Daughters: Sharing Wabash

by Chris Braun '81

December 13, 2007

During our 20 years of marriage, my wife, Trish, and I have been blessed with four healthy, beautiful daughters who are all now teenagers. As they were growing up, we would try to get back to campus each year for a football game. We walked around the campus with them—first pushing the girls in strollers, later walking hand-in-hand with them—and they would ask me what it was like to go to school at Wabash.

I shared the Wabash experience with them by visiting with old friends and former professors. We ate at the Scarlet Inn and stopped by the bookstore to buy Wabash shirts and sweatshirts. As we entered Hollett Stadium and walked around the field, I told them about the memorable moments I had playing football for four years, the talented teammates and colorful personalities who always seemed to come together to win, despite the odds or the opponent.

I told them stories about two-a-day practices in the searing August heat and humidity, the seemingly temporary insanity of the football coaches who pushed us beyond what we thought possible and, of course, the memorable mile run at the start of camp each year when we would be treated to the sight of various linemen finishing the mile and then doubling over and seeing their breakfast for a second time that morning.

On the drive home after the game the girls would ask what I remembered most about Wabash. I told them stories about the wonderful professors and mentors—Ed McLean, Tobey Herzog, David Hadley, and Melissa Butler among them—who left their indelible marks on me, who taught me how to truly study and work at the college level; the talented, creative, and hard working students I got to know over the years; and how I eventually learned to reach a balance between working hard during the week while playing hard on the weekends.

My daughters loved the traditions of Wabash—"Wabash Always Fights," Chapel Sing, the rivalry with DePauw, and the Monon Bell Game. As each year passed, despite their overbooked school and social calendars, they would ask about going back to campus for a football game. When we were able to get away and attend a game, on the way home the girls would talk about how great it would be to go to school at Wabash, even for a short time, and how they would like to attend a college like Wabash.

THAT WISH WAS GRANTED for my two oldest daughters, Lauren and Rachel. These past two years, they’ve gotten a snapshot of student life at Wabash through Opportunities to Learn About Business (OLAB).

For more than 30 years, Wabash has hosted this intensive, seven-day immersion program for outstanding rising high school seniors from Indiana and neighboring states. Under the teaching of Professor of Economics Bert Barreto, OLAB is like an abbreviated version of the show "The Apprentice," where the students work in teams competing against other teams in everything from accounting to advertising, stocks to production. They also make time for fun, including an evening scavenger hunt during which students explored the campus, from the mall to the frat houses to the library and the gym. They discovered the beautiful nooks and crannies of Wabash, seeing things that you have to live there to see and appreciate. After they returned home, Lauren and Rachel told me that they truly understood, for the first time, my lifelong love of Wabash.

When Lauren was attending OLAB in 2006, she experienced a classic Wabash moment. Early one morn- ing she left an excited message on my cell phone, which I have saved to this day. Lauren shared with me the intellectual excitement she felt from the enthusiastic feedback and comments she had received
from her speech instructor. With that input from the teacher, she was motivated to work even harder.

ON THE DRIVE TO CAMPUS for Lauren’s graduation from OLAB, I told Trish and my other three daughters that the graduation ceremony was in the same place where I took speech classes years ago from a wonderful professor, Joe O’Rourke. I told them how he helped me gain the confidence and skills to become a public speaker, a skill that comes in handy given my chosen profession as a trial lawyer. Walking into the Fine Arts Center, I heard the distinctive voice of Professor O’Rourke, and he greeted me with his trademark hearty smile and jovial laugh.

Seated in Salter Hall, I proudly watched Lauren’s commencement exercise at Wabash. Lauren was selected to receive an award for the Best Introductory Speech.

Then Rachel was selected by her peers to give the commencement speech at the 2007 OLAB program. I watched as Rachel became perhaps the first female commencement speaker in Wabash history!

WABASH AND OLAB have factored into the college selection process for both Lauren and Rachel this year. During those searches, they would mention our discussions about and experiences at Wabash. Lauren would talk to college admissions personnel about her interest in pursuing a liberal arts education at a school with outstanding professors, a great learning environment in and out of the classroom, with highly motivated students in a tight-knit school on a beautiful campus with lots of tradition. She often mentioned Wabash as a point of reference. Lauren believes, and I agree, that she found what she was looking for and recently began her freshman year of college at Cornell University.

When Trish and I were helping Lauren unpack in her dorm room, we were torn by a mix of pride, loss, and other emotions as our oldest daughter took that first huge step toward independence as a young adult while on the verge of tremendous intellectual and social growth. On that hot August day, as I was making what seemed like the 10th trip carrying boxes up the four flights of stairs, Lauren stopped me to thank me for helping her with the year-long college application and selection process. She thanked me for sharing Wabash with her, as that experience had helped her make her own college choice.

As I looked at my beautiful and precious young daughter, so full of promise, innocence, and joy, I could not speak. Our own Wabash bond was forever sealed.

Chris Braun is an attorney and partner at Plews Shadley Racher & Braun in Indianapolis.

Photo: Chris Braun and daughters, Marissa, Rachel, Lauren, and Catherine.

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