Monthly Archives: August 2010

S.S. Victory Wheaton

S.S. Wheaton Victory

painting by DeWitt Whistler Jayne ’36

Constructed by the California Shipbuilding Corporation yard on Terminal Island, California, the S.S Victory Wheaton set sail on March 22, 1945. Chosen by the U.S. Maritime Commission, it was one of a series of Victory ships named after America’s oldest educational institutions with student enrollment over 500. As with all ships of it class (officially VC2), the S.S. Victory Wheaton was 455 feet long and 62 feet wide. Her cross-compound steam turbine with double reduction gears developed 6,000 (AP2 type) or 8,500 (AP3s type) horsepower, allowing it great advantage in speed over its predecessor, the Liberty ship. Mrs. Kenneth Godwin, wife of the Executive Office of the Bureau of Yards and Docks of San Francisco, christened the vessel. Wheaton was represented at the ceremony by the Reverend John Shearer, ’39, pastor of North Hollywood Presbyterian Church and Chaplain L.J. Soerhide, U.S.N.R., ’39. A new Victory Ship memorial has been developed in Florida. Wheaton will have a plaque recognizing it along with the other schools for which Victory ships were named.

“Red” Grange documentary receives Emmy nomination

Larger Than Life: The Red Grange Story, a documentary produced, in part, from resources housed in the Archives & Special Collections, has received an Emmy nomination from the Mid-America Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for Best Historical Documentary. The winners will be announced on Oct. 9, 2010.

the Red Grange story

The documentary is on the life of Harold “Red” Grange interwoven with the story of the creation of a new Grange statue commissioned by the University of Illinois. Originally broadcast on the Big Ten Network, Larger Than Life presents Grange as the sports superstar that transformed professional football and helped firmly establish the National Football league. The 45-minute long documentary is available for viewing online and is full of primary source materials and interviews with sports historians and other noted individuals. One of the historians interviewed is Gary Andrew Poole, author of The Galloping Ghost: Red Grange, an American football legend. As with Poole’s book, the University of Illinois utilized several images from the Grange collection that are unique to our holdings in its production.

Hickory Presbyterians

Kenneth and Margaret LandonNot only was Kenneth Landon ’24 involved in the incipient efforts by the U.S. government to organize its foreign intelligence during and after the Second World War (as reported here), he was also a remarkably well-educated man, with impressive institutional credentials to match his wide-ranging intellectual, and especially linguistic, gifts.

More than a decade before he received his doctorate from The University of Chicago in 1938, he attended Princeton Seminary after being graduated from Wheaton College with a philosophy degree. Princeton had by that time become embroiled in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy that marked the era.

The dramatis personae of these tragic events at Princeton pit, on one side, the president, J. Ross Stevenson, whose tenure as president began in 1914, and Charles Erdman, long-time student advisor and professor of homiletics, against Robert Dick Wilson, a talented Semitic philologist, and J. Gresham Machen, to whom students referred, with gibing affection, as “Das”. Despite the opposition and with the approval of the faculty, Erdman’s ouster took place in 1926.

The seminary class of 1927–Landon’s class–was, in his generous judgment, the most brilliant and talent-laden that the seminary had had for fifty years. More certainly they among the last classes ever to walk the halls of Old Princeton. In 1929, Machen was to lead a number of Princeton faculty in the founding of an alternative Presbyterian seminary, Westminster Theological in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In the 90-plus-hour “Landon Chronicles” oral histories, Kenneth and his wife, Margaret ’25 (of Anna and the King of Siam fame), tell about the controversy as they knew it from within and give their judgments on the falling out. According to them, Stevenson had a habit of splitting every institution he touched, not unlike the habit, Margaret mentions in passing, of a more local Presbyterian controversialist, Wheaton College’s third president, J. Oliver Buswell. He had his share in splitting institutions too, thus proving the byword, attributed to the ousted Charlie Erdman, that Presbyterians are like hickory: split easily.

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Love the Lord Your God

Dr. J. Richard Chase, sixth president of Wheaton College, recently passed away at age 79. He was a college president for nearly a quarter century at Biola University & Wheaton College combined. Two years after his retirement, the President Emeritus returned to Wheaton and gave the 136th Undergraduate Commencement address on May 7, 1995. His message (excerpted below) was entitled “Love the Lord Your God.” He is introduced by his successor, Duane Litfin.


