Jim Amidon — At Wabash we celebrate just about everything. We celebrate the accomplishments of our scholars, athletes, and artists. We threw a birthday party for Center Hall last week on the occasion of the 150th year of the building’s use. We celebrated our new president just as we celebrated our outgoing president a year ago.
There are other, smaller, often unnoticed celebrations that happen almost every day. Some of the most profound examples are when students race to their advisors’ offices to say they got into med school, law school, or landed a really cool job.
Those are proud and celebratory moments for our faculty. There’s a sense of real accomplishment when a teacher learns of a student’s success. Wabash classics professor Jeremy Hartnett called last week and told a story so good it should be celebrated.
Two weekends ago, Wabash hosted the Indiana Classical Caucus, a conference of college and high school Latin, Greek, and classical studies teachers. A significant part of the program was a series of presentations by current college students of ICC member schools. Wabash senior Kyle Long organized and executed the program, and presented a significant research paper titled “The Transformation of Liberal Education in Rome.”
Good students can’t hide at Wabash, and I’ve known about Kyle for several years, but admit I do not know him well.
It’s safe to say, though, that the state’s top teachers, professors, and students in classical studies know all about Kyle Long — from his curious intellectual research to his ability to plan a state conference and moderate undergraduate research sessions.
“His presentation stole the show at the meeting,” Professor Harnett told me. “College professors asked him for copies of his paper… It’s been a pleasure to watch Kyle’s intellect bloom during his time at Wabash.”
Another of the teachers in attendance was Jeremy Walker, a 1992 Wabash graduate who teaches Latin at Crown Point High School. Jeremy Walker taught Kyle Long as a high school student, and as Kyle says, is the person responsible for his intense interest in classical studies.
“Jeremy Walker is the most passionate educator I’ve ever had the privilege of learning from,” Kyle told me. “His return to campus left me with feelings of both nostalgia and progress.”
The feelings were mutual.
“Before my own presentation,” Walker said, “I was moved to share that Kyle had been my student in high school and that I had just realized a new high that I had never experienced before as a teacher. It was a moving and meaningful experience to see a person that you had initially trained present and impress your own peers and realizing just how much he had grown as a person and a scholar under the watchful eyes of professors who had helped guide me so much in the past and still today.”
What an incredible educational loop. Jeremy Walker learned from Wabash teaching veterans Joe and Leslie Day, David Kubiak, and John Fischer. As a teacher, Walker inspired Kyle Long, who would come to Wabash and become a star student in the Classics Department.
One of Kyle’s most influential college professors is another product of the same Wabash Classics Department, second-year professor Jeremy Hartnett.
“Jeremy [Hartnett] taught me something that transcends the Classics: how to write well,” Long says. “Jeremy has the ability to draw my words out of me in a way I didn’t think was possible.
“He simply refuses to let me settle and I am forever grateful for his ardent interest in creating for me a truly liberal education.”
While this is a wonderful story of professors motivating talented students, who eventually become their impressive peers, there was a bump in the road.
During his freshman year at Wabash, one of Kyle Long’s friends was killed in a car crash. Long dropped out of Wabash and looked for direction. His old high school teacher, Walker, got him pointed in the right direction and helped him re-enroll at Wabash a year later.
“It wasn’t easy for him that first year,” Walker said. “All of his friends and pledge brothers were now a year ahead of him. He felt a little lost, but eventually he settled in and started to grow and develop.”
Professor Hartnett says Long’s presentation stole the show at the conference. For Long’s high school teacher — who had been with him since the start of his education and helped him through difficult times — the pride was overwhelming.
“I’m not sure I could have been prouder of Kyle if he had been my own son,” said Walker.