Category Archives: Wheaton College Archives

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.”

Good Grief!

Brown2Charlie Brown, next to Mickey Mouse and Superman, is arguably the most iconic American comic strip character. Created by Charles Schulz, the Peanuts cartoon ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000. Amazingly, the final original strip appeared one day after the death of Schulz.

The April 24, 1958 Wheaton College Record features an odd article, without context, titled “Peanuts Comes to Campus.” Evidently an unnamed Wheaton College student traveled to Minneapolis to hear Schulz lecture about his popular syndicated strip. Schulz offers one or two interesting insights into his creative process.

Charlie Brown, Patty, Pig Pen, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, Schroeder and Beethoven were at the University of Minnesota last month, brought by their creator Charles Schulz. Schultz drew as he talked. “Lucy says you can draw Charlie Brown’s head by using a pie plate,” Schulz said as he drew something that looked very much like it could be drawn with  a pie plate, “but this is not necessarily so.” BrownHe put a little sad face on the circle, drew a much-too-small body under it and introduced Charlie Brown. Then he covered the drawing with vertical streaks. “That’s rain,” he explained. Charlie Brown says, “It always rains on the unloved.”

“The strip,” says Schulz, “depicts high-toned sayings jammed down these little people.” He does all the work himself. “After all, there’s not much there — figures and graphs.” He drew Snoopy the dog in a frantic moment trying to find his way out of a patch of grass, “caught in the throes of weed claustrophobia.” Schulz has a hard time thinking up ideas for Pig Pen. “They’re planning  Pig Pen doll, you know,” he told the Minnesotans. “When you set it down, a little cloud of dust rises.” He has trouble, too, with Schroeder, mainly because of the Beethoven bust on his piano. “I have a hard time drawing Beethoven. Sometimes he looks like James Mason and sometimes like Elsa Maxwell.”

Says the Tower, Schulz has some of the emotional problems as the Peanuts clan does. He is motivated by the belief that few people like cartoonists, and he “can’t stand” people who send in suggestions. His wonderment was matched on one occasion by that of little Linus. Clutching his “security blanket,” Linus listened intently to the story of Sambo and the tigers. When the story was over, Linus looked puzzled and asked the question one might expect any normal child to ask: “How in the world could anybody eat that many pancakes after undergoing such an emotional experience?”

Ogden Nash at Wheaton College

The Wheaton College Student Union usually invited quite “serious” public figures to lecture on campus, so it was surely a delight when they snagged Ogden Nash, the American poet of light humorous verse. NashHis poetry was famously featured in The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post and elsewhere. He spoke in Pierce Chapel at 8:30pm on April 30, 1958. Admission to the event was $1.

His books include Everyone But Thee and Me, Parents Keep Out, You Can’t Get There from Here and Custard the Dragon. Among Nash’s New York literary circle were E.B. White, Dorothy Parker and S.J. Perelman.

Campus reaction to Nash’s performance is not recorded, nor is the notoriously liberal poet’s response to his conservative Christian audience. Not noted for theological reflection, Ogden Nash did observe:

God in his wisdom made the fly,

And then forgot to tell us why.

Nash was an active member of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea in New Hampshire, where his bespectacled face was immortalized on a stained-glass window. He died in 1971. At his funeral this poem was read:

I didn’t go to church today,

I trust the Lord to understand.

The surf was swirling blue and white,

The children swirling on the sand.

He knows, He knows how brief my stay,

How brief this spell of summer weather,

He knows when I am said and done,

We’ll have plenty of time together.

Rebuilding on a Solid Foundation

Article excerpted from Wheaton Magazine, Wheaton (IL) College, Spring 2008.

Numbers aside, one of Wheaton’s most well loved math professors looks at the solutions the new campaign will provide.

Although Wheaton’s state-of-the-art science center will be pleasant, it is not the comfort of new offices and the expectation of attractive student space that capture my imagination— rather, it is the possibility of renewing Wheaton’s mathematical and scientific enterprise for the next generations of Wheaton students.

pict0Our existing science and mathematics facilities in Breyer and Armerding Halls have their roots in the technologies and perspectives of the 1950s and ’60s. Over the last half century the content and methods of these disciplines have grown enormously—new sub-disciplines in math and science have emerged, different interdisciplinary relationships have evolved, and new departmental interdependencies have been established. Computational chemistry, mathematical models for dynamical physical systems, environmental science, computer-based simulation and visualization, and many, many other new mathematical and scientific domains now play crucial roles in helping us to better understand important processes within God’s creation.

