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“His Poems are a Power” ~ Robert Siegel, 1939-2012

Robert Siegel, poet, professor and novelist, died on December 20, 2012. He was 73. Prolific and versatile, he received awards and prizes from Poetry magazine, Prairie Schooner, Bread Loaf, America and the National Endowments for the Arts. Born and raised in Chicago, Siegel attended Wheaton College, receiving his M.A. from Johns Hopkins, his Ph.D from Harvard and taught for seven years at Dartmouth. He lived with his wife, Ann, near the cost of Maine. He wrote young adult novels, such as Alpha Centauri (1980) and The Kingdom of Wundle (1982). He published several collections of poetry, such as In a Pig’s Eye (1985), The Waters Under the Earth (2005), and A Pentecost of Finches (2006). Siegel was also renowned for his environmental fantasy trilogy comprising Whalesong, White Whale and The Ice at the End of the World, about Hralenkena, a humpback whale confronting the dangers, mysteries and incomparable wonders of the ocean. “I want people to identify with the mystery and intelligence of the whale, the spirituality of the ocean,” he said, “as well as have a sense of what it’s like to be a marine animal facing oil spills.”

Siegel was a student and close friend of Dr. Clyde Kilby, Wheaton College professor of English who founded the Marion E. Wade Center, containing the manuscripts of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and five other British writers. At Harvard, Siegel studied under poet Robert Lowell, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Aside from the world of letters, Siegel was also a naturalist, laboring for land preservation. In 1989 he published an article in the Atlantic Monthly, drawing attention to the imminent razing of Henry Thoreau’s property for a housing development. His effort was successful.

Siegel’s poetry and fiction garners praise from diverse quarters:

Of Robert Siegel’s talents there can be no doubt. “Brilliant” is a term too casually applied today, and it does not begin to define the remarkable range of subjects delineated and the technical mastery demonstrated…His poems are a power. ~ Joseph Parisi, Poetry magazine

The poet’s extraordinary gift for metaphor allows him to reveal a range of emotions and attitudes that is rare among contemporary poets. ~ Booklist

Siegel’s imagination is excited by the nonhuman world, and he writes about plants and animals with surprising immediacy…A compassionate observer…he looks at them as mysterious and wonderful signs of a greater order. ~ Dana Gioia, in Poetry magazine

Whalesong is one of those rare and wondrous things, a book which is born a classic. ~ Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time

A masterful work combining mythology, philosophy and poetry in a story that is exciting and convincing. ~ Richard Eberhart on the Whalesong trilogy

It is all here — everything your imagination longs for when it travels back beyond our sad and gritty history to the high and noble ages of which we mortals get only fleeting and heartbreaking glimpses in the tales we now call myths. Siegel is a bard, and that is a genius almost as rare nowadays as the centaurs. ~ Thomas Howard on Alpha Centauri

Robert Siegel composed and read the inaugural poem, “In My Beginning is My End,” at the 2010 installation ceremony of Dr. Philip Ryken, eighth president of Wheaton College. His papers (SC-11), comprising correspondence and manuscripts, are housed in the Wheaton College Special Collections, are available to researchers.

God So Loved

This Christmas meditation, written by V. Raymond Edman, originally appeared as a tract called “Meet Mr. Scrooge,” published by Moody Press.

Ebeneezer Scrooge. Who has not met him? To be sure, he never really existed except in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, one of the most delightful Christmas stories ever told. Scrooge is so vividly portrayed that his name has become a part of our language. Since we first learned about him, we have known every stingy old miser as a scrooge. But our acquaintance with him may be superficial. We meet so many characters in Dickens’ immortal story that we may fail to follow Mr. Scrooge to the end, and the conclusion is the real point and climax of the tale. We are intrigued by Marley’s ghost with his clanking chains. We are pleased with the cheerful nephew of Ebenezer who at first had no warming influence on his greedy old uncle. We are stirred by Bob Cratchit and his delightful family, especially Tiny Tim with his enthusiastic word, “God bless us every one!”

