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. Ellefsen’s ability to observe and record a moment established his reputation as a first-rate artist. 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. Soon hired at Wheaton College, he settled into a new career as a custodian assigned to 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 an outstanding portfolio, 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.

The Curious Case of the Absentee Actor

According to the November 19, 1959 issue of The Record, actor Basil Rathbone, famous for his recurring film role as the definitive Sherlock Holmes, was scheduled to perform a one-man show in Pierce Chapel under the auspices of the Lyceum. RathboneHowever, due to a contractual obligation to his role in Archbald MacLeish’s play, J.B., he cancelled. Rathbone the Episcopalian, writing in his autobiography, In and Out of Character (1962) describes the play as “…anti-fundamentalist, but most certainly not anti-Christian.” Though Wheaton College might have regretted Rathbone’s non-appearance, the feelings were likely not reciprocated, as he was quite anxious to pull away from the grueling demands of stock gigs. “You play eight performances a week,” he complains, “and then every Sunday you travel most of the day to your next date….To live through this…one must have considerable endurance and a stimulating objective….” This objective was provided by J.B., rescuing the aging Rathbone from the rigors of cross-country journeying.

Taking over for the British actor in Pierce Chapel was Ilka Chase, writer, actress and television personality. A familiar face, she wrote for magazines and often hosted such television shows as “Glamour-Go-Round” and “Fashion Magic.”

Inspiration

Derek-McNeil

How does “paying it forward” play out in academia?

I was recently asking a very talented former student about her experiences as a new instructor. She expressed how much she loved what she was doing, and parenthetically asked how I had known teaching would fit her calling. I couldn’t quite bring myself to tell her how evident her talents and gifts were, or to dispel the mysteries around my powers of observation. However, still enjoying the moment of grandiosity and humor, I was reminded that I had simply lived out a generational legacy.

When I was a junior in college, the head of the psychology department, Dr. Martha Shalitta, said to me, “You are going to teach college students one day:’ It was a remarkable thing to hear as a young African American man-the first generation of his family to attend a four-year college. At that time my highest aspiration was simply to graduate, so becoming a faculty member was not a real consideration. In fact, to this day I’m not sure what compelled her to say this, but it began a dream that God brought to fulfillment. I have been very fortunate throughout my academic career to have people invest themselves in my future, and speak inspiration into my life; moreover to offer dreams beyond my imagination, and wisdom beyond my life experiences.

I am convinced that mentoring is more than scholarly assistance or career coaching; but it is also helping students see their greater potential and then facilitating the possibilities.

This is the most inspiring and renewing aspect of my work. Consequently, of my three most rewarding duties, teaching/training, collaborative scholarship with faculty and students, and mentoring young professionals-mentoring is the most personally satisfying. It means that I sometimes allow students to disturb my scholarship moments, or occupy my research time and linger in conversations that go beyond a particular question to the larger questions of living wisely. I find that this allows me to hear a deeper narrative of their dreams and possible selves, but it also provides a chance to question their perceptions and distortions. Mostly, it gives me a chance to learn who they are and see how God is shaping and inspiring them.

Supporting students as they identify their calling and capacities has become as important to me as helping them determine the future questions that their generation must answer. For them to answer these challenges, they will need to be people of creative intellectual abilities, plus spiritual men and women of maturing qualities. Mentoring can help students avoid the pitfalls of becoming self-absorbed in aggrandizing ventures, or the experience of disillusionment from kindheartedness without discernment. Most importantly, mentoring can inspire them beyond their first dream.

—–
Dr. J. Derek McNeil, Associate Professor of Psychology, received his Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Northwestern and his M.Div. from Fuller. He teaches diversity; clinical interviewing skills; group, marital, and family therapy; and has traveled nationally and internationally presenting workshops and seminars. He has also published four articles and authored chapters in five books. (The above statement was included at the time of publication — Wheaton Magazine, Winter 2008)

 

Leanne Payne (June 26, 1932-February 18, 2015)

Leanne Payne, beloved author and teacher, died on Ash Wednesday, 2015. Honoring herLP worldwide ministry as a wise spiritual counselor and relentless prayer warrior, the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections present this invocation requesting fresh anointing from God for Christian service, used by Payne and her colleagues during Pastoral Care conferences:

Come, Holy Spirit, come.
Pour the living water in Your presence
on the thirsty ground of my heart.

Make rivers of living water flow
on the barren heights of my soul,
and springs well up within all its valleys.

I would receive power, Lord Jesus Christ, to be your witness
at home and throughout the earth.
Be thou in me the fountain of living water,
springing up unto everlasting life.

You have qualified me, Holy Father, to share in the inheritance
of the saints in the kingdom of light.
You have rescued me from the dominion of darkness
and brought me into the kingdom of Your dear Son
in whom I have redemption
the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1).
You have set Your seal upon me
Your Spirit in my heart as a deposit,
guaranteeing what is to come.
In Christ, I stand firm (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
For adoption in You, I give you thanks.
For this I praise your holy, gracious name.

