Jeff Perkins '89 - This week I’ve had the opportunity to convene with nature, twelve members of the class of 2013, three knowledgeable faculty and two other Wabash Alums who have made the beautiful state of Montana their home.
It’s hard for me to believe that 24 years ago I too was a freshman beginning my lifetime journey with the College, having then more questions than answers:
What will the future hold for me at Wabash?
What are the right choices for me at the college and beyond?
What exactly is a liberal arts education and where will it lead me in life?
Our time with these twelve men produced similar questions and dialogue as we began to find answers in the common experience of fly-fishing.
Wabash has a way of fostering indebtedness to her students, faculty and alums.
This week – being no exception - has taken me back to a time when I entered Wabash through the eyes of these students who are in Professor David Hadley’s Freshman Tutorial: Fly Fishing – The Liberal Art. Prior to the trip we all read Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It as a basis for our experience in Montana and Wyoming, which sometimes served as a common dialogue on the water and in our travels. I will not recount the week day by day as the students have done a wonderful job of this in their blogs.
I suppose days filled with fresh air on the river, in Yellowstone National Park and riding horseback through Montana make one reflect and become more introspective. Byron Trippett, a Wabash legend, who graduated class of 1930 and went on to be President of the College, reminded us that:
“Once on this familiar campus and once in these well-known halls, students and teachers as real as ourselves worked and studied, argued and laughed and worshiped together, but are now gone, one generation vanishing after another, as surely as we shall shortly be gone. But if you listen, you can hear their songs and their cheers. As you look, you can see the torch which they handed down to us."
I listened for these songs and cheers not in the halls at Wabash but on the rivers and trails of Montana. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to fly fish with part of the future of Wabash College: members of the class of 2013 and a few faculty and alums. I am reminded of the value of a liberal arts education through my experiences this week and what it has offered me over the years.
Norman Maclean wrote, “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” Wabash is like a familiar place on a river one can return to now and then. They say you can never step in the same river twice.
I return home rejuvenated and thankful for my association with the college and all she offers those of us who are associated with her.
And as for all those questions and conversations about fly fishing, the liberal art, I turn to Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It when he asks, “How can a question be answered that asks a lifetime of questions?” Gentlemen, enjoy the journey of a lifetime, your Wabash education and experience.
And as for me, the river and Wabash have again helped to update the answers to those questions. Wabash only gets better as the years pass. Experiences like this week add to that connection to the past and vision for the future.
Today these newfound fly fishermen are on the way back to Indiana to meet their full class and begin the lifetime journey we know as Wabash College. As I part with these twelve freshmen classmates at Bozeman Airport this afternoon, I wish a richness of experiences, friendships and learning to the entire class as President White officially rings you in as the class of 2013.
There’s a familiarity to the place, but what is new each time is each of you. Your time at Wabash is short, as is our time in the world. Thousands of men have passed through Wabash since I was there. We flow through that very unique liberal arts institution, a river of humanity, of learning, and of community.
On behalf of those who preceded you, welcome to Wabash College.