Friday, October 26, 2012

No. 587 – In the End

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson
Original Release: Fly by Night
Year: 1975
Definitive Version: All the World’s a Stage, 1976

My attraction to Wabash was strictly love at first sight.

Aside from the fact that I didn’t want to go to college in Ohio, I didn’t really have any idea of where I wanted to go. I half-heartedly looked at a few big schools before my junior year, but it seemed inertia would lead me inevitably to the school from which my mom, dad and grandfather had graduated—DePauw University.

In the fall of 1981, Dad took me there to get a good look at the campus. It was a gloomy, foggy Saturday morning, and I got the big tour, led by a hot freshman babe, which, of course, is perfect recruiting strategy. I had visited DePauw before, and it was fine and all, but there seemed to be something missing.

Then Dad said, well, while we’re here and this close, why don’t we drive the half-hour north and take a look at Wabash? At that time, I knew only two things about Wabash—it was DePauw’s archrival and it was all-male. I also had some inkling that it had a well-regarded academic reputation. Sure, why not?

By the time we got to Crawfordsville, the leaden sky had broken up, and we noticed that Wabash was playing a football game that day, so we went.

I had never been to a college football game away from a Big 10 stadium, so Division III was a whole new thing. It was totally informal to the point where kids would be playing in the end zone on the opposite end of the field from where the action was. Occasionally the odd dog would wander out onto the field.

The pep band played songs in the stands, and it included an older gentleman on snare drum who looked as though he was the dean of the school. (He was in fact the school president, as I later found out.)

Wabash had a good team and routed whomever it was that they played that day. (I can’t remember now.) And at various points, the cheerleaders—all male, of course—would get the crowd rolling with a chant of “Eat zucchini, eat eat zucchini,” with the Wabash mascot hefting the world’s largest vegetable. For a lifelong Ohio State fan, this was a complete WTF.

But the thing that stood out the most on that perfect fall day was the adjacent campus seen over the away-side grandstand. All the buildings were red brick and white pillars. The chapel, with its crisp white spire, dominated the skyline. All the trees between and beyond were ablaze in red, orange and yellow.

It was quite a vision. I mean if you looked in a dictionary under “college,” there had to be a picture of Wabash. On that day, it just flat out looked like all the romantic visions one has of what a college is supposed to look like.

After the game, Dad and I wandered around the campus, and we walked by the Beta House. A few guys were outside, and after introducing ourselves, one took me through on an impromptu tour.

Yes, there were no women there—the Betas went out of their way to say how women were around the campus all weekend (and I confirmed this at the football game)—but everything else felt right. I was smitten.

So I arranged to visit on a weekend shortly after that. I was going to spend a night at Wabash and then drive down to DePauw and spend a night there.

I was somewhat disappointed that Wabash set me up at Phi Gamma Delta, because I wanted to stay with the Betas after my initial experience. However, Wabash had a reason for doing it this way—the lone student from Columbus was a Fiji. In fact, it was someone I knew. The guy’s name was Tom Murray, a sophomore, and I didn’t connect the name until I arrived and felt sheepish that I hadn’t sooner.

It turns out I knew Tom pretty well. He and I had worked together the previous summer as umpires in the Upper Arlington little league baseball and t-ball games. In fact, we worked the championship game together as part of a three-man crew. Tom and I had gotten along then, and now here we were again.

Wabash was on the road the weekend I visited, and I don’t remember many details of my first Wabash visit, except for hanging out in Tom’s room with his pledge son, Tim, on the Saturday. Tom had All The World’s a Stage on the record player with this song playing while he and Tim gave me the scoop about life at Wabash.

I headed to DePauw the next day with some misgivings, because I knew the game already was over. I had no doubt: Wabash was my school—if only I could get in.

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