Graduates, the upheavals of change-experienced by people throughout time–are sure to swirl about you for as long as you live on the earth. The challenge to think and act Christianly today is tough, It is tough here in Wheaton, and, I suspect, far tougher in Burundi, Bosnia, and the barrios of the world. Society has never been an ideal cocoon for moral living: righteous living has never been the art of riding on society’s coattails. It has ever required a commitment to a guiding principle or foundation and the resolve to act responsibly. You may pick a time in ages past when you could travel with a “supportive” crowd in a “supportive” society, but true, righteous living is a matter of the heart, not a herd instinct.

A Pharisee, a teacher of the Law, asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36). The Pharisee’s predicament was not much different from that of modern man. He was caught in the turmoil of both his foundation for life and his career. In a matter of months, Jesus had turned this Pharisee’s world upside down. His conversation with Jesus and our Lord’s response, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34), suggest that he was agonizing in mind and soul. There he was, caught between his past occupation and pattern of life and a new, revolutionary way of trust, faith, and commitment. And this is to say nothing of the oppressive Roman rule under which he lived, and, as a religious leader, of the accommodations he had to make with the ruling officials to hold his position. He approached Jesus with a question to test him. Although this Pharisee wanted to put Jesus on the spot, he was curious. I suspect he wondered, Could this man Jesus, who answered the Herodians and Sadducees so powerfully, help me? He asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (v. 28).

And Jesus responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself” (vv. 30-31).

Living effectively and righteously is never easy. But our Lord’s brief response gives us a place to stand. Here is a foundation that helped Daniel in Babylon, Deborah the prophetess as she led Israel against the Canaanites, Wilberforce as he stood against the slave traders, and countless numbers of God’s people in every age. This commandment tells us to love the Lord and our neighbors with such passion that it can invigorate our minds, direct our actions, and enrich our souls. It provides an overpowering focus for lives cluttered with competing goals and distracting desires. Further, it is as valid and all encompassing today as it was twenty centuries ago.

My gift to you on this commencement day is but a reminder that Wheaton has brought you in contact with faculty who have informed, badgered, prodded, encouraged, guided, and yes, even graded you, in an attempt to equip you for a life of thinking. Think as you paint, play, perform, and counsel; think as you assist, reach, pray, relate, react, grieve; and think as you play and as you rejoice. Think within the context of an all-consuming love for our God and our world of neighbors.

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An Honorary Wheatonite

William BiederwolfAn article from the September 28, 1932, Record testifies to the effective ministry of William Edward Biederwolf (1867-1939), Presbyterian evangelist and author, to Wheaton College students and faculty…and reciprocally, their affection for him:

With all aisles packed with new and renewed Christians, the Fall Evangelistic services were brought to a powerful close. Dr. W. E. Biederwolf’s calvinistic clarity produced a profound effect upon the packed chapel. Some were in tears, some were radiant and some were struggling visibly, manifesting the power of God at work. While Mr. Hammontree and the congregation were singing “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling,” a number took up the banner for Christ and walked down the aisle. Each one who moved to a decision made Dr. Biederwolf’s face to shine, especially those who gave their youth to the Savior as a love token, “a fresh bouquet” instead of a “wilted one.” In results the evangelistic meetings, which have just past, have never been equaled in College history. President Buswell proposed the names of Dr. Biederwolf, Mr. Hammontree and Mr. Paul Beck with full membership in the “Wheaton Family,” and without one dissenting vote they were accepted.

In October of that year Biederwolf donated a collection of his books, mostly sermons transcribed from his itinerant ministry, to the college library. These titles dealt with Christian Science, Mormonism, Spiritualism, prophetic and other doctrinal issues.

Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye

Sue Thomas was born in 1950. At the age of 18 months she experienced an instant and total hearing loss. With the support of her parents she spent years with therapists learning to communicate and read lips despite being profoundly deaf. Instead of being relegated to an institution her parents were determined to help their only daughter become a success among the hearing. Although having academic challenges as the only deaf child in her public school district near Boardman, Ohio, she focused her energies on skating and became the youngest Ohio State Champion free-style skater.

