|by Jim Amidon • August 21, 2004|
The SUVs roared through Crawfordsville on Saturday. Packed to the gills with school supplies, small refrigerators, computers, stereos, and clothes for winter, the SUVs brought Wabash’s freshmen to campus, and by 1:00 p.m., 249 young men officially became members of the Class of 2008.
Late Saturday afternoon, the SUVs had been emptied, the students had been rung in by President Andy Ford, and parents had said goodbye to their sons. Most of the moms cried as they hugged their sons; the dads were probably holding back tears, but I bet the handshakes they exchanged with their sons were extra firm.
And younger brothers and sisters had sly smiles on their faces as they planned in their minds how they would rearrange the furniture in the rooms vacated by their older brothers back home.
The 2004-05 school year has begun at Wabash College.
But who are these 249 young men and where do they come from?
Picked from a record applicant pool of 1,392 applications, some of the freshmen have long known about Wabash—53 are legacies and had dads, brothers, cousins, or grandfathers who attended the college. But for most, Wabash is an all-new experience.
They hail from 18 states and nine foreign countries. Ten of them are from Indiana and won their county’s Lilly Community Foundation Scholarship.
Some will be well prepared: 31 of these guys scored over 700 on the math portion of their SATs and 25 got over 700 on the verbal. Fifteen freshmen ranked first or second in their graduating class, and about 100 of them ranked in the top-10 percent of their class.
Other freshmen are prepared in different ways. Of the 249 freshmen, 22 soared to the highest ranking in scouting as Eagle Scouts. The same number, but different students, attended Boys State.
These tend to be the measures we tally—academic excellence and leadership ability.
But what amazes me most is the diversity of interests in this year’s rookie group. Dean Steve Klein tells me that the class boasts a musician who is incredibly good on six instruments. There’s one freshman who regularly performs at comedy clubs. Another is the founder of a traveling rock band that has recorded two compact discs.
There are barefoot waterskiers, snowboarders, fly fishermen, film makers, and cartoonists in this class. If you need a lift, there’s a champion bench-presser and a licensed pilot in the group.
There are future politicians in this class (one was a page for a State Senator and another for a U.S. Congressman) and a future Tom Brokaw (a high school news anchor of the year), so they should always have something to talk about.
It appears the Class of 2008 is a service-oriented clan, too. Among them are volunteers for the Special Olympics, Ronald McDonald House, Amnesty International, the Red Cross, Big Brother-Big Sister, Habitat for Humanity, Make a Wish Foundation, Toys for Tots, plus soup kitchens, senior centers, homeless shelters, family crisis shelters, and youth athletic leagues.
They have traveled the world on mission trips, too, making a difference from Maine to Montana, from Canada to Mexico, and from Quito to Honduras.
Where will their Wabash education take them?
If history holds, by the time they graduate more than half will have been abroad for a semester or on an Immersion Learning Trip. Half will have completed an internship, and many of them will have done scholarly research with Wabash faculty.
Less literally, their Wabash education will open their minds to new concepts and new ideas. Their political beliefs will be changed or further strengthened. They’ll learn to argue their opinions and base their arguments on facts, not hearsay. And at some point they’ll have the confidence and strength to disagree with their professors, classmates, and peers.
The men of the Class of 2008 come to us with strong credentials. Over the next four years their classmates, teachers, coaches, and this community will nurture and develop them. Indeed, it is our hope—our mission—to educate them to think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely.