Wes Craven at Wheaton College

Elm Street — where nightmares undoubtedly occur — is located six blocks south of Wheaton College, but Wes Craven never lived in the last house on the left or anywhere else on that shaded lane. In fact, residing near the campus as a student, he rented rooms in Craven3three different homes at various times on Scott, President and Franklin streets. The wildly successful film director, who died of brain cancer at 76 on August 30, 2015, studied English at Wheaton College from 1957-63.  Raised in a strict Christian home in Cleveland, Ohio, his family was somewhat concerned that Wheaton College was “too liberal.” Inquisitive with a touch of the maverick, Craven was anxious to explore the power and passion of language, especially during the topsy-turvy 1960s. The March, 1962 Kodon, the Wheaton College literary magazine, sponsored a Creative Arts Festival with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gwendolyn Brooks as one of the judges. Craven won first prize in the short story category. Serving as editor for the Fall, 1962 Kodon, he prophetically writes:

This edition of KODON will be controversial. It was not planned to be so, and were things ideal, it would not raise a whisper of protest. But the ideal is never here. So be it. Besides, a controversy is healthy, I  feel, and constructive if carried on honestly and fairly. Let us hope that this will be the case in the consideration of this magazine’s contents….In addition, there is the conviction in this office that, in the arts, the Fundamental Christian world, and more specifically Wheaton, is sadly short of its potential and far behind its contemporaries. Therefore the copy of this magazine will remain (as long as the present staff remains), free and limited only by the criteria and the boundaries of artistry.

Braced for the fallout, Craven published two edgy-for-the-era stories, “A New Home,” by Marti Bihlmeier, about an unwed mother, and “The Other Side of the Wall” by Carolyn Burry, about an interracial couple. As predicted, the stories stirred discomfort in the campus community and were not well-received by the administration. Soon Dr. V. Raymond Edman, President of Wheaton College, informed Craven that he had failed in his duties as editor. Consequently, publication of Kodon was suspended for a year. Interestingly, this issue also features work by Jack Leax and Jeanne (Murray) Walker, who would enjoy successful careers as published poets and professors of literature.

As a senior Craven was stricken with Guillan-Barre syndrome, paralyzed for several months from the chest down, delaying his graduation by nearly a year. During this difficult time he was visited by friends and several strangers. “I remember feeling terribly down,” Craven told a reporter in a June 8, 1997 Chicago Tribune interview. “People I didn’t know came to visit, to pray for my recovery. Craven2To me, their thoughts and prayers represented the best side of Christianity. I’ll never forget that side of Wheaton College. Never.” A retired professor remembers Wes Craven as “a fine, serious-minded student” who excelled in Shakespeare and drama. In addition to deep, wide reading, Craven played guitar in a folk band.

Leaving Wheaton, he completed his graduate degree  in philosophy and writing at Johns Hopkins. He briefly taught school in New York before committing his prodigious talents to Hollywood. Specializing in horror franchises, his directorial debut was The Last House on the Left (1972). Craven went on to write or direct A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Scream (1996) and the non-scary drama Music of the  Heart (1999), starring Meryl Streep, who garnered an Academy Award nomination for her performance. He also published a novel, The Fountain Society (1999) and co-scripted a graphic-novel series called Coming of Rage (2014).

 

 

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.

Her fault

AgnesWhen God promises to heal the land, as he does in II Chronicles 7:14, he is predicting the return of the Jew to Israel the homeland, though contingent upon national repentance. When missionaries leave their home country for a foreign field, they often harbor hopes of “healing” the land, or preaching the gospel and serving needy peoples. But when Agnes Sanford, charismatic author and lecturer, moved from the East Coast to California in her later years, she had something far more literal in mind as she applied her extraordinary gifts. She writes in Creation Waits (1976):

When I moved to California in order to be nearer to my children and also to be handy to the San Andreas Fault in order to pray for it, I looked for a house….When I pray for the San Andreas Fault, that is settle its differences, or make its adjustments to the earth that is even now being gradually pushed up from the ocean, I see with the eyes of faith God’s healing and constructive power, God’s life-force of light, shining into the mountains beneath which the fault lurks, and causing these areas of new land to develop so gently, so gradually, that there shall be no destructive earthquakes. Many people, encouraged by the newspapers, seem to gloat in the prospect of a destructive earthquake, and to delight in foretelling it. However, God is more powerful than all newspapers and gloomy prophets who foresee calamity.

The paper of Agnes Sanford (SC-174) are archived in the College Archives & Special Collections.

