Ghost in the Machine

As the Wheaton College community bids farewell to WETN, perhaps this is an appropriate moment to commemorate W9ZXR, the “other” ham radio station. Since its inception in 1937 until about 1980, ham radio station W9ZXR was located in the base of the Tower of Blanchard Hall. Students were responsible for scheduling and programming,  learning many of the skills of broadcasting. However, as various media expanded, interest in ham radio gradually diminished, and many of those involved with its operation simply shifted their activities to WETN, then located in the basement of the newly-constructed Billy Graham Center.

In the late 1970s, Col. Warren Schilling, assistant director of the Physical Plant, was tasked with locating and shutting down campus energy drains. Consequently electrician Gary Beeman was sent up the Tower to investigate. Entering the rooms at the base of the Tower, he was amazed to discover that the studio, dusty and forlorn, had been abandoned for some time, perhaps years. Even more amazing, he discovered that the transceivers and generator were still fully operational and, in fact, currently activated, humming quietly to silent airwaves. Indeed, he had discovered an enormous energy drain. According to Beeman, it was as though the last announcer simply stood up from the console and walked away, locking the door behind without a thought of returning. Beeman shut down the controls, snipped the necessary wiring and began the process of dismantling the equipment.

Off campus, the tradition continues locally with the Wheaton Community Radio Amateurs, who meet to promote the advancement of the hobby and science of amateur radio.

1939 postcard advertising ham radio station W9ZXR, broadcast from Blanchard Tower

WETN Signing Off

Ed McCully (left) speaks with Dick Gerig (right), WHON station manager, 1948

Operation of WHON, the Wheaton College radio station, commenced on October 2, 1947, after students advocated for approval from the administration. Located in a closet beneath the Pierce Chapel pipe organ, WHON 640 AM was the second radio station to air in DuPage County. Alerted by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System in Washington, DC, that the call letters, WHON, had been assigned to a commercial station, the staff changed the official designation to WETN on April 8, 1948. “Actually, WETN comes closer to spelling Wheaton than any other set of call letters,” Dick Gerig, station manager, remarked at the time.

Broadcasting initially to the campus and the local community for two or three hours per day, WETN eventually broadened, connecting for a time with WMBI, the radio station of Moody Bible Institute, to relay music, evangelistic preaching and other programming to a wider audience.

WETN announcer, late 1960s

One of the signature WMBI programs was “Songs in the Night,” originating from Village Church in Western Springs, Illinois. In 1958, WETN relocated to the basement of Breyer Hall, the chemistry building. But even with its impressive new facility, the station reached less than 1/4 of the campus community, earning the nickname “the weak squeak.”

Four years later the FCC granted WETN permission to switch to FM. After that the station covered athletic games, presidential campaigns, concerts, chapels and other significant events. In 1980, WETN again relocated, this time to the basement of the newly-constructed Billy Graham Center, boasting a modernized control board and sophisticated computer system, operated by students and faculty, airing its programming schedule 24 hours a day.

In the late 1990s, WETN moved to the internet, reaching a worldwide audience, including far-flung missionaries. However, because of shifting markets and the dizzying array of informational resources available in the years following, the Wheaton College administration recently decided to cease broadcasting its campus radio station. After 70 years of on-air service, WETN FM 88 will shut down in January, 2017.

J.R. Smith, former director of media resources, astutely observed in a 1996 interview that there are two WETNs. “One is on the air today in DuPage County,” he said. “The second exists in the memories of alumni and others.” Indeed, as WETN discontinues operation, it will hereon broadcast solely — and affectionately — on the airwaves of memory.

WETN staff, late 1970s

Prexy says, “Merry Christmas and fear not!”

President and Mrs. Edman decorate the tree, 1954.
President and Mrs. Edman decorate a tree, 1954.

Dr. V. Raymond Edman, fourth president of Wheaton College, wrote a brief devotional called “Prexy Says” for the Wheaton Alumni magazine. Here is his confident exhortation for December, 1959:

Of course we believe in angels – but do we?

The Christmas story abounds in references to angels who spoke to Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. The scriptures assure us that angels are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14).

They are our unseen but very real helpers; and we should believe in them Christmas Day and every day.

