Fall 2007: From the Editor
December 13, 2007
LAST SPRING, THROUGH A LETTER from his daughter, Jennifer, we received sad news of the death of Arden Stevens ’67.
Jennifer wrote of how much Wabash meant to her dad, and of her own early encounters with Wabash:
"I grew up on stories of Wabash College. In the same way little girls were told bedtime stories of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,’ I was regaled with tales of [Dad’s classmate] Jerry Gick that would leave Dad with tears streaming down his face, often too overcome with fits of laughter to finish whatever yarn he had started."
And she thanked Class Agents Duane Hile and Earl Arnett for their monthly class agent letters. She asked them to continue sending those:
"Receiving the alumni newsletters has continued to mean so much to me. It’s as though every few weeks or so, a little piece of my Dad comes to me in the mail.
"I know that my Dad would have been a great guy, regardless of where he went to college. But I suspect that Wabash had a hand in helping him to become the kind of guy who would have a daughter who would think so highly of both her Dad and his college, that she would hold on to his alumni newsletters as though they came from her own alma mater, as though they came from her own dad."
ONE OF MY COLLEAGUES called Jennifer’s note eloquent testimony to the place Wabash has in the hearts of its alumni. I found it an even greater testament to something deeper still—a daughter’s love.
Jennifer’s letter is one of three catalysts for this "Daughters" issue of WM. The second came at last year’s Malcolm X Institute Reunion, after the viewing of a film about the MXI by Jo Throckmorton ’87. That’s when Marta Collier, wife of MXI alum Willyerd Collier ’75, articulated with precision and empathy the struggles of a group of African-American students who had attended Wabash during the 70s but who had rarely, if ever, returned. Her perspective was a revelation, and when I spoke with her after the discussion, I discovered a heart not only for the MXI, but for Wabash.
"I attended Earlham," Professor Collier told me, "but because of the MXI, I feel like an alum of Wabash."
She explores what being a daughter of Wabash means to her in this issue.
Then Leslie Hunt, daughter of percussionist Steve Hunt ’76, made the semi-finals of Fox Television’s top-rated show, American Idol, and the "Daughters" issue reached critical mass. Not only was the daughter of one of the finest musicians ever to attend Wabash performing in front of 41 million viewers, but her appearance before the notoriously sharp-tongued critic Simon Cowell made for the sort of dramatic moment that can give a father nightmares, make him swell with pride, or, in Steve’s case, both.
Reading this issue’s articles and interviews with Wabash daughters, staff members, and teachers brought home another realization: Wabash is not, and has never been, an "all-male" college. Wabash is a college where the students are young men, but the role of women as teachers, mentors, administrators, colleagues, friends, wives, mothers, and daughters, is profound. It is as difficult to imagine Wabash without the influence and inspiration of women as it is to imagine it not being a college for men.
And if you think those men have a soft spot for their alma mater, just listen to them talk about their daughters. Pat White recalls hiking the Grand Canyon with daughters Molly and Katie: "My heart filled with pride at how strong and brave the women I have watched grow up, my daughters, had become." Dan Simmons ’70 writes that being a father—a calling that leaves him "wiser and more well-ordered"—is his daughter’s great gift to him. Bert Stern speaks of being asked by his daughter, Erika, to live close by: "We bask together in the way she made us all one family."
Senior wide receiver Ray Green describes the ritual he goes through before every game to connect with his five-year-old daughter:
"I walk to the 22-yard line and face our home stands. I think about my family, what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it. The wind will blow and it feels just like she’s hugging me. I’m thinking of her, and I know she’s thinking of me."
There is such tenderness, vulnerability, and insight in the writing from this issue’s fathers and daughters. I’m grateful to each contributor who was willing to take a risk and take this work to heart.
When he was teaching here, former St. John’s College President John Agresto said, "How do we demonstrate the effectiveness of the liberal arts? Perhaps a good measure would be whether or not we’ve turned out good fathers."
You’ll find in this issue good fathers and good daughters, teaching and learning from one another—the work of the heart that is so integral to the lives of Wabash men and women, and the adventure that is Wabash.
Thanks for reading.
Steve Charles | Editor