"Wabash Sings Through You"by Patrick White • September 15, 2008
President Pat White’s Remarks from the Big Bash Banquet, Friday, June 6, 2008
I welcome you to Big Bash 2008; I welcome you home to Wabash.
In coming home to Wabash, you come back to this College, this place that seems at once so familiar and, for some, quite strange and new.
All day today, I have heard compliments expressing how beautiful the college looks. And it does. The grass is green and trimmed, the buildings beautiful and beautifully maintained.
But the real beauty is in the faces of the men you see, faces that seem, even for the men of the year 2003, seem, different, changed, old, and yet eerily the same, old and young at the same time.
In the early nineties, Steven Spielberg made a film called Hook. It was a version of the familiar tale of Peter Pan, only in this movie, Peter Pan had grown up. He was now middle aged, with a few extra pounds, and played by Robin Williams. He has forgotten his past in Never Land, but when the terrible Captain Hook kidnaps Peter’s children he is called back to Never Land, but his old friends, the lost boys cannot recognize him; they cannot believe that this baggy middle aged man is the famous Peter Pan.
Yet in one wonderful scene, when no one believes, a little lost boy probably about four year’s old, comes up to Robin Williams and presses on his face, stretching out the wrinkles, flattening the bulges, until he sees and exclaims with wide-eyed wonder, "Ah, there you are, Peter."
I sometimes look at the old yearbooks to see what the alumni I am meeting might have looked like when they were students. The simple way to do that is to look up the name and then find the familiar face. This time, though, with the Class of 1958, I blocked out the names and just looked at the faces, seeing if I could see the young in the older faces I knew.
So I looked at the yearbook for the Class of 1958 and I see:
A gleam in the eye of one handsome young man, and I pause and say, "Ah, there you are Ross Faires."
Or I see a straightforward serious gaze on a face that I more often see broadly smiling and laughing, and I say, "Ah there you are, Gordon Colson."
Or an easy open smile on a man I just met a couple of weeks ago, and I say, "Oh there you are Joe Costanza
And I see a ready alert look of bright eagerness and I say, "Ah there you are John Banghart."
And on and on. And I am sure you are having the same experience, even more intently recognizing in voices, gestures, the way this one leans to listen or that one shakes your hand, or this one waves, you are seeing again the faces of long ago, the brothers of your youth.
And you recognize them. To recognize is to know again and out of that knowing comes re-union.
You recognize and are one again together.
You can do this because you have never really left Wabash, or to put it a better way….Wabash has never left you.
Wherever you go, there is Wabash.
To your friends, your associates, to potential students and friends of the College you ARE Wabash College, and when you give voice to the mission of the College through the way that
You think critically,
And live humanely,
Wabash sings through you, and it is a beautiful song indeed.
Through recognition, through knowing again, a reunion makes us one again, and we are all one in Wabash tonight
So I thank the class of 1958 for this wonderful gift, for the loyalty in represents, and even more for the dreams for the future of the College that will endure and thrive long after we are gone.
I thank you all for continuing to love this college and to recognize in one another Wabash at its best.
With loyal eyes you see again with the eyes of young men, the hopes and possibilities of this college, and Wabash remains forever young in your eyes, forever full of possibilities and promise for you and for all the men who have come after you and will continue to come to this College, men who, like you, will recognize the greatness in themselves and in their brothers and live for the rest of their lives forever and always transformed by the experience of this great college.
Thank you so much for coming. Have a great weekend.