Then there are those ghosts, each with a message to Scrooge. The Ghost of Christmas Past brought back the recollection of happy schooldays and the reminder of merry Christmas Eves of long past when Scrooge was an apprentice in the office of old Fezziwig. There was even the reminder of an old love affair that never materialized. The bittersweet nostalgia of the yesterdays! The Ghost of Christmas Present took the old skinflint to the happy scenes in the humble Cratchit home the preparation for dinner, the arrival of Father Bob and his little crippled son from the church service, the gratitude of all for God’s goodness despite Bobs poor wages. A delightful scene in merry old England! But the Ghost of Christmas Future had only sadness for Scrooge. The Cratchit home was silent and tearful, and Tiny Tim, who might have lived had there been money for medical help, was no longer there. From there the Ghost took the penitent and fearful Scrooge to a deserted cemetery and pointed to a solitary grave marked with the name Ebenezer Scrooge.

No, never! How could he ever face the dismal and doleful prospect pictured in that headstone? As Scrooge poured out his protest and clung to the arm of the Ghost Future, he came to consciousness, clinging to the bedpost in his own room. It had all been a dream. But life is not a dream. It is very real. For us there is the memory of yesterday’s Christmases with the message: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). We have today, and the Bible reminds us, “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). For the future the Bible goes on to say, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). The time to prepare for that certainty is right now.

Meet Mr. Scrooge.
Meet yourself.
Of course you are not the stingy, grasping old miser of A Christmas Carol, but like him you face the prospect that ahead lies the grave and the beyond! Like old Scrooge, you can be transformed, not by New Year’s resolutions but by becoming a child of God in receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the present takes on joy and new meaning, and you can face the future unafraid! “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12).

Rev. John Timothy Stone and Wheaton College

Fourth Presbyterian Church, situated directly across from Hancock Tower, is a Gothic limestone anachronism amid the sleek high rise condos, trendy shops and high-tech offices of downtown Chicago. Displaying spire, cloisters, fountain, gabled roof and stained glass windows depicting biblical scenes, Fourth Presbyterian, designed by renowned architect Ralph Adams Cram, presents an austere dignity to Michigan Avenue. Since its founding in 1871, the old church has seen a succession of qualified ministers occupy its pulpit. Among these was the gifted Reverend John Timothy Stone, Fourth’s seventh pastor. Stone had been serving at Brown Memorial Church in Baltimore when he finally accepted Fourth Presbyterian’s persistent invitation, officially installed by the presbytery in 1909. Under his leadership the church’s lay ministries greatly increased as his eloquence attracted swelling crowds. In 1928 Stone was elected as acting president of Presbyterian Theological Seminary (now McCormick Theological Seminary), assuming full-time duties in 1930. Situated so prominently, Stone interacted with the chief ecclesiastical figures of the era, including Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, then-president of Wheaton College, who had in 1918 received his divinity degree from the seminary. These were transitional years not only for Stone and Buswell in their roles as college educators, but the battle between theological “modernists” and conservatives was just beginning to heat up, boiling toward a crisis which would shiver institutions and divide loyalties. According to historian Ovid R. Sellers, “The theological controversy which threatened to split the Presbyterian Church in the USA during the twenties had no repercussions on the McCormick campus.” This assertion is not quite accurate, as seen in the following correspondence.

Relations between Buswell and Stone began cordially, each occasionally inviting the other to Chicago or Wheaton for a friendly lunch. However, Buswell in 1930 explains his hesitance in advising ministerial candidates to attend Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The issue, he writes, is that he had recently heard a lecture at the seminary delivered by a Professor Hays, seemingly mounting a “virulent attack upon the doctrine of the infallibility of the Bible..,” in addition to advancing an “un-Presbyterian” appeal to the “inner light.” Buswell had also heard from several witnesses that a Professor Frank was teaching doctrines “strongly opposed to evangelical standards in theology.” Further, he feels that Stone has “misrepresented me as a loyal alumnus of McCormick Seminary.”

Stone replies graciously, including written responses from Hays and Frank. “Please dismiss from your mind any spirit other than cordial toward Wheaton College or toward yourself,” he writes, hoping to disarm Buswell and put the matter to rest.

Unconvinced, Buswell is far from finished. In his response, dated November 1, 1932, he bluntly challenges Stone’s alleged good cheer toward Wheaton College:

A considerable number of Wheaton students and graduates have told me directly and at different times of statements made by yourself and by other members of your faculty reflecting upon me and upon Wheaton College. I was told within the past month of a remark which you made to one of our graduates slurringly referring to me as a disloyal alumnus. Another member of your faculty some time ago referred to my direct and straightforward criticism as “throwing mud as his Alma Mater.”

