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Humble Beginnings

Today, December 14th, over one-hundred and fifty years ago the first classes were held in the basement of a yet-complete building atop a hill in section 16, township 39. Milton Township in Dupage County, like many other townships in the burgeoning Midwest, took advantage of legislation that enabled townships to use land in section 16 for schools.

The Wesleyan Methodist Church was begun in 1843 as response to ambivalence over slavery by the Methodist Episcopal Church. Founders of this church were Orange Scott, Lucius Matlack, Luther Lee and LaRoy Sunderland. In the late 1840s the Illinois Annual Conference of the Wesleyan Methodists sought to establish a school where they could educate their children and advance their reform beliefs, especially against slavery. Since Wheaton offered favorable terms, according to Rufus Blanchard, it was chosen as the seat of this school. He further notes, “Preparations for building began by the founders kneeling in the prairie grass on the summit of the beautiful hill…and dedicated the hill and all that should be upon it to that God in whom trusting they had boldly gone into the thickest of the fight, not only for the freedom of human bodies, but of human souls as well.”

View of campus, from the southwest cornerEventually, the stone building, built with limestone excavated from a quarry in nearby Batavia and hauled to the site from the train station by Gaius Howard, measured forty-five feet by seventy-five and consisted of two stories above the basement. The cost of the structure was about $10,000. During the first year the student body numbered 140 students and the second year the number rose to 270.

The first instructor and President was Rev. John Cross. Little is written about Cross, but much could be noted. His work in establishing the Underground Railroad in the Midwest is cited in short entries in dozens of works. His fuller story awaits a proper telling. The following year, after Cross left to help begin Amity College in Iowa, Rev. C. F. Winship took the helm for a year, after which he became a missionary to West Africa. Rev. George P. Kimball, fresh from Amity serving with Cross, taught alongside Miss Pierce and Rufus Blanchard until1855 when, as Rufus Blanchard relates in his county history, Rev. J A. Martling became “Principal of the first collegiate year,” as the Illinois Institute had bee chartered by the State of Illinois as a college in 1855. Professor Freeborn Garretson Baker filled in, as well, until September 1856 when Rev. Lucius C. Matlack, who had been chosen president some years before, took on his role as president.

During the early years of the Illinois Institute the school rested on a solid financial foundation having designed to secure a permanent endowment fund of $100,000, by the sale of scholarships. However, like many schools of the time, particularly Wesleyan schools, thousands of dollars in pledges went unpaid for scholarships that had been redeemed. The Illinois Institute began receiving transfer students from other Wesleyan schools, like the Leoni School in Michigan, that were struggling financially. Shortly after Matlack became president the United States underwent a significant financial crisis, which later prompted a national revival. Matlack did all he could to raise funds but was unsuccessful and the trustees pressured him to resign as the school consumed its endowment and was thousands of dollars in debt. Not wanting to leave the school adrift Matlack suggested bringing in Jonathan Blanchard who was known as a strong leader and fundraiser–having brought Knox College from the financial brink to solvency. Matlack resigned in 1859 noting: “I have no salary, no revenue, and am in debt.”

The trustees agreed with Matlack’s idea and approached Blanchard to lead the school forward if he would continue the school’s anti-slavery, temperance, and oath-bound societies beliefs. Blanchard agreed and stipulated that the charter should be changed so that the trustee board be self-governing and composed as Blanchard saw fit. The transition was smooth and the board expanded. The Wheaton College minutes declared “The college hereafter is to be under the control of Orthodox Congregationalists with the cooperation of its founders and our friends, the Wesleyans.”

In January, 1860, President Blanchard entered upon the duties of his office. The name of the institution was changed to Wheaton College, and the charter was amended by the Legislature of 1861. The first class of seven young men, all of them from the regular college course, graduated on the 4th of July, 1860. Wheaton would reconnect with the Wesleyans decades later when the Wesleyan Theological Seminary opened in 1881. It closed in 1889 after financial and personnel difficulties.

Cramped Quarters

Siberian SevenImagine that for five years you are living in a dirty cramped 12-foot by 20-foot basement room that is heaped full of boxes and other material in an office building in a major city. In this room are six others who must live and sleep together and with only two beds.

This was the experience of seven Siberian Pentecostals who sought refuge from religious persecution in the American Embassy in Moscow in 1978. It would 1983 before even one of them was able to leave. That one person was Lida Vashchenko.

