Category Archives: Wheaton College Archives

Project Evangel

The Evangel 4500, constructed by pilot-mechanic Carl Mortenson of Wycliffe Bible Translators, was the first twin-engine airplane specially designed for missionary use in the most remote, rugged areas of the world. Before Mortenson’s innovative engineering on the craft, small planes were limited to single-engine capability, susceptible to power failure during takeoff and landing on short jungle runways.

EvangelReceiving funding from several Chicago laymen, the Evangel 4500 was ready for its first major mission in 1969. Passengers for thetwo-month voyage to South America were pilot Mortenson, Dr. Paul Wright, chairman of the chemistry department  at Wheaton College, and nine other board members of Project Evangel.

Explaining the need for the plane, Wright remarked, “We don’t feel it’s right to expose missionaries to the hazards of a single engine plane. The Evangel 4500 can carry two passengers in addition to its 4 x 4 x 9 storage area, or the entire space can be used for passengers. It can take off with a full load in 498 feet. Its maximum altitude is 22,500 feet, but one with engine gone it can still fly at 7100 feet.” After the successful flight, Wright often lectured at local churches, telling the story of the unique airplane and its mission.

Some useful plan or book

b51252016 marks the final year in which the hard copy of Wheaton College yearbook, The Tower, is published. Due to budgetary restraints and relative lack of interest among students, the administration decided to cease publication.  From this point forward information will be collected digitally. Collectively, the yearbooks cover approximately 2/3 of the college’s 156-year life, capturing for posterity priceless moments and pertinent personal information.

It was 30 years after the college’s founding in 1863 before students published  the first iteration of the yearbook, Wheaton College Echoes, ’93. An editorial excitedly anticipates a bright future, observing with comic pomposity, “And then, don’t you know, exuberant genius is best developed by at least an annual overflow.” The editors wistfully quote:

That I for dear auld Wheaton’s sake,

Some useful plan or book could make,

Or sing a song at least?

Echoespublishing advertisements, student and faculty directories and silly anecdotes, continued until 1900 when it ceased publication for reasons now forgotten. After a lengthy absence the yearbook resurfaced in 1922 as The Tower, adopting the traditional format of profiling students of each class and faculty through photos and chatty text, along with chapters dedicated to sports, music, literary societies and various clubs. The editors write:

In presenting the first edition of The Tower, the Junior Class has attempted to concentrate the events of the college year in such form that they will be kept and treasured by the students in years to come….If this book affords the graduate pleasant reminiscences and inspires the undergraduate with a greater devotion to Alma Mater, the Juniors will feel they have accomplished their plan.

Indeed, The Tower, initially printed by Schulkins Printing Co. of Chicago, appeared annually, maintaining traditional packaging with a few notable variations. For instance, the 1941 Tower, edited by artist Phil Saint, is liberally peppered with his own gently humorous caricatures of faculty and campus life. In fact, Saint includes on the final page a cartoon of himself as a stuffed head, Flippius Santus, “now extinct.” Saint2Years later Saint’s brother, Nate, would die with Jim Elliott and four other missionaries at the hands of Waorani tribesmen in Ecuador.

In 1945 a saddle-stitched paperback supplement, The Armed Forces Tower, exhibiting several galleries of Wheaton College active duty soldiers and deceased Gold Star Veterans, was distributed with The TowerThe Armed Forces Tower also exhibits an illustration for the proposed Memorial Student Building, eventually built in 1950 after a fundraising campaign. The structure now serves as the political science department. The supplemental edition also contains Dr. V. Raymond Edman’s famous tribute to the young men and women populating his beloved campus, the “brave sons and daughters true” who carry the gospel of Christ to far countries.

The most innovative packaging of The Tower appeared in 1972, when it was divided into three paperbacks, each profiling an aspect of campus life with artistic photos and scattered poetry. The package includes a cassette tape recording of philosophy professor Dr. Stuart Hackett’s band in concert.

