Voices

“To hear a story while surrounded by utter darkness, unable even to make out the face of the storyteller, is a spiritual act. You truly listen to every word spoken, every half-tone and pause in cadence and rhythm…”

Those lines from Sterling Carter ’07 are some of my favorites in this current issue of WM Winter 2011, an edition we called “Voices.”

Wabash is a jazz band of voices, and when I arrived here 16 years ago the instruments I heard and taped for those first issues were some of her finest—Professors Hall Peebles H’63, Bert Stern, Marc Hudson, Bill Placher ’70, Peter Frederick, Joe O’Rourke H’65, Raymond Williams H’68, Melissa Butler H’85; alumni like Dan Simmons ’70, John Bachman ’60, Tom Roberts ’70, Tim Padgett ’84, Sherm Franz ’59, and Dick Ristine ’41. I recorded them all and listened over and over as I transcribed the talks or interviews, savoring those voices the way one comes to learn a beautiful tune.

My friend and colleague Jim Amidon ’87 set the tone for this publication early in our work together when he urged me to “get as many voices as possible” into these pages. The themes we’ve tossed out over the years have been little more than ways to encourage the Wabash community to speak, whether we’re gathering the words ourselves or you’re writing them and sending them to us.

This issue is a celebration of those voices—students, alumni, professors, and staff members engaging the world and taking the time to tell us about it, sometimes in words, sometimes in pictures (for we’ve learned over the years that art can speak, even as words can sing).

Byron Trippet ’30 wrote, “If you listen, you will hear their songs and their cheers.” If you read these stories, you will hear the voices of the Wabash community.

That’s most true, I believe, in our excerpt from the late Bill Placher’s final book. Bill was, as Raymond Williams said, “our best word.” As you read this piece, you may hear his voice again.

I realize that you could say that there’s nothing new here—that every issue of Wabash Magazine is little more than a celebration of the voices of the Wabash community. That I would take as high praise. It’s the best we can do.

And sometimes hearing a voice is just enough.

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