|by Jim Amidon • May 15, 2005|
I love this tradition more than any other associated with Wabash. I like the formality of the black robes, the mortarboards, and the hooding of the graduates by the Dean of the College. I love that Wabash reads the name of every graduate and each one has the pleasure and honor of shaking President Andy Ford’s hand as he receives his diploma. I love that Wabash still uses sheepskin for the diplomas. (See photo albums at bottom of this page.)
However, it’s hard for me to say goodbye to the graduates, even though I know after 18 years as an employee, I’ll see most of them again at football games, Homecoming, or at reunions. Still, I like to remember the guys as unpolished students with their faces unshaven and baseball caps on backwards.
The Class of 2005 looks like a typical Wabash bunch. A fair number of them are headed to New York to begin work in high-brow financial firms. A usual number are going to medical and law school. We again will place several men into prestigious graduate programs in the humanities. Some will become high school teachers and coaches. A few chose the Peace Corps, Teach for America, and other service related jobs. And as usual, some guys still don’t know what they want to be when (if) they grow up.
But this class of Wabash men is different from almost any before it. This class leaves the comforts of Wabash College and Crawfordsville with, perhaps, more cynicism and less trust than previous classes.
Recall that these men were 18 years old and just three weeks into their college careers when two jetliners were crashed into the World Trade Center, another took out a massive chunk of the Pentagon, and a fourth plane was "saved" when it was crashed into a Pennsylvania field.
These men have been taught to look beyond the obvious, to probe deeper, and ask tougher questions. And while practicing those skills, their country has waged war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
While the men of 2005 learned to articulate well-formed arguments, they watched one of the most costly and divisive national elections in history.
Their teachers asked them to search for truth at a time when major media like the New York Times and CBS made enormous informational gaffes.
The Wabash men of 2005 were asked to spend a great deal of time and effort to carefully research papers — lots of them — at a time when students can now buy term papers online.
We tried to teach these guys the importance of civil discourse and face-to-face conversations, all the while their cell phones are ringing and instant messenger lights are flashing.
And at a time in their lives – one of the only times in their lives – when they feel absolutely invincible, they experienced great loss when their classmate, Tony Lobdell, died in a deep, cold, murky lake in the mountains of Argentina.
So I wonder.
Will they become good husbands, good fathers, and good community leaders?
Will they make ethical decisions regarding medical breakthroughs and politics?
Will they be the optimists our state, nation, and world so desperately need?
They will be fine. Because while the world has spun violently these last four years, they have enjoyed a rare shelter in a tiny town called Crawfordsville at a small college called Wabash.
They have been nurtured by caring faculty and staff, and have developed relationships with their classmates that transcend pessimism and jaded cynicism.
While they have seen humanity at its worst at times, they have also seen heroes emerge all around them. Many have themselves done heroic things.
They built a Habitat for Humanity house here in Crawfordsville. They hosted the Montgomery County Relay for Life and twice held the state’s Special Olympics Basketball Tournament. They raised more than $10,000 for Riley Children’s Hospital. They have mentored, tutored, coached, and motivated hundreds of area youth.
They have traveled the world on Immersion Learning trips and they now know they have the skills and abilities to not only exist in a global society, but to lead it.
I never want them to leave. I want to stop time. They should be these exceptional and curious students forever.
But they can’t. They are ready to leave; ready to be pushed from the safety of this "nest" and begin to change our world in all the right ways.
So there’s nothing left to say except, "Good luck and Godspeed to the men of the Wabash College Class of 2005!"
Amidon, a 1987 Wabash College graduate, is the College's Director of Public Affairs and College Secretary. He writes this weekly column for the Crawfordsville Journal Review.
Top left: President Ford rings the bell once owned by College founder Caleb Mills to ring out the Class of 2005.
Upper right: Mark Dietzen gets congratulations from President Ford.
Above left: Dean of the College Mauri Ditzler participated in his last graduation ceremony at Wabash. He becomes Monmouth College President July 1.
Lower right: Andy Cartwright is all smiles as he's about to receive his diploma from the President.