In 1978 seven Siberian Pentecostals crashed past Soviet guards and into the United States embassy seeking help in emigrating from the Soviet Union because of religious persecution. Pyotr Vashchenko, Augustina, and their three daughters, Lidiya, Lyubov and Liliya along with fellow Christian believers Mariya Chmykhalov and her son Timofei had traveled 2,000 miles by rail from the Siberian town of Cherno-gorsk.

Starting in 1961, Siberian officials began harsh anti-Christian campaigns and routinely disrupted Christian worship services and jailed many Pentecostal leaders. The Vashchenko children faced harassment at school — ridicule, ostracism and beatings. The following year the Vashchenkos decided to educate them at home, but the state ruled them unfit and removed their daughters from the home and placed them in state homes until they turned 16. In January 1963, while Pyotr was in prison, Augustina and fellow Pentecostals made international headlines for forcing their way into the U.S. embassy seeking asylum. When they were promised better treatment they left. However, the Vashchenko’s home was confiscated, their jobs were lost and they were imprisoned.

Known to the outside world as “the Siberian Seven,” they lived as uninvited guests in a grubby 12-foot by 20-foot room in the basement of the U.S. embassy on Moscow’s bustling Tchaikovsky Street. They shared two beds and earned small change around the embassy washing cars, knitting garments, cleaning rooms.

Inspired by Soviet Dissident Andrei Sakharov, after three and a half years in the embassy basement Augustina and Lidiya Vashchenko began a hunger strike — stopping their eating in a desperate bid to win world attention and shame the Soviets into relenting. Their health failed quickly. Their plan worked as the severity of their situation gained international attention and the hunger strike became life-threatening. However, Pyotr Vashchenko was opposed to their tactics because of his understanding of the Christian teaching against suicide.

While in the embassy, the group completed a 225,000-word account of their heart-rending saga, reworked by John Pollock as The Siberian Seven. Their experiences reveal the sufferings that Christians behind the Iron Curtain had been compelled to bear. It has been noted that the case of the Siberian Seven is a good example of the gravity of the human rights situation that existed inside the Soviet Union.

Kent HillThe Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections acquired the papers of Kent Hill that related to the Siberian Seven. Hill, former president of Eastern Nazarene College and former director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, was studying in Moscow on a Fullbright scholarship when the seven sought refuge. Hill eventually received, and later translated, copies of their papers that they had compiled to document their charges of persecution and oppression. These papers tell a story of human rights violations and religious persecution. The collection (SC-52) contains diaries, correspondence, photographs, and other manuscript material.

Jerry’s Pub

Jerry HawthorneBeginning in the mid-1970s when Art Rupprecht and Jerry Hawthorne joined a group of their very interesting and interested Greek students late on Friday afternoons in the Stupe. The week’s classes were over and it was time to relax with a free cup of coffee — they arrived just at closing time when the staff were about to throw the remaining coffee down the drain. It was theirs for the taking. Faculty and students spent time thinking through some theological issues, talking about baseball or fishing, or discussing some difficult Greek passage, telling a few jokes, and generally enjoying each others company and insights. Soon others wanted to join. So it became a weekly feature, but it was too large and often too raucous to continue meeting in a corner booth of the Stupe.

Just as concerns over a meeting place arose a new chapel schedule was implemented with chapel to be held weekly on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays — leaving Wednesday at 10:30 free when faculty and students had no officially scheduled meetings. So Wednesday became the new day. Now all that was needed was a place. John Ortberg, speaking for his housemates, offered Windsor House as the newly designated place of meeting. It was agreed that faculty would provide the donuts and the Windsor men would provide the coffee. Occasionally one of the faculty would fudge a little on the donut buying, for one of them was caught slipping across to Windsor house early, to heat up an Aldi’s day-old coffee cake for the coffee hour.

Eventually these Windsor men graduated, but the new men assigned to that house wanted us to continue, which the faculty were only too happy to do. Windsor House, which was adjacent to Buswell Library, continued to be a place of meeting for students from all parts of the world, faculty from all disciplines — a great amalgam of students and faculty. Discussions were lively and sometimes even heated, but always argued with passion, if not always with reason. Everyone present could not help learning something he (all men in those days) had not known before–those were great times together.

When Windsor House was torn down the group was invited to join the men in Kay House, so that this tradition could continue. By the time that particular Kay House group of men were ready to move on via graduation to their higher calling, the new “pharaoh knew not Joseph.” So no successive invitation was extended from that house. When that moment of desperation came, however, many of our student friends were awarded Hidden House as their next year’s domicile, and with one voice they beckoned us to come and join them at their home each Wednesday morning as usual. The tradition kept going and growing. This pleasurable and profitable welcome break from the routine bustle of academic life continued unabated for more than a decade.