And I praise You as the One who sends forth Your Spirit
upon those who trust in Your name:
“Thou the anointing Spirit art
Who Doest thy sev’nfold gifts impart.”

I ask You now for the baptism of the Holy Spirit,
and a full freedom to move in the power of your Spirit
to the glory of your Name and the advancement of Your kingdom.
I know, Lord, that the day is coming when
“the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory
of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Hebrews 2:14).
I rejoice in this, and ask that even now, Your Spirit
will fill me, cover me, and clothe me in this way.
I ask, also, for the grace and strength to so walk before You
that Your Holy Spirit will in no way be grieved or offended,
but will remain upon me; be ever pleased to rest upon me.

Father, for this baptism of Your Spirit,
one that will continue to well up from within me,
I give you thanks in advance.

It is in Jesus’ holy name that I pray and receive this blessing. Amen.

The papers of Leanne Payne (SC-125) are housed in the Wheaton College Special Collections in Wheaton, IL.

 

Miss Jean Leckemby

LeckembyThe following obituary appears in the August 13, 1948 Wheaton Record:

Miss Jean Leckemby, recorder of the registrar’s office, died from a skull fracture enroute to the hospital after the automobile she was driving collided with a truck the evening of August 6 in Wheaton. Other persons injured in the crash were Mrs. Winnie Hockman, housemother at Hiatt Hall, and Mrs. Gail P. Leckemby, mother of Jean. Mrs. Hockman was taken to Delnor Hospital, St. Charles, where she was treated for a sprained back. Mrs. Leckemby was bruised and is suffering from severe shock. Miss Leckemby held the position of recorder since her graduation from Wheaton in 1941. “Known and beloved by all how knew her for her quiet efficiency, cheerfulness, courtesy and dependability,” in the words of President V. Raymond Edman, Miss Leckemby “was devoted to the Lord’s work here at Wheaton and was a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Miss Leckemby, her mother and Mrs. Hockman were on their way to Moody Bible Institute to attend a relative’s graduation. The 1949 Wheaton College Tower is dedicated to her. As the years progress, even formal memorials do not sufficiently refresh the remembrance of worthy individuals. However, Miss Leckemby, beside her splendid testimony and dedication to Christ, left behind another reminder of her short life. Four scrapbooks, containing photos, programs, cards and correspondence, offer a poignant glimpse  into her happy years as a student at Wheaton College. The scrapbooks (SC-142) are housed in the Wheaton College Archives.

100 Years

CairnsDr. Earle Cairns, professor of history and chairman of the department of history at Wheaton College, was commissioned in 1960 to write a book, Saints and Society, about the social impact of evangelical compassion. Cairns profiles reformers such as John Wesley, William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftsbury, chronicling their contributions to the sweeping revivals that shook England and beyond. The book served a dual purpose, also celebrating the 100th anniversary of Wheaton College, founded in 1860. Published by Moody Press in Chicago, the book’s dust jacket sports the college logo (below). Records, documents, photos and memorabilia pertaining to the Wheaton College Centennial are maintained in the Wheaton College Archives (RG 10.4).

Cairns2

 

A long distance Calle to the Moon

NixonAmong the numerous fascinating oddities stored in the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections is this reproduction of an original drawing first presented to President Richard Nixon in Washington, D.C., in October of 1969, depicting the historic first telephone call to the Moon. The framed reproduction was presented to Dr. Hudson Armerding, President of Wheaton College, on January 16, 1970, by representatives of the Telephone Engineer & Management magazine. It is personally signed by artist Paul Calle.

Why Literature?

When I was a graduate student, I received a letter from my father that I will never forget. A career military man, he wrote in his typically clipped prose: “Explain terminal objectives of the Ph.D. in English.”

The question is not as hostile as it sounds. My father just wanted to understand why I was willing to endure a five-year diet of Ramen noodles. But the assumptions behind his question struck me. How could I explain to him that the study of literature exists, in part, to remind us that life is more than what can be measured by “terminal objectives”?

This truth has become central to my research concerns in recent years. Technologically advanced nations dazzle their citizens with dreams of genetically engineering children, escaping into virtual reality, perfecting the body, and even attaining immortality. Anyone who has followed the biotech and nanotech revolutions knows that these goals are not the stuff of science fiction only. And technocratic futurists like Ray Kurzweil try to make the desirability of these goals a given. What could be wrong with wanting children who are born without a genetic predisposition to cancer, they ask? Why not pursue the science of perpetually renewing, wrinkle-free skin? And if life is good, shouldn’t we all want to live longer, healthier lives?

While some might say that our rapidly changing biotech culture proves that the study of literature can be only an ivory tower indulgence, I believe that problems like these prove that we cannot afford not to study literature. Literature trains the moral imagination—that faculty that is uniquely able to challenge culture’s cherished assumptions. The moral imagination sees more broadly. It sees motives. It sees into the future—and into the past. It sees the potential for unintended consequences. It cautions us.

