Monthly Archives: May 2010

Saint Nicholas

Buswell Library is certainly familiar to staff and students of Wheaton College, but it is relatively unknown that the structure to which it is attached was originally called the Nicholas Building, until expanded in the late 1970s. A portrait and a plaque, until removal in 2006, commemorated the contributions of a man named Robert E. Nicholas.

He was born oldest of eight children on a farm in 1882 in Caledonia, Ontario, Canada. “The village declared no holiday,” he writes, “the whistles did not blow, nor did the church bells ring when it became known that I had made my appearance in a world which already had problems enough.”

Raised among believing Methodist parents, Nicholas early learned the value of hard work as he milked cows, drove horses and plowed soil. After graduating from business college, he visited with an uncle who had attended the 1893 Chicago World Fair. Uncle William confidently stated, “There are a hundred ways of making a living in Chicago.” So Nicholas decided to discover one for himself. Meeting cousins living in the Windy City, Nicholas toured the Art Institute, the Stockyards and the Public Library, accompanied by a warning to avoid the red light district. Eventually he and his friend, George Rogers, using borrowed capital, started a hardware business in Oak Park, Illinois, a small town promising big returns. During this period Nicholas roomed in the home of A.T. Hemingway, General Secretary of the Chicago YMCA and grandfather of Ernest, the novelist. (The attending physician at the birth of Nicholas’ first child was Dr. Clarence Hemingway, Ernest’s father). Nicholas’ store specialized in builders’ hardware for commercial development, and soon he and Rogers enjoyed a sterling reputation among Chicago’s architects and contractors. Nicholas was also instrumental in attracting Loop department stores to establish satellites in Oak Park.

Robert E. NicholasIn addition to local commerce, he influenced community life as a member of the Christian Businessmen’s Committee for Chicago, successfully barring Sunday movies from Oak Park. In 1928 he was invited by Dr. James M. Gray, President of Moody Bible Institute, to join the Board of Trustees of MBI. He was elected, and soon became a member of the Executive and Investment committees. One year later he sold his business to pursue other enterprises, while also joining the Wheaton College Board of Reference. In 1932 he was elected to the Board of Trustees, replacing Fleming H. Revell, D.L. Moody’s brother-in-law, serving as vice-chairmen of the board under Herman A. Fischer. Combining wealth with consecration, Nicholas generously donated funds, usually anonymously, to churches, philanthropic activities and mission agencies. He remarks in his 1962 memoir, Life Has Been Good:

Indeed, I consider among the most rewarding experiences of my life, my association with the presidents, trustees and staff of Wheaton College and Moody Bible Institute. The fine men who comprise the trustee boards and give so freely of their time and means are an inspiration and a blessing. Their leadership, devotion and counsel given in a Christian spirit with independence of viewpoint, but without contention, could well be an example for other Christian organizations. The president of Moody Bible Institute, Dr. William Culbertson, and the president of Wheaton College, Dr. V.R. Edman, are two of the finest men it has been my privilege to know, and my own life has been enriched by working with them. No one could serve actively on the Trustee Boards of Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College without realizing that the students for whom these institutions are maintained are among the finest in the land.

Nicholas entered unexpected and invigorating spiritual heights when on a Sunday evening his train stalled in Minneapolis. Seeking a church, he wandered downtown until he passed First Baptist, pastored by Dr. W.B. Riley. Stepping in, Nicholas heard the powerful preacher expound on the Second Coming, about which Nicholas knew little. But it was just what he needed. “I realized how hungry I was to hear about the return of the Lord Jesus, now that I had dedicated my life fully to him.”

Dr. Edman devotes to Nicholas a chapter called “The Satisfying Life” in They Found the Secret: Twenty Transformed Lives that Reveal a Touch of Eternity, an examination into the spiritual crisis experienced by prominent Christian men and women. He quotes Nicholas:

By this experience, and by others which have followed, my life has been changed from that of a nominal Christian to one with purpose and convictions. There has been an abiding sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life. He has given me an appetite for the things of God and an appreciation of the Scriptures. In answer to prayer he has given me ability in business, strength under strain, confidence and courage can understand why so many Christians do not have the joy they might have, or do not have overflowing praise in their heart…There must be a full surrender of life to the Savior to have the fullness of the Holy Spirit…

Recognizing his dedicated service, Wheaton College conferred on Robert E. Nicholas an honorary doctorate in 1963, and in 1967 re-named its library, of which he had originally paid all construction costs, after him. He and his wife, Mabel, raised three sons and one daughter. Still appreciative of his good life, he died at 94 in 1977.

Bigs ideas from a little man

Francis SchaefferThough short in stature, Francis Schaeffer has been known worldwide for his big ideas and the L’Abri retreat center established along with his wife, Edith. Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s life and ministry were about communicating ideas, particularly ideas as they related to knowing God more fully and living in harmony with God. Hundreds of individuals passed through L’Abri in Switzerland and thousands have passed through other L’Abri locations around the globe.

Hundreds of audio recordings were made of various talks and lectures conducted by the Schaeffers and others who were friends of L’Abri and regular guests, such as Hans Rookmaaker. These recordings were shared informally with those who desired to extend their knowledge and later they were distributed more formally by cassette. More recently L’Abri has gone through the process of digitizing the recordings and providing them free-of-charge on their website. And, with their permission we have been allowed to post those recordings that relate to several of the Special Collections at Wheaton College like the Schaeffer and Rookmaaker collections. These recordings may be browsed in the Archives & Special Collections archival database.

Change of Heart

Doris Menzies“Although I am an older person,” begins Doris Dresselhaus Menzies in her memoir, Young At Heart (2007), “I have a much younger heart.” She explains her cryptic remark as the story unfolds.