She persevered through her schooling and finally graduated from Springfield College in Massachusetts with a degree in Political Science and International Affairs. She was hired by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a fingerprint examiner and then as an undercover investigator doing surveillance work reading lips for the FBI agents in Washington D.C.

In 2002 her inspiring story was adapted for television and aired as a weekly drama. At its peak, “Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye” was watched by more than 2.5 million viewers in the United States and was syndicated in 60 countries. It has since generated a loyal fansite, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

Prior to her international acclaim, Sue Thomas spoke in Edman Chapel in December 1991 to the Wheaton College family and shared her Christian testimony. She had recently written her autobiography “Silent Night” which has since been updated for it’s 20th anniversary edition.

[excerpted from Wikipedia and Sue Thomas Productions]

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Und, Chakup wowed a wow!

Carl F. H. HenryIn 1937 Wheaton College founded the John Dickey Memorial Graduate School of Theology. To augment the faculty President J. Oliver Buswell remembered a retired Methodist minister with an earned doctorate. He asked Dr. Jacob Hoffmann to join the faculty to teach Hebrew and Old Testament. Hoffmann spoke with a heavy German accent and in his autobiography Carl F. H. Henry recalled a very funny situation where this accent lighted the mood. Henry was part of early classes of the graduate school and remembered Hoffmann exegeting a portion of Genesis. In his distinctive, and emphatic, German Hoffmann read Genesis 28:20 “Und Chakup wowed a wow” (more clearly, “and Jacob vowed a vow”). Henry and his classmates chuckled a bit. Hoffmann not sure if he misread the verse restated, with more emphasis, “Und Chakup wowed a wow!” Chuckles turned to unhindered laughter. Not used to the classroom, Hoffmann gathered his composure and, for a third time, recited the beginning of the verse, but more slowly: “Und… Chakup… wowed… a… wow….” The small class of five or six students exploded. Henry, the son of German immigrants, recounted Hoffmann’s response, “Ah, chentelmen, I know vy you are laffink; you know vat sort of scountrel diss man Chakup vass, don’t you?” As a former pastor, Hoffmann likely knew a scoundrel or two when he saw one.

Rural Bible Crusade

J. Lloyd HunterSometime during his last year as a student at Moody Bible Institute, J. Lloyd Hunter preached at Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. Leading a ragged drunkard to Christ, Hunter reflected on the man’s lost decades, years that might have been dedicated to serving Christ rather than alcohol. At that moment Hunter decided to offer his own life in an effort to reach children. Traveling with his wife to various churches around the country, he gained valuable experience working with the American Sunday School Union. While living in Wheaton in 1937, Hunter, ablaze with a vision for evangelization, organized the Rural Bible Crusade, a ministry encouraging public school children to systematically memorize scripture. Its first advisory council consisted of J. Oliver Buswell, V. Raymond Edman, J.D. Hall, John R. Rice, Wendell Loveless, Bob Jones, Sr., William McCarrell, Oscar Lowry, Paul Rood, Harry Rimmer, George Strohm, Louis Talbot and Walter Wilson. Shortly before Christmas vacation of that year, Hunter stood before the students of Wheaton College to introduce his program. There Hunter’s idea was packaged as a contest, with letters sent to four thousand local school teachers. The envelopes contained a tract, Four Things That God Wants You to Know, with a request that pupils memorize Bible verses. Four hundred teachers responded positively, some requesting to join the contest, and to them were sent Gospels of John and a tract. Prizes were given for the verses learned. Ten verses entitled the pupil to a button. Thirty-two earned him a New Testament. Five hundred verses won him a fine leather Bible. Many families who never attended church received a Bible and heard the Gospel for the first time. Under the direction of Hunter, Phil Saint, Wheaton College student and brother of missionary martyr Nate Saint, taught “chalk talks” to classes, training young people in the essentials of presenting the Gospel to children. As the ministry blossomed Hunter’s health declined, and he entered the hospital in 1943, where he led three nurses to Christ shortly before his death. He was 55. Later that year, a committee met at Wheaton College and formed a constitution which delineated new internal organization. After the document’s ratification, the work of Rural Bible Crusade continued as it enrolled thousands of children in the Bible Memory Program. In 1966 the ministry moved from Wheaton to Salinas, Kansas; and in 1990 it changed its name to “Bible Impact Ministries.” In 1993 the ministry relocated to St. Louis, MO, expanding with permanent camps and facilities. Hunter’s passion for evangelizing and discipling young souls survives unabated.