He goes on to address Hays and Frank’s objections to his criticism of their theology, reiterating his suspicions that these teachers are, indeed, liberal in their appeals to authoritative sources beside the Bible, and disparages their suggestions that the Old Testament prophets, along with Jesus, simply re-packaged existing pagan customs to suit their immediate ministerial needs.

Buswell, summing up, informs Stone that he is too busy to fully respond to all his concerns, but will do so when he returns from an engagement in Buffalo. He writes somewhat threateningly, “I am wondering whether it is not my duty to prepare an article, making my position in regard to the seminary as clear as possible. I do not like to be called a disloyal alumnus or one who throws mud on his Alma Mater, without having it known that I have sufficient reason for my criticism.”

Stone’s reply, if such exists, is missing from the record; but history demonstrates that Wheaton College anchored herself largely to the right of the theological center, as McCormick bobbed ever leftward.

The Word For This Century

The Word For This Century, commissioned in 1959 by the Centennial Committee and edited by Dr. Merrill Tenney, Dean of the Graduate School, was published by Oxford University Press to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wheaton College. In addition, it attempted to address the pressing question: “Has Evangelical Christianity a message for this era of tension and world conflict?” Containing essays based on the Wheaton College Statement of Faith by Carl F.H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, V. Raymond Edman, Billy Graham, John F. Walvoord and others, the book responds to the inquiry with confident affirmation. The preface, written by Tenney, follows:

Etched against the sky of a quiet Midwestern city, the tower of Wheaton College stands sentinel over the campus. For one hundred years Wheaton College has been a landmark of faith to its students who have chosen it as their Alma Mater, and to their parents and friends who have supported its ideals of Christian education. Under the leadership of four presidents, Jonathan Blanchard (1860-82), his son Charles Albert Blanchard (1882-1925), J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. (1926-40), and V. Raymond Edman (1940-65), Wheaton has maintained a consistent witness to Christian truth. Through numerous economic depressions, three major wars, and the shifting scenes of social and theological controversy, it has stood firmly for an undiluted Christian faith. Its faculty and graduates have been champions of political liberty, social reform, and evangelistic fervor. In 1937 the Graduate School of Theology was established as the result of a generous provision in the form of a residuary trust from the estate of John Dickey, Jr., of Philadelphia, in order that Wheaton’s ministry might be enlarged. Since the inception of the Graduate School more than three hundred and fifty alumni have been graduated and have entered the ranks of teaching, the ministry, and the mission field. This volume is issued on the centennial anniversary of Wheaton College as a testimony to its historic faith. The contributors of these essays, representing administration, faculty, and alumni, are actively engaged in preaching and teaching this message, and they speak for the larger number seeking to present the word of God to this century. As the list of authors on the title page of this book indicates it is the product of co-operative effort by men whose time is heavily taxed by the daily duties in which they are engaged. To them the Graduate School of Wheaton College is indebted for their contribution to this memorial volume. One of them, Dr. T. Leonard Lewis, the President of Gordon College, was suddenly taken to be with the Lord in the spring of this year, and the chapter that he wrote is one of the last products of his pen. To all of these men hearty thanks are due for their willing participation. Special thanks are offered to Dr. Carl F. H. Henry and to his publisher, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, for permission to quote two paragraphs from his Christian Personal Ethics. The Centennial Committee of Wheaton College, Richard Gerig, Chairman, has aided materially in sponsoring this project. The Editor acknowledges gratefully the help of his wife, Helen J. Tenney, in preparing the manuscript for publication, and the stenographic work of Mrs. Edward A. Adams in the transcription of the copy.

History’s Lesson for the Ages

Over 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. Associate Professor of History Emeritus Thomas Kay (who taught at Wheaton from 1959-2004) was featured in the Spring 2003 issue.

Historians are often asked, “What does history teach?” Such an inquiry suggests that history is a measure by which we might evaluate the present and project the future; it makes the past absolute, definitive, and normative. Hence,”Whatever was, was right.” Thereby, the past serves as window both to the present and also to the future. The historian becomes both pundit and prophet.