Like any journal, The Tower faithfully records the moods, milestones and fancies of the hour. The College Archives, Buswell Library, where a complete set of The Tower is maintained, bids a fond adieu to this perennially useful historical document.

 

God’s Hand in History

Why the secular notion of luck should not replace providence.

While conducting doctoral work at the University of St. Andrews, I was challenged to ponder the factors that influenced the church’s theological and institutional development within a secular history department. During that time, I observed that while the cause of historical events was primarily attributed to human action, the mysterious role of fortunate circumstances or “luck” also factored into historical explanations on occasion.

I first became aware of this rationale when grading a freshman history paper, which claimed that Cortez’s conquest of the Incas was successful due to luck. This explanation surprised me, particularly in a culture supposedly moving toward the disenchantment of the world, or Entzauberung, as scholars of secularism purport.

With new eyes, I began to see the offhand comments about luck in all manner of sources. It soon occurred to me that “luck” had become the “providence” of secular culture: that force beyond human comprehension, which could not be ignored, bringing about opportune circumstances for some and not for others at particular moments.

If Tertullian were alive today, he might ask, “What do Christians have to do with luck?” For a believer and an historian of the church and theology, luck is not the ultimate explanation.

I am reminded of a powerful scene in the 1982 movie Gandhi in which Gandhi and a clergyman were walking on the sidewalk together. According to the custom in India at the time, Gandhi was expected to walk in the street. Despite the presence of threatening men, he refused. When the confrontation did not lead to violence, the clergyman—clearly shaken—turned to Gandhi and exclaimed, “Well, that was lucky!” To that, Gandhi pointedly replied, “Ah, but I thought you were a man of God.”

At Wheaton College, we have the precious freedom to integrate faith and learning in the classroom. In my discipline, there are ways to do this responsibly. While we cannot determine God’s will with ease—particularly when considering issues of theodicy—we can be confident in God’s mysterious providence at work in our world and in the course of history without resorting to the secular rhetoric of “luck.”

Moreover, human history reveals many remarkable events from our past, but none can compare to the singular event of Christ’s incarnation in our world. Napoleon’s remarks on the unique power of Christ are worth reflecting upon:

“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and myself have founded great empires, but on what did those creations of our genius rest? Upon force . . . . But Jesus Christ by some mysterious influence, even through the lapse of 18 centuries, so draws the hearts of men towards him that thousands at a word would rush through fire and flood for him, not counting their lives dear to themselves.”

Understanding the ongoing “mysterious influence” of Christ in our world is not a search for luck, but for God’s hand in history.

Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt, Assistant Professor of Theology and History of Christianity — Wheaton Magazine, Spring 2009

A Wheaton College Love Story

The Rock Island Argus, September 19, 1922, published the following delightful love story:

 A romance that endured through half a century approaches its climax at Evanston today, when Mrs. Ella H. Ellis, 73, of Evanston, and Edward F. Fox, 76, of Albany, Oregon, exhibited a marriage license. They were sweethearts when they attended Wheaton College together in 1868 and became engaged then, but Mr. Fox left to finish a college career at the University of Michigan. Then he went west. They drifted apart until both married others. The wife of Edward Fox died two years ago. When he came out and called on his old sweetheart while passing through Chicago, he learned that her husband, John Ellis, a Congregational minister, died 13 years ago. Old memories were rapidly recalled and other events forgotten. “There’s nothing half so sweet in life as love’s young dream,” Mrs. Ellis quoted as they planned their honeymoon.

“I shall wish that I was able to leave the country.”

We think that we may live in a time of deeply partisan politics with a heightened pomposity. However, the fear of the wrong candidate winning is not a new fear.

Just prior to the election of 1880 Maria Bent Nichols wrote to her sister Mary Bent Blanchard. Her letter discusses the general niceties of 19th-century correspondence but then moves to the upcoming election. Looking forward to Garfield’s victory, Nichols feared a win by Winfield S. Hancock.