And here is his entry for December, 1960:

There is no need to be afraid! The Christmas story abounds in assurance for the apprehensive. The word to Zacharias was, “Fear not…” (Luke 1:13). To Mary it was, “Fear not…” (Luke 1:30) To Joseph it was, “…Fear not” (Luke 2:10). And to all of us it is, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10).

Afraid of something or somebody?

Fear not!

Giving Thanks for David Malone

David Malone
David Malone

At this time of Thanksgiving, we at Special Collections, Buswell Library, are deeply grateful for the service of David Malone, longtime head of Special Collections. In July of this year, David left Wheaton College to become Dean of the Library at Calvin College and Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While we are excited for him for this new venture, he is missed at Wheaton, and we wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate him and his service.

David was hired in 1991 as Assistant to the Head of Special Services at Buswell Library before becoming Head of Systems four years later. Later in the 1990’s, David became head of Archives and Special Collections, a role that combined his love for history, archives, and technology, with his talent for building relationships within the college community and visiting researchers. In 2004, he became an Assistant Professor of Library Science before being promoted to Associate Professor in 2012.

Some of David’s many accomplishments include:

  • Strengthening existing collections by collecting new materials, working with donors, collecting oral history interviews, and managing endowments;
  • Acquiring new collections such as the papers of Oswald Chambers and Senator Dan Coats, and the records of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE);
  • Creating online and physical exhibits on subjects like the 1950 Wheaton Revival, the abolitionist history of Wheaton College, and the work of Margaret and Kenneth Landon;
  • Overseeing the digitization of materials including the collection of Allen Lewis’ prints and engravings, the Bulletin of Wheaton College, and Martin Luther’s 1517 commentary on the Psalms, Operationes in Psalmos;
  • Hosting and contributing to events such as the Shakespeare Institute, Treasures of Wheaton, the Muggeridge Centenary Conference, and the Wheaton College Sesquicentennial;
  • Implementing such digital initiatives as creating this blog, and various library tools including the archival information system Archon;
  • Collaborating with faculty to bring historical artifacts into the classroom, including closely working with Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Dean Arnold, on his “Craft of Anthropology” course.

David is an exceptional librarian, team leader, and colleague, and Buswell Library has greatly appreciated his leadership and vision. We conclude our thanksgiving of his service with the reflections of two of his longtime colleagues, David Osielski and Keith Call.

“The majority of my professional career has been spent under the leadership of David Malone at the Special Collections of Buswell Library.  As well, both he and my colleague, Keith Call, were witness to many significant milestones in my personal life; welcoming the arrival of my four children, receiving my master’s degree, moving into our first home.  David is a visionary leader who sought to lead by example and empower his staff to greater heights of excellence.  He is a master storyteller and passed on his warm gift of hospitality and service to those under his supervision.  Wheaton College’s long 150+ year history is a legacy to be remembered, cared for and retold to the next generation.  David gave his staff permission to tell all of Wheaton’s stories well, tempered with grace and humility.  Over the years he gave us increasing levels of responsibility and empowered us to grow in trust and confidence in our abilities, even when making mistakes.  Thanks to David, we see ourselves as guardians of a unique story in God’s Kingdom called ‘Wheaton College’ and stewards of hundreds of unique special collections that help shape and guide the liberal arts curriculum for future students.” –David Osielski, Special Collections Coordinator

“Special Collections, including the College Archives, is the heart and institutional memory of the Wheaton College campus. Thanks to the leadership of David Malone, Special Collections not only expanded, but transformed into a friendly place where donors, students, and other visitors comfortably interact with historically significant manuscripts and artifacts. The material maintained in our storage facility is just that – material. However, as David often observed, these objects provide a catalyst for storytelling, whether it is Oswald Chambers’ personal Bible with his handwritten notes, or Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s bow tie. They reveal a bigger picture, a wider vista on the landscape of Christianity in which the library user becomes a participant. We salute David Malone for his years of service and vision. Like our holdings, the memory of his tenure is safely stored, carefully tended and ripe with meaning.” –Keith Call, Special Collections Assistant

We would also like to thank Brittany Adams, former Metadata Associate at Buswell Library, for compiling much of the above material.

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.