[Some information for this entry is derived from Bible Impact Ministries.]

Jerry’s Pub R.I.P.

On August 4, 2010 Gerald Hawthorne ’51, a beloved Greek professor and mentor to many, passed on to his reward. His influence was noted in a festschrift published in 2003.

Jerry HawthorneBeginning in the mid-1970s, Art Rupprecht and Jerry Hawthorne joined a group of their very interesting and interested Greek students late on Friday afternoons in the Stupe. The week’s classes were over and it was time to relax with a free cup of coffee — they arrived just at closing time when the staff were about to throw the remaining coffee down the drain. It was theirs for the taking. Faculty and students spent time thinking through some theological issues, talking about baseball or fishing, or discussing some difficult Greek passage, telling a few jokes, and generally enjoying each others company and insights. Soon others wanted to join. So it became a weekly feature, but it was too large and often too raucous to continue meeting in a corner booth of the Stupe.

Just as concerns over a meeting place arose a new chapel schedule was implemented with chapel to be held weekly on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays — leaving Wednesday at 10:30 free when faculty and students had no officially scheduled meetings. So Wednesday became the new day. Now all that was needed was a place. John Ortberg, speaking for his housemates, offered Windsor House as the newly designated place of meeting. It was agreed that faculty would provide the donuts and the Windsor men would provide the coffee. Occasionally one of the faculty would fudge a little on the donut buying, for one of them was caught slipping across to Windsor house early, to heat up a day-old coffee cake for the coffee hour.

Eventually these Windsor men graduated, but the new men assigned to that house wanted us to continue, which the faculty were only too happy to do. Windsor House, which was adjacent to Buswell Library, continued to be a place of meeting for students from all parts of the world, faculty from all discipline a — great amalgam of students and faculty. Discussions were lively and sometimes even heated, but always argued with passion, if not always with reason. Everyone present could not help learning something he (all men in those days) had not known before-those were great times together.

Jerry HawthorneWhen Windsor House was torn down the group was invited to join the men in Kay House, so that this tradition could continue. By the time that particular Kay House group of men were ready to move on via graduation to their higher calling, the new “pharaoh knew not Joseph.” So no successive invitation was extended from that house. When that moment of desperation came, however, many of our student friends were awarded Hidden House as their next year’s domicile, and with one voice they beckoned us to come and join them at their home each Wednesday morning as usual. The tradition kept going and growing. This pleasurable and profitable welcome break from the routine bustle of academic life continued unabated for more than a decade.

As change is always inevitable, the chapel schedule changed again. The new schedule had it fall on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Not wishing to flaunt chapel, nor to encourage undesirable behavior on the students’ part, the majority of the faculty regulars decided that all who wished could come to Jerry Hawthorne’s office (on the second floor of Wyngarden Health Center) at the traditionally designated time. As many as 15-18 professors from the departments of literature, language, philosophy, psychology, sociology, history, communication and the sciences crammed into that small office for the weekly repast of coffee and donuts. Here the late and beloved Dr. Joe McClatchey delighted to come as long as he was alive; it was he who dubbed this place and this congregation, “Jerry’s Pub,” a name it still holds.

Rob Bell redux

In November 2003 Rob Bell, Jr. spoke at Wheaton College for the annual Staley Lecture Series. His three messages were entitled “Communicating Christ in Contemporary Culture.” Rob Bell is a teaching and founding pastor of Mars Hill in Grandville, Michigan. He is the author of Velvet Elvis and Sex God, and is a coauthor of Jesus Wants to Save Christians. He is also featured in a series of spiritual short films called NOOMA. Rob graduated from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois and Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He and his wife Kristen have three children and live in Grand Rapids.

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