Joe McClatcheyAs change is always inevitable, the chapel schedule changed again. The new schedule had it fall on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Not wishing to flaunt chapel, nor to encourage undesirable behavior on the students part, the majority of the faculty regulars decided that all who wished could come to Jerry Hawthorne’s office (on the second floor of Wyngarden Health Center) at the traditionally designated time. As many as 15-18 professors from the departments of literature, language, philosophy, psychology, sociology, history, communication and the sciences crammed into that small office for the weekly repast of coffee and donuts. Here the late and beloved Dr. Joe McClatchey delighted to come as long as he was alive; it was he who dubbed this place and this congregation, “Jerry’s Pub,” a name it still holds, although the infamous “Jerry” is now retired, and the Pub presently meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Art Rupprecht’s office.

The fact that we met on Wednesdays during chapel was information that could not be kept secret. Eventually it reached the ears of the Board of Trustees. They asked the President to see if this were true or simply rumor. If true he was charged to ask this group to cease and desist. When the President learned of the long history of this group and reported this to the Trustees and that it was not a subversive group intending to undermine chapel, the Board graciously gave the group permission to continue on Wednesdays at Chapel time, but only until Hawthorne retired. Hence, the new schedule.

Although this group never attained the recognition and reputation of C. S. Lewis’ “Inklings,” it nevertheless served the same purpose. From among those students who regularly attended “the Pub,” not a few of them have gone on to help, under God, to make this world a better place in which to live. Many of them have distinguished themselves as doctors, missionaries, pastors, artists, university professors, college presidents, public school teachers, leaders in development programs, clinical psychologists, and the list goes on and on.

A Proper Home

On November 25th noted investment banker, and well-known rare book collector Helmut Friedlaender died at the age of 95. Widely known as a bibliophile Friedlaender drew attention when he disposed of his quietly-gathered collection at Christie’s Auction House. Smaller volumes were fetching six-figures without hesitation.

Akin CollectionWheaton College was the beneficiary of the generosity of another, less-known, bibliophile. Friedlaender saw his books as “orphans” that needed a proper home, a sentiment that William S. Akin shared as he he saw his own books as his children. Friedlaender sold his “children” but Akin found a better home for his legacy.

Eventually, Bill Akin’s collection was placed on loan at Wheaton College. Akin had developed a friendship with Wheaton’s president, V. Raymond Edman through Edman’s brother who was a member of Chicago’s Union League. Akin donated the bulk of his collection in Edman’s memory after his sudden death in 1967.

Irene by Samuel JohnsonOne of Akin’s area of collecting interest was Samuel Johnson and James Boswell. Akin’s Johnsonian collection became quite significant, eventually containing the first thirteen editions of the dictionary. The oldest Johnson item in our collection is shown here. In 1737 Johnson determined to take his chances as a writer in London. He had been composing this tragic drama and with a draft of this work complete, he set out with one of his former pupils David Garrick. Finally, in 1749 with Garrick’s assistance, who was now manager of a theatre in Drury Lane, Irene was performed with some modest success.

It was Johnson’s work on his dictionary and not Irene that he became known as the “grand old man of English letter’s.” For decades when someone said “The Dictionary” it referred to Johnson’s and none other.

James Bond at Wheaton College

Ian Fleming wrote 14 James Bond titles before his death in 1964. The series was continued with varying degrees of success by Kingsley Amis, John Gardner, Raymond Benson (who resides in suburban Buffalo Grove, Illinois), Sebastian Faulks with Devil May Care (2008) and Carte Blanche (2011) by Jeffery Deaver, who hails from Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Reviewing Dr. No for Christianity Today, professor Clyde Kilby remarked: “I discovered no St. George but only a salad of mystery entertainment, with a tart dressing of sex. On the whole…a very contrived performance.”