The Drum and I

This exotic object might resemble the genie’s bottle from the 1960s TV comedy, I Dream of Jeannie, but it is actually a drum. In 1946 diplomat Kenneth Landon traveled frequently to Thailand, attempting to define how that country might integrate into the United Nations. One trip involved attending the cremation of the newly deceased king and the coronation of his brother. During the immediate post-war years many Thai experienced tremendousdrum difficulties after surviving the Japanese invasion of their land. Attempting to re-establish their influence, the Thai often exercised hard decisions, such as offering artifacts to visitors they trusted. One family claimed that their lizard skin drum with its abalone mosaics was authentic to the monarchy of either King Mongut or his son, Prince Chulalongkorn, both featured in Margaret Landon’s classic novel, Anna and the King of Siam, which was later reworked by Rodgers and Hammerstein into the popular Broadway musical The King and I.

The family offered to sell Kenneth the drum which they assured him was a prized possession.  He was able to ship the drum to Washington, DC in the diplomatic pouch, thus avoiding the complications of a private sale. Kenneth and Margaret’s son, Will, received the drum as an inheritance from their estate.

The papers of Kenneth and Margaret Landon are available for research in Special Collections, Buswell Library. Thanks to Will Landon for providing the artifact and information.

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

Thumbprints in the Clay

Luci Shaw, in her newly released book, Thumbprints in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Roder and Grace (2016), traces the “thumbprints” of an endlessly creative, ever-creating God. ShawInterspersing poetry with autobiographical essays, Shaw writes, “I knew I had to make this writing the centerpiece, the birth announcement of my spiritual liberation and purpose in God.”

In addition to her reflections, Shaw includes moving reminiscences of her friendships with novelist Madeleine L’Engle, with whom she wrote several books, and mentor Clyde Kilby, her beloved and highly influential English professor at Wheaton College.

Thumbprints in the Clay is published by InterVarsity Press. The papers of Luci Shaw, Madeleine L’Engle and Clyde Kilby are archived at Wheaton College.

 

The Greg Livingstone Story

Greg Livingstone is a pioneer missionary to unreached Muslim peoples. His love for the millions of Muslims who had no opportunity to hear the gospel led to the founding of Frontiers, a mission agency specializing in church planting among Muslim nations and communities. LivingstoneFrontiers oversees 1,300 workers in 50 countries of Africa and Asia. Livingstone tells his story in You’ve Got Libya: A Life Serving the Muslim World (2014). The following passages relate his experiences as a student at Wheaton College in the late 1950s.

At Wheaton, I met for the first time real Christians who weren’t Baptists. I initially confused Plymouth Brethren with Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they used different church vocabulary than I’d known. But I figured that since Wheaton grad Jim Elliot, who had been killed two years earlier as a missionary in Ecuador, had been Plymouth Brethren, they couldn’t be that bad. Even more riveting to me was my discovery of Bible-believing Presbyterians. They seemed to love God with their minds!

Unlike me, most of the other students at Wheaton came from evangelical families. They’d heard it all before — sometimes ad nauseum. Far too many students were at Wheaton at the insistence of their families, who feared secular universities. Wes Craven, a suitemate during my freshman year, later became a director of horror films in Hollywood, despite spending his first twenty-two years imbibing sound biblical teaching.

In my quest to hang out with the spiritual guys, I got acquainted with an unknown Wheaton graduate, Bill Gothard, who was organizing Bible clubs in high schools. He asked me to oversee a group in Roselle, near Wheaton. Later, I became his assistant as he developed a new ministry. He would often use clever chalk illustrations to explain biblical concepts. Lugging his chalk board from church to church, we visited pastors to explain the principles that were later incorporated into his Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts. Gothard’s ministry was helpful to many young people.

My experiences at Wheaton College were certainly formative and preparatory for the rest of my life. Daily, we sat in chapel listening to some of the greatest bible expositors of the time. I was stunned when the British pastor Alan Redpath spoke on Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares. I worried that I might be chaff — that I wasn’t really born again. I ran back to my room, dropped to my knees, and prayed, “Lord, if I am not really converted, if I am not really yours, I submit to you right now as my Lord and Savior.” I’ve never had to bring up the question again.

You’ve Got Libya is endorsed by George Verwer of Operation Mobilization, Don Richardson, author of Peace Child, Professor John Frame of Reformed Theological Seminary and many others.