Born in Decorah, Iowa, in 1932, Doris lived peacefully with her family and worked hard on the farm. At age nine she fully committed to Christ at the local Assemblies of God church. She was baptized in a lake, and shortly thereafter during an evening service received her baptism in the Holy Spirit. In 1951 she enrolled at Wheaton College where she studied elementary education. Because there were no Pentecostal churches in Wheaton at that time, an Assemblies of God campus fellowship provided a venue where Doris could meet students of similar conviction, including her future husband, William Menzies. “Neither of us could imagine the adventures in faith that would be ours when we met at Wheaton College,” he reflects. Later Bill would pen Anointed to Serve (1984), the definitive history of the Assemblies of God.

After their marriage in 1955, Bill and Doris served in various midwestern churches until he was called to teach at Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. From there he moved to other teaching positions at home and abroad, until he and Doris were called to be regular missionaries for the Assemblies of God. In 1989 they relocated to the Philippines, where Bill served as president of Asia Pacific Theological Seminary. As he taught and lectured at the school, Doris quietly mingled with the people of Baguio City, personally leading many hungry hearts to Christ. Their lives proceeded busily until one day Doris suffered sharp chest pains, indicating severe cardiac arrest. Transferred to Salt Lake City for specialized care, it was concluded that she required a heart transplant. With that stunning report came the additional bad news that she would need to await a donor. And so for fourteen months she and Bill patiently waited in Salt Lake, until at last it was announced that a heart had been located, belonging to a young man from Oregon who requested that his organs be donated should anything happen to him. Doris MenziesTo the delight of all, the operation was a smashing success. As she writes, “There was thanksgiving and joy in my new heart.”

But Doris was not entirely free of physical affliction. In 2003 she was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer. After an onerous series of chemo and radiation treatments, she lost her strength, appetite and all her hair, but the disease was finally controlled. Her hair has since regrown, and she has regained the weight.

Summing up her eventful life, Doris Menzies expresses her joy: “I have appointments to see my oncology doctor, and also blood tests to send to my heart transplant doctor…I also see my internist, my neurologist, and my foot doctor on a regular basis. But my Great Physician continues to be God Almighty, my Creator and Redeemer. To Him I give all glory for each day!”

Onomasticon arthurianum

Alma BlountAlma Blount was born in Byron, Illinois on November 29, 1866. She attended local schools and graduated from Byron High School in 1882. Afterward she studied at Wheaton College where she stayed on as an instructor of English after her graduation in 1886. While teaching she continued to take classes and earned a second bachelors degree, the second being a bachelor of science, received in 1890. She left Wheaton in 1893 to pursue further studies at Cornell University where she received her Ph.D. in 1896. Her doctoral work was on “The Original Dialect of the Anglo-Saxon Poem Andreas.” As if this wasn’t enough she also studied at Radcliffe College earning nearly enough credits to receive a masters degree. She also traveled abroad studying at the British Museum, Bibliotheque Nationale and the Sorbonne. She was a member of Kappa Delta Pi, an international education honor society.

Blount taught at the Wheaton Academy, Lawrence University (1900-1901) and finished her teaching career at Michigan State Normal College, which became Eastern Michigan University. She contributed to several books in English and Literature, such as the four volume Progressive Studies in English and Intensive Studies in American Literature. She authored over a dozen articles in English and Education journals.

Being from small, parochial, Wheaton College did not cause Miss Blount to shrink from a significant scholarly task, one that some felt could not be undertaken at all by an individual. Her life work was “Onomasticon Arthurianum” that was never published. Housed at the Widener Library at Harvard, this massive work sought to be a comprehensive index of personal and place names in the medieval Arthurian romance lexicon. During her lifetime her work was considered the only guide to the sizable body of Arthurian literature In English and was regarded as one stage, the first, in an effort to compile a fuller Onomasticon Arthurianum. Blount’s index was focused upon more than two hundred Arthurian works in ten languages and she recorded her data on nearly twenty thousand slips. When she recognized that she would not be able to complete her work she deposited it at Harvard so that it would profit other scholars. There was professional disappointment at it not being completed, but also an understanding of the magnitude of the task, especially for one person. Despite the serious limitations of her index, Miss Blount deserves the gratitude of Arthurians, not only because she was a pioneer in a work of almost unexampled size and complexity but also because the concrete results of her labors afford a guide for developing a sounder plan of procedure. Her experience made it clear that any new attempt to achieve the Onomasticon must be carried out in several stages or units.

After reaching the rank of full professor Blount retired in 1935. After a lengthy, debilitating illness, she died in Tempe, Arizona on December 2, 1950.

May the Mind of Christ My Savior

Dr. Hudson T. Armerding’s A Word to the Wise (Tyndale 1980) was published to bring wisdom and encouragement to fellow Christians everywhere. In the following excerpt he shares some of the wisdom gathered over fifteen years as college president:

Singing hymns together has long been traditional for both congregation and graduates at the annual Baccalaureate Service of Wheaton College. However, in 1968 the printed program carried the words of the beautiful hymn written by Kate B. Wilkinson entitled “May the Mind of Christ My Savior.” Then serving in his third year as president of the college, Dr. Hudson T. Armerding selected this hymn because of the meaningful content of its words for all committed believers –but particularly for young people, who have so much potential. Every year since then, with concurrence by the officers of each graduating class, this hymn has appeared in the printed program for the [Commencement Services]…These are the words that have stirred the hearts of many on those occasions…

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and pow’r controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His pow’r.

May the peace of God, my Father,
Rule my life in everything,
That I may he calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me,
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him. Amen.