Twenty years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles, titled “On My Mind”, in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Former Professor of Education Richard Turner (who taught at Wheaton from 1981-1994) was featured in the Winter 1994 issue.
It was as a high school student that I first heard of Wheaton College. In a magazine called Christian Life and Times I found articles written by people from all walks of life–pastors, housewives, missionaries, medical personnel–diverse both in occupation and in theological perspective within a broad Christian context. They loved the Lord and articulated this eloquently. Many of the biographical notes declared they were graduates of Wheaton College. I decided if Wheaton College graduated Christians of such quality, Wheaton was where I wanted to attend college.
After four years in the Air Force, and as a married student at Wheaton College and Graduate School in the fifties, I studied with professors who had both academic rigor and a Christian graciousness. Kantzer, Tenney, Mickelsen, Holmes, and Hawthorne taught their students to think critically and fairly at issues where there was disagreement. Cairns taught us to look at cultures through history. Taylor and Buswell taught us to look at cultures in various areas of this earth. Wheaton College provided us with a wonderfully broad, rather than provincial, outlook on the world.
Following more than twenty years as a teacher and principal in local schools, I returned to teach in the department of education. I have found that academic rigor and Christian graciousness are still alive and well at Wheaton College, along with the same reverence toward Scripture and willingness to look at issues openly, critically, and fairly.
As I retire from Wheaton at the end of this college year, I have two hopes. One is that more people of color will be both attracted to the College and made to feel welcome. Having spent most of my military time in Asia and the last twenty-five years attending and inner-city church, I have appreciated the diversity of God’s people. About the turn of the century, ninety percent of the world’s Christians were said to be white and western. In the nineties over half are said to be people of color.
Wheaton has a rich heritage in students who have lived in other countries, primarily as missionary kids. They add to the multicolored mosaic known as the body of Christ. But they are mainly white and western. Only about ten percent of the Wheaton student body come from a different racial or ethnic background. Without more of this type of diversity our students are deprived of the full richness that God’s people have to offer. The College has attempting [sic] to attract those of various backgrounds to come as students, staff, and faculty.
A second hope is that Wheaton will maintain a balance in attracting students from and preparing students for both private and public schools. Much has been written in recent years denigrating the public schools of this country. Conditions in the schools do mirror conditions in society. This is often true in private Christian schools as well as in public schools. The difference I have observed between Christian and secular school students is that Christian school students know more Bible content than Christian students in public schools. There seems to be little difference in behavior. Since eighty to ninety percent of American’s youth attend public schools we have an obligation to them. There are many Christian teachers in the public schools who by their lives are influencing America’s youth and our society in general. The public schools are just as much a mission field as an overseas destination. God will call some to public schools. We should be obedient to his call.
The following statement was included at the time of publication:
Dr. Richard Turner ’52 received his B.A. in Bible from Wheaton, his M.A. in theology from the Wheaton Graduate School, and his C.A.S. and Ed.D. from Northern Illinois University. He has served as chair of Wheaton’s department of education since 1981. He was a principal in Wheaton public schools from 1969-81 and a teacher in Glen Ellyn and Wheaton schools from 1960-69. From 1948-52 he worked in air traffic control for the U.S. Air Force. He and his wife, Connie, live in Wheaton and have three children and three grandchildren.