Recently a series of emails from the president’s office have explained the budgetary struggles the College will be facing in the coming year. Though these will be trying days for staff and faculty, this is not the first occasion in which Wheaton has seen tough times. For example, the following is quoted from Getting Things from God (1915) by Charles Blanchard, the second president of Wheaton College:
I began work in Wheaton College in September of 1872. Since that time, in the midst of many imperfections and failures, I have given myself to the service of the kingdom of God among the young people of my country and time. Almost all the graduates of the college during these years have, before completing their courses, confessed themselves believers in Jesus Christ. A large number, something like forty per cent of the men graduates, have given themselves to the ministry, to service as Christian teachers in home and foreign lands, to work in the Young Men’s Christian Association, or some other form of Christian service. We began with almost nothing in the way of money, and have never had, from the beginning until now, a wealthy patron who made the college his first care. Our helpers have been broad-minded, large-hearted men and women, who gave what they gave to the college not for personal glory, but for the sake of the work it was seeking to do. They were givers in many directions, and did not feel that they wished to make one institution their chief care. One of them said to me, when I asked him if he would not consider making the college his chief work, I am giving now to one hundred different charities, and I do not dare or wish to cut off one. The result has been that oftentimes we have been in sore need of money. A friend once said to me that he thought it unwise to tell such things as are related above, on the line that such narratives produced the impression that I thought my own prayers better than the prayers of other people…I do not see the slightest reason for such an impression. Ought not a man to give his own testimony? If God has answered his prayers, ought he not to say so?
In 1978, a 1933 alum recollected similar circumstances under the administrative leadership of J. Oliver Buswell, Wheaton’s third president:
My $125 had been promptly put in the local bank on arrival, awaiting the next Tuesday deadline for tuition payments. Not one of us were prepared for the morning headlines: ROOSEVELT CLOSES BANKS! The campus was stunned. Students clustered in bewilderment seeking each other’s comfort in the common disaster. The President had chosen the worst moment of the year to cripple college matriculations here and across the land. Evan the Colleges bank accounts were frozen. There was no money available for us to return home if the College were closed! We needed a miracle and God gave it. Unknown to us the faculty and President Buswell were already praying in an emergency session in his conference room below the Tower. The college was broke. The students were broke. What was God’s advice this morning? God’s answer rang clearly in that hushed room: “My promises are from everlasting to everlasting! I will never fail you. Trust Me to reopen the Banks in my own time. Run Wheaton on faith this is your chance to witness for Me!” I am sure that the faculty grew a foot taller in the next 30 minutes. President Buswell must have turned to Comptroller Dyrness and given an unbelievable order: “God says we stay open! Post notices that we will accept IOUs for tomorrow for tuition and other dues. Notify the faculty that anyone who agrees to stay on will receive vouchers from the College. Put all the students to work on campus projects at 11 cents an hour, payable toward tuition when the banks reopen. Keep the chapel open until midnight all month. We have let God take over this campus!” And so it was that no one went home; no professor left his podium; nor did any campus job go begging! Never were things more spick and span whether lawns, woodwork, windows or bookracks.
In a time when salaries are frozen and an economy is contracting God reveals himself as faithful. God’s faithfulness spurs the faithfulness of women and men. For many of the early decades of the college faculty accepted reduced salaries to enable the college to continue operations. Many faculty had large gardens, chickens and livestock, as well as accepting borders to make ends meet. By 1879 the college had incurred a significant debt finishing Blanchard Hall. Charles Blanchard raised a considerable part of it through faculty giving up their claims for the unpaid salaries. Afterward an arrangement was then entered into with the faculty whereby there would be no further deficits. When possible their modest salaries were paid in full, if not they received a partial salary to allow the college to run debt-free. In more than twenty-five years the faculty contributed over $22,000 (Alumni Quarterly, July 1931, p. 12).