For example, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Birth-Mark” teaches us that behind the desire for beauty there may lurk a narcissism that is disdainful of real people. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World teaches us that a social utopian’s vision of the good life might be, in fact, quite ugly. Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake teaches us how our culture is shaping young people who, in the name of “progress,” see no problem with sacrificing humanity to attain it. Literary fiction can shock us into seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly—and the real difference between them. As Flannery O’Connor puts it, “I’m always highly irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.”

Why study literature? Because in some ways it has never been more important for us to know who we are-and where we are really going.

—–
Dr. Christina Bieber Lake, Associate Professor of English, received her Ph.D. in English from Emory University in Atlanta, and is associate professor of English, specializing in contemporary American literature. She is the author of The Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor, and is currently investigating American fiction’s engagement with posthumanism. She enjoys this excuse to watch Star Trek and to write about cyborgs, clones, and artificial life. Christina and her husband, Steve ’91, recently added their son, Donovan, to the family. All three eagerly await a Chicago Bears Super Bowl victory. (The above statement was included at the time of publication — Wheaton Magazine, Winter 2007)

 

Selma and Wheaton College

The release of the 2014 film Selma, produced by Oprah Winfrey, has stimulated renewed vigorous conversation regarding the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the development of the Civil Rights movement. This article from the March 19, 1965 issue of The Record chronicles the brief but impactful journey of two Wheaton College students to those momentous events.

Two Wheaton seniors joined 2500 other civil rights demonstrators in Selma, Alabama, a week ago Tuesday as they marched with Dr. Martin Luther King up U.S. Route 80 to the place where state troopers turned them back without incident. Leaving Wheaton Monday, March 8, after hearing of the brutalities Sunday afternoon, Randy Baker and Bob Vischer arrived in Selma by 11 a.m.  Tuesday, March 9. Explaining their motives for going, Vischer said, “I could think of no better way to express my concern than through action.” Upon their arrival in Selma, they found several hundred Negroes and whites – citizens, students, clergy, newsmen and polices – gathered in front of Brown Chapel. Entering the church, where another group of 300 to 400 were gathered, they heard various speakers, including many prominent religious leaders, talk for two or three hours.

As they left the church after Dr. King’s final admonitions, said Vischer, they were given instructions by a medical doctor as to precautions in case they should be tear-gassed, knocked unconscious or hurt with broken bones. As he and Baker marched in the front-quarter of the line, which ran four-abreast, someone told Vischer to take off his glasses. For the first time, he realized the real possibility of physical harm. “I began to see a little of the importance which the people of Selma and others in the march attached to the obtaining of equal rights,” he commented.

Confronting the state police about 200 yards across the Alabama river, King decided they would have a service of prayer and singing there instead of attempting to march through to Montgomery, having been influenced by federal mediation. After singing several verses of “We Shall Overcome” and listening to the prayers of several clergymen, the demonstration turned back to Selma. As they marched both to and from the place of confrontation with the troopers, Vischer recalled, “There was the knowledge that each of the 2500 in the march was dead serious about his task of bringing this injustice before the eyes of the nation and the world and that each was willing to risk death for this.”

After the march had been completed, Baker and Vischer encountered further danger as they went downtown to pick up their car to leave. As the two walked alone down the sidewalk, four white men stepped in front of them and asked where they were marching. Vischer stepped back and replied that they were not marching anywhere. But Baker, who did not step back, was grabbed by the largest and slugged on the side of the head. After Baker had pulled his coat away, the two started a fast walk across the street, but changed when they saw more men on the other side. “At this point,” remarked Vischer, “I felt I could empathize with the Alabama Negro, for here I was being pursued, and with no place to turn to. We felt alone and weaponless. I have never been so frightened in all my life.”

Later, however, the two stressed that undoubtedly the majority of the people of Selma would not have used violence against them or against the Rev. James Reeb, the minister who was killed later that afternoon. Yet, they said, “The scum who carried out these activities are supported by the system which presently exists – and this system must be smashed by a bold show of Christian love.”

Walter A. Maier at Wheaton College

MaierOne of the renowned evangelists of the mid-twentieth century was Walter A. Maier (1893-1950), author, radio broadcaster and professor. Blessed with a sharp mind and clear voice, he hosted The Lutheran Hour from 1930-1950. Maier was closely associated with Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, where he taught Semitic languages. In addition to his administrative and pastoral duties, he traveled widely, advocating classic, conservative Christianity, preaching and teaching in churches, seminaries, festivals and schools, including Wheaton College.

In 1940, the annual Washington Banquet was cancelled; subsequently, Wheaton College students were encouraged by acting president V. Raymond Edman to contribute the money they would have spent at this event to the Christian Relief Fund for Finnish and Chinese Christians in war zones. Instead of the usual pageantry associated with the Washington Banquet, typically hosted at a local hotel, students met for an informal program in Pierce Chapel, where Walter A. Maier was the honored guest for the evening. Maier also occasionally preached chapels at Wheaton College.