The Sphinx Club is, perhaps, the most misunderstood student organization on the Wabash College campus.
Members of the Sphinx Club wear red and white-striped overalls and white “beanies” with black buttons, and they lead cheers at Wabash sporting events.
Members of the Sphinx Club organize weekly Chapel talks that bring the campus community together for half-hour speeches by students, faculty, staff, and alumni. They also build community through pre-game cookouts year-round, including before mid-winter basketball games.
Members of the Sphinx Club consider themselves the guardians of Wabash traditions.
And members of the Sphinx Club get a bad rap because the “pledgeship” program potential members must endure is arduous to say the least.
What few people know — including astonishingly few in the Wabash community — is that the Sphinx Club also does a good bit of philanthropic and community service work.
A year ago I asked the Sphinx Club to adopt a faltering fund-raising project that was on its last gasp. The program, Co-Motion, takes place each year in the weeks leading up to the Monon Bell football game. The goal is a healthy competition between Wabash and DePauw to raise awareness of the devastating effects of domestic violence and raise funds for the Montgomery County Family Crisis Shelter and the Indianapolis-based Julian Center.
Bill Padgett, a quarterback on Wabash’s 1991 Monon Bell-winning football team, came up with the idea to use the testosterone-fueled emotions of the rivalry for a good (and counterintuitive) purpose. Co-Motion was the result.
Sustaining the effort year after year was becoming a problem and the proceeds of the fund-raiser were dwindling.
Enter the Sphinx Club.
Under the direction of Club members Tony Caldwell and Jason Siegel, last year’s Co-Motion was by far the most successful in history. Members of the greater Wabash community donated nearly $6,000, which was split equally between our local domestic violence shelter and the Julian Center.
Tony has since graduated, so a couple of weeks ago I got in touch with Jason to remind him to get started on this year’s Co-Motion project. A day later, the Sphinx Club pledges were collecting donations outside the Chapel following the weekly lecture. They did the same thing at the football game weekend before last.
They take the responsibility for Co-Motion as seriously as they take their role at football games, with traditions, and at the weekly Chapel talks.
But what really blew me away was when Jason contacted me last week to say he and some of the Sphinx Club members and pledges would be going over to the Family Crisis Shelter to help out with a few projects. I had asked them to assist in fund-raising, which they did; they chose to go over and volunteer their time.
After hearing Irene Selby talk about the Family Crisis Shelter’s mission and the families it serves, the guys got to work. It was a cold, windy day, but they spent several hours painting a fence. Some were dressed for the work in grubby sweat pants and sweatshirts; another guy had shirt, tie, and impressive khaki pants. All of them were committed to the work.
In a lot of ways, I’m learning the Sphinx Club is about commitment. And maybe the long, difficult pledgeship program is, in fact, constructive in that regard.
What I know for sure is that this group of campus leaders followed through on a promise they made me a year ago. Not only did they deliver on that promise, they surpassed my expectations. I say that not because I’m surprised, but because I continue to be amazed by the spirit of Wabash men, and in this case the Wabash men who comprise the Sphinx Club.
If you wish to show your support for our community and the work the Sphinx Club is doing on behalf of the Family Crisis Shelter, you can write a check or drop off a donation in the Wabash College business office in Center Hall. Make sure to write “Co-Motion” on the menu line of your check or just tell Terri Fyffe the donation is for Co-Motion.
There are four elements of the Wabash mission statement: think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely. The men of the Sphinx Club can be proud of the way they act, lead, and live.
Jim Amidon is director of public affairs and marketing and secretary of Wabash College. His column appears Mondays in the Journal Review.