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.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Helen Howarth Lemmel, born in England but raised in the United States, taught music at Moody Bible Institute and the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. Gifted with words as well as music, she wrote columns for a newspaper and directed choral groups for the Billy Sunday evangelistic campaigns. In 1918 at age 55 she acquired a gospel booklet called “Focussed” written by Lilias Trotter, missionary to Algeria. “Turn your soul’s vision to Jesus,” wrote Trotter, “and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him…”

Trotter’s exhortation forcibly struck the weary Lemmel. She writes, “Suddenly, as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still, and, singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme, or note to note to make melody…These verses were written…the same week, after the usual manner of composition, but none the less dictated by the Holy Spirit.” The hymn, initially called “The Heavenly Vision,” appeared in Glad Songs. It was sung at the 1922 Keswick Convention in England and eventually became known by its refrain, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” This familiar hymn is now sung in churches throughout the world. Helen Lemmel died in Seattle, Washington, in 1961.

The Keswick Collection (SC-30), comprising books and pamphlets, the Lilias Trotter Collection (SC-225), comprising illustrated journals, and the Hymnal Collection (SC-15) are housed in the Wheaton College Special Collections.

Lemmel

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.

Jean Vanier and the Templeton Prize

The Templeton Prize is annually awarded to a living man or woman who, in the estimation of the judges, “has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.” Recipients include Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Brother Roger, Dr. Billy Graham and Mother Teresa.

VanierThe 2015 recipient of the Templeton Prize is Jean Vanier, awarded “for his innovative discovery of the central role of vulnerable people in the creation of a more just, inclusive and humane society.” Vanier is the founder of L’Arche, a community where people with intellectual disabilities and those who accompany them share a daily life rich in mutual relationships, offering an innovative way of living. L’Arche is a Federation of 147 communities in 35 countries and on 5 continents. Jean is the son of Georges Vanier (1888-1967), the celebrated Governor General of Canada.

Malcolm Muggeridge, Roman Catholic British commentator, deeply interested in faith based initiatives, communicated in 1974 with Vanier and his mother, Pauline, about filming the L’Arche story for Canadian television.

Vanier was interviewed by the Chicago Sunday Evening Club in 1995, discussing loneliness, disabilities and belonging. “To hold people tenderly,” he said, “is to reveal to them that they are precious and that they are important and they have value.”

The papers of Malcolm Muggeridge (SC-04) and The Chicago Sunday Evening Club (SC-47) are maintained in the Wheaton College (IL) Special Collections.

Rediscovering Our Christian Heritage

Clipboard01Last summer I had the chance of a lifetime—a six-week trip to exotic places, all expenses paid. The catch: take 30 students with me.

Because these were Wheaton students, the job was easy and delightful, but personally challenging nonetheless. I expected physical and intellectual hurdles as we traveled through Israel, Istanbul, Greece, and Rome, but was unprepared for the richness of spiritual enlightenment as I journeyed through places of religious turmoil, encountering Jews and Muslims, as well as Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic Christians.

Often exhausted, sweaty, hot, and dusty after our lengthy hikes, I gained a clearer picture of Jesus’ tired frame slumping by Jacob’s well as he appealed to the Samaritan woman for a drink. Exploring Philippi, I caught whispering echoes of the Apostle Paul proclaiming the gospel to Lydia at the river, the water still flowing over the same rocks that witnessed the gospel’s entrance into Europe. From the magnificent heights of the Parthenon, I looked over the ancient Athenian agora (market) and marveled at the rich extravagance ascribed to the ancient gods and goddesses. (Little wonder many scoffed at Paul’s claims about a simple Jew being the Savior of the world.) In Rome, the still impressive Forum and Coliseum are now a crumbling reminder of the empire’s former strength and cruelty.

The physical stresses and intellectual challenges prepared me for the most trying contest-delving deeply into questions surrounding Christian unity and charity. For the first time, I engaged with Orthodox Christians and their worship. The holy sites in Bethlehem and Jerusalem are perfumed with the incense of centuries of devotion—a piety totally unfamiliar to my Evangelical Free Church upbringing.

In Istanbul, our group was granted rare privileges: an audience both with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, and with the Armenian Patriarch, Mesrob II. The latter was a jovial conversationalist who entertained our direct questions for an hour. Having studied in the United States, he contrasted the American situation with that of his flock, for whom simply confessing oneself a Christian in public was bold indeed. He added that serving both Muslims and Christians in their church-operated hospital spoke volumes to the wider public. His All Holiness Bartholomew I granted a formal audience where he stressed his unity-building work with Muslims in Turkey as well as his concerted efforts to protect the environment.

Perhaps nothing so poignantly symbolizes the tensions and aspirations for peace between faiths as the Hagia Sophia, built as the grandest church in Christendom, and later converted to a mosque. Currently Christian frescos and Islamic medallions compete for a visitor’s attention. Scaffolding rising from the center, 20-stories high, epitomizes the rebuilding hopes of Christians seeking peace with their Muslim neighbors.

—–
Dr. Lynn Cohick, Associate Professor of New Testament, is interested in how average Jews and Christians lived out their faith in the ancient setting of Hellenism and the Roman Empire. Prior to coming to Wheaton, she taught overseas at the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology in Kenya for three years. She enjoys riding horses, reading mysteries, and jogging with her husband, Jim. (The above statement was included at the time of publication — Wheaton Magazine, Autumn 2008)