Cathy Long tells the story of how whenever her late husband Skip and his father would get together, the two Wabash men would serenade the family with their alma mater's fight song: "Dear Old Wabash, thy loyal sons shall ever love thee ..." Now she is honoring both men with a scholarship in the name they shared: The Robert H. Long Family Endowed Scholarship.
Robert H. Long Sr. graduated from Wabash in 1939, Econ.; his son and Cathy's husband, Robert H. "Skip" Long Jr., graduated in 1971, majoring in political science and speech. He went on to a long and successful career as an advertising executive, and in 2013 he and Cathy retired to Callawassie Island-a golf mecca in South Carolina.
Two short years later he was killed in a car accident, and Cathy says she was deeply touched by the outpouring of support from Wabash. "Classmates called to share their condolences, and many attended the service I had in Chicago," Cathy says. "The cards I received were just heartwarming. The people he met there are people who were in his life for his whole life, and they continue to reach out to me."
"And o'er thy classic halls, the scarlet flag shall proudly flash ..." With his dad a Little Giant, there really was never any doubt what college Skip would attend. He brought his academic and athletic prowess to campus: a crafty left-handed pitcher on the baseball team, deft announcer of basketball games, Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brother, Phi Beta Kappa Honors graduate, and a debater who developed a lifelong friendship with revered debate coach and speech professor "Papa Joe" O'Rourke.
"On one of our first dates I heard all about Wabash," recalls Cathy, who wed Skip in 1984. "The DePauw game was coming up, and he wanted us to go to campus. When we arrived, I saw his eyes light up; to him it was like going to Disneyland."
"The honors won by each loyal son, In highest rank shall instate her ..." Skip took his creativity and exemplary speaking skills to the Leo Burnett advertising agency, traveling around the world and working on some of the company's largest accounts-including Marlboro, United Airlines, and McDonald's. He and the family-Cathy, son Bobby, and daughter Jennifer-lived in Tokyo for six years while he worked internationally. He was in account management throughout his 42 years at Leo Burnett, retiring as president of new ventures.
During his career Skip mentored dozens of Wabash students and grads and attended career days. "One of the things I admire him for was that he got a lot of calls from Wabash men looking for his support at the ad agency for their children," Cathy says. "And he would always make time for those kids, bringing them in and setting up interviews for them, always fostering those relationships."
"When college days are past, As long as life shall last ..." Skip's tragic death came as a horrific shock to Cathy and their children. "He went to the dentist that morning and never came home," Cathy says. "It was very hard, and still is. I was talking to Jennifer about some way to honor her Dad. She was working in a college development office at the time, and she suggested the scholarship."
Establishing the scholarship was healing and allowed the family to carry on Skip's legacy. Cathy let Jennifer do most of the legwork in concert with David Troutman, Wabash's director of gift planning. She is hoping that the first scholarship may be awarded as soon as next year.
Cathy set up the endowed scholarship with appreciated stock she and Skip accrued over the years. Funding the scholarship in this way enabled her to maximize the monetary benefit to Wabash and avoid the capital-gain tax she would have incurred if she had sold the stock itself. "The Robert H. Long Family Endowed Scholarship was very easy to set up," Cathy says, "and will further Skip's passion for helping students and Wabash. Now we can think about the students who will be selected and know that other Wabash men will get a good start."
"Long in our hearts we'll bear the sweetest mem'ries of thee ..." Cathy voices her respect for the school, "I have never seen anything like the Wabash band of brothers. I know it's a great liberal arts school, but there's something beyond about the connections made at this college. It's magic. I don't feel that way about my school, but I feel it about Wabash. I have a video of Skip and his father singing the Wabash fight song to our son as a baby and then to our daughter after she was born. Wabash is in our hearts because it was in his heart."
"Long shall we sing thy praises, Old Wabash."