In my dream for a new science building, I see students vigorously engaged in mathematics and science without the discouraging limitations imposed by two old buildings. The math and computer science department will finally have student project and research rooms, an improved seminar room, enlarged and well-lit student study rooms…and all of these in immediate proximity to our departmental faculty offices.These offices will even be large enough to help three or four students all at once—without having to search for a frequently nonexistent empty classroom. We will be freed to do science and mathematics; our classrooms will have the flexibility to be reconfigured for group work, media-based presentation, traditional lecture instruction, or seminar-style meetings. Departments will be arrayed in proximity to a central core to enable easy connection and collaboration.

As of now, the obsolescence of our old facilities along with the constraints that they impose upon learning, research, and teaching threaten to utterly compromise mathematics and science at Wheaton. I find it personally unsettling to know that we are already losing strong students who would become salt and light as cutting-edge scientists, health professionals, mathematicians, or computer scientists. Wheaton’s contribution to these disciplines stands to be diminished.

The prospect of a markedly improved teaching and learning environment with resources better configured for student engagement, practice, interaction, and collaboration really stirs my enthusiasm for The Promise of Wheaton. The new science building will create and dramatically enhance numerous possibilities for contemporary research, for more effective student mentoring and collaboration, for sophisticated interactive instruction, and for developing a renewed stream of Christian mathematicians and scientists who will not be left behind by these advancing disciplines.

Dr. Terry Perciante, Chair of Mathematics and Computer Science

A Question Answered

Aside from the institution of slavery, Jonathan Blanchard, founder of Wheaton College, loathed the Masonic Lodge. Speaking at various churches and civic events, Blanchard seldom lost an opportunity to discredit the Lodge and its secret rites. On one occasion, however, he might have uttered a few words too many. The following editorial was published in the Wheaton, Illinoisian on August 12, 1887:

MasonReplying to a question asked by J. Blanchard in what he was pleased to call a sermon, Sunday evening, August 7, at the Baptist church, “What Lodge in the country gave a dollar to pay for scraping lint or preparing anything for the comfort of the soldiers?” I would answer that Wheaton Lodge No. 269, F. & A.M., then in its infancy, gave one hundred and fifty dollars ($150.00) for that purpose. The Lodge at Naperville, Il, a like amount, and the Lodges all over the country gave for the same purpose. Query: What did the head of the house of Blanchard give to aid in carrying on the war? On the contrary, I am credibly informed that this same Blanchard discouraged the enlisting of students, saying of them, “Let the scum of society go first.” W.H. Johnson, Wheaton, Ill, Aug. 10, 1887

Thanks to Robert Shuster of the Billy Graham Center Archives for providing this article.

A Spark Dropped from the Sun

Springtime dandelions sprouting across suburban Chicago yards or vast corporate lawns stand little chance for survival. Usually herbicides have been diligently sprayed to eradicate this annoyance long before the first yellow dandelion heads burst sunward on the green grass. This was certainly not the case one hundred years ago at Wheaton College. In fact, the little flower (technically a weed) was celebrated. An article from the March, 1911 Record describes a unique tradition.

…A custom peculiar to Wheaton College is that of planting dandelions. Every spring when the dandelions begin to show, the students watch eagerly for the small yellow flowers, and then still more anxiously for them to go to seed. This is the time for the popular dandelion contest. The students go out by classes and gather the spherical white blossoms, and, bringing them to campus, flow the seeds over the grass so that in future years the dormitory and Wayside Inn be blessed with dandelion greens from our own campus. A banner is awarded to the most successful class.

These days the Wheaton College campus is carefully landscaped and meticulously manicured, allowing not a single dandelion. However, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, a visionary friend of Wheaton College, writes from quite another perspective, “It gives one a sudden start in going down a barren, stony street, to see upon a narrow strip of grass, just within the iron fence, the radiant dandelion, shining in the grass, like a spark dropped from the sun.”