Amid all that globe-hopping, did Bond visit Wheaton, mistaking it, perhaps, for Monte Carlo? He came closest in Benson’s brief tale, “Live at Five,” which places the Brit in Chicago on a mission. Fleming himself once visited the Windy City, touring mob-related hotspots; and the Ian Fleming Foundation is currently located not in London, Rome or Paris, but in Kankakee, Illinois. However, Bond’s other literary and cinematic guardians are aware of us. For instance, in his Memoirs, Amis — who penned the 007 pastiche Colonel Sun and allegedly finished The Man With the Golden Gun, incomplete at Fleming’s death — laments the absurdity that Malcolm MuggeridgeMalcolm Muggeridge’s typewriter is displayed “…in a glass case as part of a collection…including T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis.” (Actually, the typewriter is in Special Collections SC-04.) Another contributor to the 007 mythos is Bono, who visited Wheaton College with his entourage in 2002, drawing attention to the AIDS crisis in Africa; he is co-lyricist (with The Edge) of the title song for Pierce Brosnan’s GoldenEye, sung by Tina Turner. There is Marvin Hamlisch, who conducted the campus orchestra for the Artist Series in 2004; he achieved fame composing music for several hit films, notably the soundtrack for Roger Moore’s The Spy Who Loved Me. And then there is Dr. Michael Ward, C.S. Lewis scholar and author of Planet Narnia, who has spoken at Wheaton College. Portraying Q’s assistant in The World is Not Enough, Ward hands Pierce Brosnan a pair of x-ray sunglasses.

A Very Blanchard Thanksgiving

Nov. 25, 1872 LetterThe Jonathan Blanchard Papers are a diverse gathering of items covering the family history of Wheaton College’s first president. Ranging from the scribbling of grandchildren to a petition for the abolition of slavery, they illuminate Blanchard in his many roles. The heart of the Collection is the more than 4600 letters preserved by his wife, Mary Bent Blanchard. Dating from 1808 to 1892, the items cover a wide range of topics with writers including family members, friends, students, Civil War soldiers, church associates, colleagues, reform workers, and others. These letters are a valuable resource for scholars, students, and other history enthusiasts alike.

During this Thanksgiving holiday one such letter was written by Jonathan and Mary’s daughter, Maria Blanchard Cook from Chicago on November 25, 1872.

Dear Father, the turkey which I heard you prepared for our Thanksgiving, in order perhaps that we might more keenly realize the blessing of having kind parents, came safely to the city. Mr. Cook was hauling lumber to his new place of business that day and at noon placed the turkey on the open wagon he was using and supposing it was fully secured by things he placed over it came home and on reaching here found the paper it was wrapped in empty. We were sorry to lose it the more because it was the turkey from home. But Mr. Cook says he will replace it and mother Cook has invited us all over to her house on Thanksgiving day so we will be thankful for our turkey, hope some one more needy and deserving than we found it and “rejoicing evermore.”

Trumpet Call to Wheaton

It has been wisely suggested that each incoming Wheaton College student mandatorily read The Silver Trumpet (1930) by J. Wesley Ingles. The Silver Trumpet received the John C. Green Award from the American Sunday-School Union as its unanimous choice for a manuscript whose subject was “the heroic appeal of Christianity to young people.” It went through nearly two dozen printings through the 1950s, later republished under the title The Amazing D. Randall MacRae (Moody Press) and has made its way online as an “on-demand” book through Amazon.

Silver TrumpetDedicated to “President Charles A. Blanchard who, of all my teachers, has left the deepest and most abiding impress upon my life,” the novel follows the fortunes of D. Randall MacRae, wealthy worldling and hotshot football hero who, pursuing a pretty young lady, reluctantly transfers from magnificent, ivy-walled Princeton to backside-of-nowhere “Wharton College,” a repressive “fundamentalist” institution situated somewhere west of Chicago. MacRae painfully adjusts to campus life, fumbling about with less certitude than his athletic reputation might suggest. His anxieties are gradually lightened as the semester progresses and he at last secures sweet romance–along with a genuine, humbling faith in Christ. An airy, wholesome romp, Ingles’s tale conjures the gentler, courtlier moods of the pre-War Midwest, the imminent thrill of the Big Game against North Central, autumn’s chill and the coloring leaves against gray skies, blossoming friendships in depressed times and the promise of bright young lives wholly devoted to Christ. In a day when there was no other “safe” place to attend college, alum of a certain age point to an early reading of The Silver Trumpet as the deciding factor for choosing Wheaton College, a fact bolstered by Rudolph Nelson in his biography of Edward Carnell. He notes that “Dr. V. Raymond Edman…administered a questionnaire to freshmen one year during the forties. In response to a question concerning their reasons for having decided to attend Wheaton, more than half of the entering class included in their list a reading of The Silver Trumpet” (p. 28).

