumably, wiser faculty.”  Can you imagine chaperoned, college parties? That would be a gas.  Mrs. Williams told us about how the students taught her new dances called the mashed potato, the Indian, and the fish.  She even demonstrated some of the dance moves for us, you can see the full talk here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv6SWF_mwKM

Mrs. Williams continued by giving us six of her “pearls of wisdom”:

Pearl 1: When, if, you get married, marry someone smart. Smart and plain is better than dumb and pretty. You’ll be much more likely to have smart children, and smart children will bring you much pride…and also scholarships.

Pearl 2: When, if, you have children, give them love and hugs, but don’t give them everything they want. Instill a work ethic in them.

Pearl 3: Provide for your old age. Put money in an IRA.  It may not seem very important now, but it will be as you get older.

Pearl 4: Participate in your community.

Pearl 5: Don’t compare yourself and your life to someone else.  Appreciate what you have, and don’t take it for granted.

Pearl 6: While you’re here [at Wabash], learn everything you can whether it is relevant to your future career or not.  You never know when this seemingly random material will pay off later in life.

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