Wheaton at the Edgewater

For fifty years the Edgewater Beach Hotel stood as a beacon for luxury, recreation and hospitality in a city renowned for its magnificent lodging. Famous as Chicago’s “Metropolitan Hotel with the Country Club Atmosphere,” the Edgewater boasted 1000 rooms, several cocktail lounges and five large dining rooms, in addition to nightly ballroom dancing. The grounds included an outdoor swimming pool, cabanas and tennis and shuffleboard courts.

EdgewaterSituated on the North Shore a few hundred feet from Lake Michigan, the massive pink stucco complex served a variety of visitors, vacationers and celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Tallulah Bankhead. Band leaders Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey broadcast from the hotel’s radio station. In addition to an array of dignitaries, the Edgewater even hosted the Wheaton College Washington Banquet on February 21, 1958. The cost was $11 per couple. The ceremony was emceed by Dr. Gerald Hawthorne, and the speaker for the evening was Dr. Edward Elsen, pastor to President Dwight D. Eisenhower at National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC.

Nearly 300 students and faculty attended, with Dr. and Mrs. Bernard Nelson portraying George and Martha Washington. The menu included fruit cocktail, baked sugar-cured ham with raisin sauce, salad, julienne string beans panache and frozen torte with chocolate sauce. Undoubtedly this was a thrilling, noisy night in the big city for the small Christian college from the western suburbs.

Sadly, because of urban renewal and a steady decline in business, the Edgewater Beach Hotel closed its doors in 1967. The buildings were razed in 1970 except for one, now refurbished as residential apartments with landmark status. The structures were so solidly constructed that it took nearly a year to demolish. That happy 1958 Washington Banquet, along with the grand old hotel, belong to fond memory.

What’s cookin’ at Wheaton College

Need a recipe for spinach balls? Pear salad? Ham souffle? Rhubarb crumble? Just thumb through Wheaton College Women’s Cooking, compiled sometime in the late 1970s by the Women’s Club. ClubThe Wheaton College Women’s Club is open to the wives of any administrators, faculty or staff. Officially organized in 1929 under Mrs. J. Oliver Buswell, wife of the third president of Wheaton College, the club was known as the Faculty Wives of Wheaton College. Today the organization seeks to serve the college community through various programs, continuing the heritage of deep concern for friendship, sharing and service shown by Mary Blanchard, wife of founder Jonathan Blanchard.

Papers relating to the Wheaton College Women’s Club (RG 9.14) are housed in the Wheaton College Archives.

The Art of Seeing

When Wheaton College custodian Dwight Ellefsen suddenly died on the job in 2006, few staff or students realized that, years earlier, he had enjoyed a professional career of considerable renown. EllefsenAs a young man, Ellefsen studied photography at the Brooks Institute in Santa Clara, California, before working for the Associated Press. Eventually Ellefsen worked with famed photographers Ansel Adams and W. Eugene Smith. His clients included Lamborghini, Standard Oil, Time Life Books, National Geographic and celebrity shoots, including Mohammed Ali. Ellefsen was the first photographer ever to have been nominated by the Chicago Artist Guild. In 1971 he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for a photograph taken of three Chicago firemen. Living for a year in Alaska, Ellefsen worked on a film about Inuits, which received an Academy Award Nomination in 1972.

His film photography also received awards from the Cannes Film Festival and the Midwest Film Festival. From 1975 to 1985 he was a professional photographer at Argonne National Lab in Darien, Illinois, until he was laid off during a bad economy. Ellefsen’s ability to observe and record a moment established his reputation as a first-rate artist. Soon hired at Wheaton College, he settled into a new career as a custodian in Edman Chapel, Smith-Traber, McManis-Evans and Fischer Halls. A strong Christian, Ellefsen performed well as photographer or custodian.

It has been remarked that photography is the art of seeing. Ironically, after his death, one colleague remarked, “He was the kind of guy people could pass every day in the halls without appreciating him or noticing him.” Aside from award-winning photography, perhaps Ellefsen’s greatest legacy is an invitation to the living, especially Christians, to open our eyes to those who stand beside us and behold the glory, however insignificant they might seem.