“I am exceedingly anxious to see the triumph which has begun in Indiana go on till Garfield is seated in the White House. If Hancock is elected I shall wish that I was able to leave the country. I should feel that we were given over.”

We are not told in this letter the cause of Nichol’s fear, but if Hancock won she felt that the country would have been “given over” which is likely a reference to being “given over to Satan” not unlike the troubles sent upon the biblical Job. Maybe Nichols feared for the stability of the economy. A key element of the 1880 presidential campaign was a return to the gold standard for the country’s currency. This was good for fighting inflation, but very bad for those with heavy debts.

18801016-p3

 

This and other letters to and from Jonathan and Mary Blanchard can be found  housed at the Wheaton College Archives of Buswell Library at Wheaton College.

The Power of Self Command

Today it is common for public speakers to adopt informal methods of delivery. Contemporary audiences  might see the speaker slouching before them wearing bleached blue jeans with a loose, untucked Hawaiian shirt. In some instances, the speaker might even sit cross-legged on the stage, attempting to establish a friendly bond with his hearers.  Straw4However, the notion of excessively easygoing oratory delivered before an expectant auditorium was unfathomable when Dr. Darien Straw (1857-1950), Professor of Rhetoric and Logic and Principal of the Preparatory Department of Wheaton College, published Lessons in Expression and Physical Drill (1892), a consolidation of his classroom wisdom.

He emphasizes that proper posture, efficient gesticulation and precise elocution contribute immeasurably to the intellectual development and future success of the sensibly educated young man or woman. Outward order merely reflects inward stability. “Helping young people to discover ill temper in the voice, carelessness in the walk, selfishness in the bearing and laziness in the words,” writes Straw, “and giving them facility to avoid these, avails more than business proverbs and social precepts.” Throughout the book Straw offers helpful examples.

Straw2This gentleman stands in the drill position. “Heels together,” writes Straw, “toes turned out from 45 to 90 degrees apart, knees straight, body erect, head well back, chin slightly curbed, chest expanded, arms down at the side with the edge of the hand forward. A good test of erect positon is to stand with the back against a door or other vertical plane so that you can touch it in four places — with the heels, the hips, the shoulders and the head. If you find it difficult to do this there is the more reason for perservering in an erect position.  Once the drill position is properly maintained, the student can practice his vocals. Avoid any attempt at loudness,” warns Straw, “but listen to the tone to see if it is correct.”

Straw3Straw later discusses the calculated use of the prone hand and the supine hand. “The primary meaning of the Prone Hand is repression or covering. It is the reverse of the Supine hand, the palm is turned down. It has a great variety of uses, but all related to this primary meaning. The idea of the snow spread upon the earth contains also the idea of a covering. The idea of peace, quiet or stillness contains at the same time suppression of noise or movement and may be expressed by the Prone Hand. There is a gradual shading of this position to that of Averse hand, as we would repress an action or thought disagreeable. As our emotions shade into one another, so our action combines different expressions.”

 

“This, then,” writes Straw, “is an effort to help teachers in giving to pupils the power of self command.”

 

The Story of an Old Town, Glen Ellyn

Wheaton College, founded by Wesleyan Methodist abolitionists, was long rumored to be a stop on the Underground Railroad, though precise documentation was lacking. At last the rumor was verified in 2009 by historian Dr. David Maas while reading a regimental history noting that freed slaves were, indeed, aided and assisted on the college campus by friends before quietly moving on to the next station. The following entry from Ada Douglas Harmon’s The Story of an Old Town, Glen Ellyn (1928), a history of Glen Ellyn, adds a few intriguing details:

1853: Illinois Institute (Wheaton College) founded, first president, Prof. Lucius Matlack. It was one of the underground railway stations for runaway slaves, as well as the old Barnard or Filer home. Also Israel P. Blodgett’s home in Downer’s Grove. Mr. Blodgett would often conceal as many as eleven slaves in his attic, feed and clothe them and send on to the next station, the Illinois Institute. Here they were again hidden in an attic by President Matlack, till it was safe to send them on, perhaps to the Filer house on Crescent, where they were hidden in the barn. From there the slaves were taken to Chicago, one of the stations being the old Tremont House, and from there to Canada and safety. The slaves were transported in farm wagons loaded with produce under which they were concealed. All those local links with the past give a reality to the thrills Uncle Tom’s Cabin used to send quivering through one’s system. 

glenClarification: John Cross was likely the first president of the Illinois Institute, rather than Lucius Matlack.

