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Students fly with Lee Hamilton '52

Published: Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2011 13:03

When Lee Hamilton '52 visited campus for DePauw Discourse 2006, he spoke with John McWethy '69 on the Meharry Hall stage in front of a large audience. For four students, however, the access was much more exclusive. Seniors Courtney Fischer and Ashley Baxstrom, editorial writer for The DePauw, and sophomores Matt Jennings and Scott Reasoner joined Hamilton on a private plane to Washington for a 90-minute private interview.


Fischer, a reporter for D3TV's "The Source", said D3TV adviser Sheryl Tremblay asked her and Jennings, a fellow reporter and news editor for The DePauw, to take part in the Hamilton interview.


"At first, we were a little skeptical," Fischer said. "[But] I think it was probably one of the neatest interviews because you had this long chunk of time."


Steve Setchell, assistant to the vice president for development and alumni relations, said Hamilton was happy to return to campus for a Discourse event this year. Setchell said, however, that Hamilton needed to return to Washington that same evening.


"With that direction, we explored securing a private plane that could fly directly from Greencastle," Setchell said. "The best option was to use one of Indiana University's planes. It opened up the possibility of students accompanying Mr. Hamilton, which [Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations] Lisa Hollander had earlier suggested, because the plane would need to return from Washington to the IU Hangar at Monroe County Airport." Other planes, he said, would have returned to other locales, ruling out this possibility.


Jennings and Fischer both said the interview was substantial and informative.


"We started out talking about his time at DePauw," Jennings said. "Then we moved onto the harder questions, concerning his involvement with the 9/11 Commission, Iraq Study Group - which he couldn't really talk about - and other aspects of government."


Jennings said Hamilton seemed to enjoy the interview. "He said it was the longest interview he's ever done, but that we did it well," he said.


Setchell said the Development and Alumni Relations budget, along with alumni and friend registration fees for the Discourse, helped pay for the trip.

Setchell said Hamilton was immediately open to the idea of having the student journalists accompany him on his trip. He also said Hamilton cooperated with the television crew, which followed him during many parts of his visit.


"All of this reflects Mr. Hamilton's significant generosity and loyalty to DePauw," Setchell said. "He was under no obligation to do any of this, having received no honorarium or other benefit for his Discourse participation. Not only is Mr. Hamilton 'a national treasure' in terms of his achievements and contributions in public service, as Discourse 2004 participant Roger Wilkins said, he's also a humble, accessible and kind person. I am sure his four student travel companions would agree."


Fischer said the opportunity to interview Hamilton in this setting gave her a real-life journalistic experience. "I had to do some research; I was not familiar with his 9/11 Commission or the Iraq Study Group. It was really a flash forward to what a journalist does, the life they lead," she said. "Having this opportunity to be with such a public figurehead is unbelievable. McWethy didn't even have that.

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