I recently received an e-mail from my alma mater (Wabash College), asking me to take a survey on the effectiveness of a program called Linking Education and Alumni Development (L.E.A.D.). At the end, I had to write a brief statement as to how I see myself as an alumnus of the college, what my responsibilities are as a graduate “Wally.”
It wasn’t something I could just whip up in 30 seconds. I knew I had to put some thought into it because, once I hit reply, that would be it; my words would be etched in “stone.” Even if they would only be used internally, for the evaluation of the L.E.A.D. program, they would serve as an honest and potentially deep reflection of my time at Wabash, and I would have to life with whatever I happened to write. Those would be my official feelings about Wabash, and it seemed a little too soon to be making such an important reflective judgment. I only graduated a year ago.
However, it is only now dawning on me that my perspective of the college will probably change with each passing year, decade, and so on, even if only slightly—and perhaps in ways I might not be able to perceive right now. I guess I have that to look forward to. It’s exciting to think that my life, when I look back on it from any given point after 2009, will ultimately tell me how good my college experience was.
What probably won’t ever change is that I am quite proud of my education and my mature decision to attend the college I did. I think that a great number of young men in my position (senior in high school) probably would not have made the same choice. I say this because Wabash is a rigorous liberal arts school with rather a unique structure; it totally kicked my ass the first semester (mostly academically), maybe even the whole first year. Coming from my high school, with its limited resources, I was not prepared for the workload, the professors, the pressure, or the course contents. I’d rarely had homework in high school because I’d always gotten most of it done at school. At Wabash, I worked almost constantly. Thankfully, I figured out how to balance things better after that first year, but wow, what a ride! I feel comfortable admitting that my G.P.A. started at 3.33 and steadily rose every semester, peaking at 4.0 for two of my final three semesters. The last semester went down a tad, but I managed to graduate magna cum laude with a cumulative 3.71. My B.A. is in English, with a history minor, and I am a member of Phi Beta Kappa (which legitimately shocked me). I think Wabash was very good to me.
As I wrap this up, I want to offer some context. Remember that Wabash men—it’s an all-male college (and no, that didn’t affect my decision to go there, because I didn’t really begin to understand my sexuality until I was already a senior at the college)—are called Wallies and that there is one all-inclusive rule that governs our lives both on and off the campus. The rule that a Wally must follow is called the Gentleman’s Rule, and it is as follows:
The student is expected to conduct himself at all times, both on and off the campus, as a gentleman and a responsible citizen.
So, if you’re wondering what my 2010 perspective was, here’s the statement I wrote for the survey:
Even as a child, I was a lover of knowledge, literature, and technology. At Wabash, my unique college experience served to add new and important layers to these passions. Now, as an alumnus of Wabash College, I am forever bound by the Gentleman’s Rule and by the many life and academic lessons I learned at the college. This cherished Wabash education exists as a foundation for my M.F.A. studies and for my life in general. My job as an alumnus is to ensure that future generations can benefit not only from my knowledge and experiences—and the knowledge and experiences of my fellow Wallies—but also from the values added by my continued contact with, endorsement of, and donation to the esteemed Wabash College.
I. Am. Wally.