Merry Christmas!

These Wheaton College girls, possibly gathered in a Williston Hall dormer, pause during a Christmas celebration to pose for this photo from the early 1900s. A sketch of Abraham Lincoln, wearing Roman robes, glowers down on the somewhat somber party, though the young lady sitting front and center seems a bit more relaxed, if not downright mischievous. The woman in the striped skirt appears to be wearing an elf cap, or perhaps some form of traditional seasonal headdress.

Christmas

Jack & Jill Ranch on Big Wildcat Lake

Before Camp Honey Rock (later Honey Rock Camp)  became firmly established as a favorite getaway destination, Wheaton College faculty and students seeking a fresh blast of the great outdoors slipped northward to the Jack & Jill Ranch (“for young people, 19-35 years old”) in Rothbury, Michigan, about 200 miles from campus. The 650-acre lakeside property provided an ideal venue for horseback riding, swimming, boating, canoeing, archery, riflery, meals and lodging.

Ranch1

In addition to these activities, the promotional booklet loudly boasts, “Dance music is provided by our own orchestra. There’s square dancin’, too…we’ll teach you right from scratch.” Abiding by the Wheaton College rules of conduct, students probably quite reluctantly refrained from “dancin'”, especially in the presence of college administration. And when Sunday rolled around, guests were transported to one of “…our little Catholic or Protestant churches in the quaint village of Rothbury.”

In  May, 1953, the Senior Sneak, comprising the entire graduating class, fled campus and settled for two days at the Jack & Jill Ranch. Ranch2In addition to hearty relaxation, the Senior Sneak organized a worship service with Dr. V. Raymond Edman, President of Wheaton College, conducting the communion table.  The Sneak, probably gathered around a roaring campfire, sang their class song:

We’re on the road to victory,

And we can fight as you will see,

As we throng around,

You’ll hear the sound

Of cheering loud and free, Rah! Rah!

We are the first in all the fun,

Loyal we stand through gloom and sun;

Pressing forward together

In any kind of weather,

We’re the class of ’53.

Today the former Jack & Jill Ranch is the 1000-acre Double JJ Resort, including a golf course, water park and conference center. The Double JJ occasionally hosts the Rothbury Festival, featuring music from such rockers Snoop Doggy Dog and John Mayer.

More to Gain

a120As professor and administrator, Dr. Bob Baptista, who died at 93 on Friday, October 9, demonstrated firm leadership and sound judgment on many levels during his years of service to Wheaton College. However, he most visibly exhibited his stellar character after coaching a 1966 soccer game, Wheaton vs. Lake Forest. The following article from the Chicago Sun-Times tells the story:

The winners made the protest as the aftermath of an unusual soccer game in which Wheaton College beat Lake Forest 1-0, it was learned Wednesday. Wheaton coach Bob Baptista didn’t learn from goalie Bill Bott until after the game two weeks ago that Lake Forest had also scored. The ball, kicked by a wing on a breakaway, went past Bob Bott’s arms and 50 yards beyond the goal. Play had resumed before the surprised goalie realized no official had recognized that the ball went through the net. Baptista and the officials found a torn cord near the bottom of the net through which the ball had zipped. Baptista offered to consider the game a tie if the contest had no bearing on the final standings of the league. He also offered to replay the game if it should become significant in the standings. “Suddenly and unexpectedly faced with the acid test,” Baptista told the student body, “Wheaton has a lot more to gain than to lose.”