Christian Contextualized

To paraphrase the joys of William Sanford Akin’s life would be say that he collected books. Akin’s interest in books began as a teenager. He recalled with a note of humor that it all started when “someone hit him over the head with a first edition.” But elsewhere he stated that he became interested in Samuel Johnson when he was 14 when he was told to read Beauties of Johnson as “penance for his sins.” During this time he served as an acolyte while Dr. George Craig Stewart was rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston. Pilgrim\'s Progress (Japanese ed.)When he was 16 he obtained a job in an old bookstore. Ultimately, Akin knew “of nothing more gratifying, physically, mentally, or spiritually, than to sit down to a cup of tea and browse among [his] books until [he found] something to satisfy [his] need at the moment.” The connection between Akin and Wheaton began when Akin developed a friendship with Wheaton’s president, V. Raymond Edman’s brother who was a member of Chicago’s Union League. Akin donated the bulk of his collection in Dr. Edman’s memory after his sudden death in 1967.

Along with his interest in Johnson and Boswell, Akin grew fond of illustrated editions of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. In many homes of the 18th and 19th century, particularly in America, Pilgrim’s Progress, ranked second only to the Bible in importance. The third edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress, published in 1679, appears to have been the first printing with any illustration, which have always played a key role in the story of Christian as he journeys from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. This particular edition was the first to bring the two previously separately published parts into a single volume.Fighting Apollyon

Pilgrim’s Progress became a part of the evangelical canon and as missionaries went around the world they took Bunyan’s Christian along with them. This Japanese edition is decidedly Asian in its illustrations. Not only has the book been translated into Japanese but care has been taken to translate the imagery as well. Here is Christian’s encounter with Apollyon in a decidedly different perspective. It is much more suited to the Japanese audience, especially with Fuji-esque mountain in the background and Christian wearing the armor and accoutrement of a samurai soldier.

Rockwell at Wheaton

Mary Barstow RockwellA copy of Norman Rockwell’s autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator (1960), archived in our Rare Book Collection (SC-10), boasts an intriguing inscription: “My best wishes to the art department at Wheaton College, sincerely, Norman Rockwell. My late and beloved wife, Mary Barstow Rockwell, was a native of Wheaton.” At the bottom of the page is another handwritten note, declaring that the book is dedicated to Mary, and directs the reader’s attention to her portrait on page 9, seen here.

Mary was the daughter of Alfred E. Barstow of California, and (Dora) Bernice Gary of Wheaton, IL; Dora, who took science courses at Wheaton College, was the niece of the famed U.S. Steel founder and Gary, Indiana namesake, Elbert Gary. Mary, born November 26, 1907, studied education at Stanford University Graduate School.

The circumstance under which the book was signed is not known. Rockwell divorced his first wife, Irene, in 1930. He was married to Mary from 1930 until her death in 1959, after which he married Molly Punderson in 1961. The famed Saturday Evening Post illustrator died in 1978 at his home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

A ministry in Art

Oswald Chambers’ strong faith was accompanied by an abundant imagination that developed into a vibrant creativity. After attending Sharp’s Institute as a child, Oswald received further education from several institutions including the National Art Training School in London (later renamed the Royal College of Art) where he received the Art Master’s Certificate, despite his father’s objections to his art studies. His father, a Baptist minister, did not believe that art could be a platform for ministry.

Chambers furthered his art studies at Edinburgh University and saw the arts as a gift of God to make life on earth bearable–they were a necessity, not a luxury.

In God’s Workmanship Chambers wrote that:

“The Personality of Truth is the great revelation of Christianity–“I am … the Truth.” Our Lord did not say He was “all truth” so that we could go to His statements as to a text-book and verify things; there are domains, such as science and art and history, which are distinctly man’s domains and the boundaries of our knowledge must continually alter and be enlarged; God never encourages laziness. The question to be asked is not, “Does the Bible agree with the findings of modern science?” but, “Do the findings of modern science help us to a better understanding of the things revealed in the Bible?”

Charcoal drawing of Beethoven by ChambersArt is one of those domains wherein humanity can both imitate God’s creativity and find expression for our own. Here are some examples of Oswald’s work, the originals, of which, are located in our collection.

It was at Edinburgh that Oswald prayed that he would serve God through art. As he continued his studies Chambers sensed that he was being called into fuller service and ministry. While in Edinburgh, he came under many positive influences, but particularly that of venerated Scottish Presbyterian pastor and Keswick leader Alexander Whyte. Especially influential was his Young Men’s class. Chambers struggled immensely regarding the ministry. George Oxer, a longtime friend, sought to correct “any who may think that Oswald Chambers had an easy passage to the heights God took him. The measure of the valley is the height of the mountain. My friend’s soul was a lone rough rider passing through the wilderness to his Canaan.”

Shown here is a charcoal drawing of Beethoven that is housed in the Chambers collection.