Monthly Archives: July 2013

Blanchard Hall, the City of God?

All editions of Pilgrim’s Progress describe a thrilling scene in which Christian is directed to the heavenly city by Evangelist. However, the 1931 Wheaton College Tower front flyleaf illustration slightly tweaks the old story, instead upholding Blanchard Hall as the celestial destination. Other such images are featured throughout the volume. Using the theme of pilgrimage, editors from the Junior Class write:

As Christian travelled his way full of difficulties and temptations toward the Light, we as students are wending our way to the same Light. Thus realizing these few years at Wheaton are but a milestone on our way, the Tower ’31 portrays our Pilgrimage.

Two Freds, One Faith

One could hardly imagine two more disparate Presbyterian ministers than Fred Rogers, best known as beloved children’s show host “Mister Rogers,” and Pulitzer Prize-nominated novelist Frederick Buechner. One man, wearing a zippered cardigan, sings “Won’t you be my neighbor?” before placidly discoursing on themes such as courtesy, personal hygiene or regular school attendance; the other writes decidedly “grown-up” fiction and non-fiction, frankly discussing the crippling tensions he has felt between faith and doubt. One man’s pulpit is television; the other’s pulpit is his desk. Both are influential in vastly different spheres.

Nonetheless, the two Freds interacted during the early 1980s. Among the papers of Frederick Buechner (SC-05) are three notes from Mr. Rogers. For the first two, dated July 14, 1981, Rogers thanks Buechner for a phoned chat, and for “…what you called out of me.” Rogers then invites Buechner to visit him during August if he is near Pittsburgh or his summer home in Nantucket. On the other note he writes his address. On the third, dated August 27, 1981, Rogers thanks Buechner for sending a gracious letter which welcomed his return to Nantucket. He also thanks Buechner “…for you and your superb work.”

(Researchers desiring access to those portions of the collection classified as Private Materials or Special Private Materials must obtain written permission from the Buechner Literary Trust.)

Wheaton College Awakenings: 1853-1873

Before publishing Marching to the Drumbeat of Abolitionism: Wheaton College in the Civil War (2010), Dr. David Maas, retired professor of history, released Wheaton College Awakenings: 1853-1873 (1996), comprising 266 entries excerpted from correspondence, diaries, newspapers and other printed matter, chronicling early campus life.

A few examples:

#18. Discipline of studying, 1857. And if the discipline of study ever accomplishes anything it must be self-imposed. The student who needs a police force to exact obedience to academic law deserves no place in a respectable literary institution.

#37. Student attacks novel as trashy literature, 1857. The country is flooded with books and papers which have a tendency to excite and intoxicate the mind; consequently the mind becomes poisoned and the desire for useful information is destroyed and all the noble powers of the intellect die of starvation or from the want of wholesome intellectual food…[too many read] worthless nonsensical trash which has a tendency to destroy the virtue and morality of the consumer. [Great men of the past] Webster, Clay, Washington and Sumner…[did not] rise to the highest pinnacle of fame by spending their time novel reading…Young man, beware, beware of that young lady who spends most of her time in reading novels, talking nonsense and laughing at others…

#97. Professor critical of the architectural style of central section of Blanchard Hall, 1868. [Professor John Calvin Webster in address dedicating the cornerstone of the west wing of Blanchard Hall refers to the original center section as] the semblance of an old-fashioned New England cotton mill.

#106. Complaint of high costs of Wheaton, 1857. Although the world seems to frown on you now and by every means possible to take the last dollar you possess, particularly so if you are a student at Wheaton College.

#252. Student concerned about Civil War, 1861. It [imagination] sees the dark cloud which now overhangs our country roll away; and our nation purified by fire and blood – rising up with a halo of glory around.