Wabash Stories: The Collected Stories of Wabash Men
December 17, 2009
Wabash Stories: “That’s Who We Are”
A grassroots effort by inspired alumni has gathered more than 100 stories—and they want yours next!
The Wabash Stories Web site has been up less than a year but it’s driven by the oldest (perhaps the second oldest) impulse known to Wabash men: telling stories.
Okay, maybe the third oldest impulse.
But it’s a lively tradition.
And when Bruce Gras ’68 was talking last winter with Greg Castanias ’87 about ways alumni could connect with and more directly support Wabash students in the midst of a difficult year, it was the first thing that came to Castanias’ mind.
“Whenever two or more Wabash men come together, they tell stories,” he says. “From my earliest involvement with alumni associations getting to know Wabash men of different eras, we’ve told stories. It’s been through hearing those stories, and telling my own, that we have come to realize how much we share, despite being separated by 20 years or more in age.
“As I was sitting at lunch that day last February with Bruce, we were sharing stories, and it all coalesced—‘Wabash Stories.’ That’s what we do. That’s who we are.”
Gras credits Castanias with the idea that has led to more than 100 contributed stories and thousands of readers. Castanias points out that it was Gras who made the concept a reality.
In fact, Gras’ energy and skills as a catalyst for the project are a story of their own.
“Greg tells me that Bruce left that meeting and had the site up in 24 hours,” says Wabash Stories Editor-in-Chief Brandon Stewart ’08, who by day works in Philadelphia as assistant director for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. “He did a fantastic job of soliciting stories and putting some great content together. Greg mentioned the project to me shortly after it was conceived and I let him know that I’d love to get involved if they could use another set of hands.”
Also lending a hand are Jim Roper ’68, who Gras calls “the founding father of the Wabash Stories concept,” along with Dan Susie ’68 and Phil Coons ’67, who sees the project as a natural extension of his own history and interests.
“I’ve always loved stories, and my family has many about my brother, Steve [Class of 63], and me,” Coons says. “We retell these, along with stories about other close family members, over and over at family reunions.”
He discovered Wabash Stories while surfing the Wabash Web site.
“I was intrigued because at our last two class reunions, we had shared so many Wabash stories. I began corresponding with Bruce, and before long I was submitting my own stories.”
Coons encourages all alumni and friends to contribute their stories to the site.
“I’m quite pleased with the Wabash Stories Web site, and the revisions keep getting better and better. I wish that I knew the secret to getting more Wabash men to tell their stories.”
Gras thinks that too often, men underestimate the importance of their stories, how much others might enjoy hearing them, and the meaning they may have for other Wabash men.
“You never know what story, or what part of your story, will make a difference, be moving for, or simply connect with another Wabash man,” he says, noting he’s already seen such results with the site.
“Stories, narrative, some might even call it mythology—these are the ways common cultures have always passed down their shared experiences and values as a community,” says Castanias. “It’s not surprising that ‘common,’ ‘communication,’ and ‘community’ have the same Latin root.”
The tales alumni contribute to Wabash Stories range from personal reminiscences and tributes to friends and former professors to pieces delving into events in the College’s history to Wabash connections with other larger historical events.
Stewart’s arrival as editor six months ago brought an additional focus on younger alumni, and the site now features links to social media Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Flickr.
“We’re hoping to fully harness the viral nature of the social Web,” Stewart says. “Alumni can leave comments and share stories on their favorite social networking sites.
Alumni, faculty, students, staff, and friends can also submit their stories directly to the Web site at www.wabashstories.com