My response to such queries is always, “History teaches change.” Each unique historical event may provide an understanding of the past, the present, and perhaps a glimpse into the future, which is not to say that the past determines the present or the future.

Sages of ancient Greece and Rome sought to discover in history the element of a balanced and complete social and political structure that could be implemented for all time. From those elements one might develop the best of human associations, perfecting their members and possessing eternality. Their efforts and formulae for well-intended reform and renewal broke down under their own weight and a failure to grasp the character of the fundamental human condition–sin. Self-interest, personal gain, and power undercut the search for peace, stability, order, and community. The laws of the jungle became the master.

The advent of Jesus Christ came when many aspects of the Roman Empire and classical civilization were giving way. Even in the glow of the cessation of civil strife and the popular hope that Augustus Caesar would be harbinger of peace and a new, enduring order, the rule of the stronger continued. In the midst of grasping, praying, and hoping for political, economic, social, and moral stability there were many changes. Rome fell prey to the whims and desires of leaders bound by their personal goals of power, self-glorification, and deification. That for which Rome yearned–peace, order, eternality–would not come through changes wrought by sheer power, even by those who exemplified the highest classical values. Such change came and continues to come to every person in the advent (past, present, and future) of Jesus Christ, whose eternal kingdom, the City of God, transforms the human experience now and forever.

As throughout history, life has always been, and will continue to be full of changes. There are the changes of birth, growth, and death; the changes in human relationships and changes of residence, work-place, and martial status.

Ironically, the essence of Christianity is also change. There is the change of becoming a new creation in Christ and the ultimate change that will mark the denouement of history: “In a moment in a twinkling of an eye, we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52). It is only after history is finished that non-change becomes fully possible; in that place where there is no day nor night, no tears, no illness and no death.

History teaches change and coping with change. This is the human predicament. Change is only transcended by both the temporal and eternal foundations of the City of God. It is this for which all humanity has sought, and will continue to seek throughout the ages.


The following statement was included at the time of publication: Dr. Thomas Kay has been professor of history at Wheaton for 44 years and served as coordinator of the interdisciplinary studies major for 14. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago and serves on many load and state historical society boards including chairing the Illinois State Historical Society Symposium this year Dr. Kay’s current projects include a history of College Church in Wheaton, where he represents the middle of five generations of family attending. Dr. Kay and his wife Janice have three children and seven grandchildren, including two sets of “grand twins.”

Wheaton College and Quarryville Presbyterian Home

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, boasts a singularly rich Christian heritage, dating to the founding of the country. Closely associated with Amish, Mennonite and Quaker settlements, this district also enjoys the presence of Quarryville Presbyterian Home, founded by Franklin S. Dyrness. Graduating in 1931 from Wheaton College, Dyrness enrolled at Westminster Theological Seminary. Later serving as a pastor in Pennsylvania, he attempted locating housing for several elderly women from his congregation. Finding nothing suitable, he decided to establish his own home, but this one would be different. “We’re here not here just to have people take care of old people,” he told an interviewer. “I’m not interested in that. Let the government do it. We’re here with Christian concern in action. The Lord has led them here, and they have come of their own accord. People say that you ought to be happy that you established this. I say, please don’t say that. I have no credit. I don’t want any. The Lord is the only man who can do it and he did. Therefore, give God all the honor and praise.” While studying at Wheaton College Dyrness met his wife, Dorothy (“Dot”) Ruth Rasmussen. Franklin’s brother, Enock Dyrness, acted as the college Registrar from 1924-69.

Quarryville is tied to Wheaton College in other significant ways, as well. Throughout the years, many staff and alumni have retired here, notably Katharine Tiffany, longtime English teacher, who called it “the Conrad Hilton of retirement homes.” A room at the Home was named after her, the K.B. Tiffany Memorial Center. Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, third president of Wheaton College, lived his final years at Quarryville. Unlike his successor, V. Raymond Edman, who died of a heart attack quite publicly while preaching a chapel message at Wheaton College, Buswell simply slumped in his wheelchair, passing quietly. He is buried in Quarryville Cemetery. Wheaton’s fifth president, Dr. Hudson Armerding, spent several retirement years at Quarryville, assisting the chaplain with preaching and room-to-room visitation, before returning to Wheaton shortly preceding his death in 2009.

Franklin Dyrness served as president of Quarryville Presbyterian Home from its 1948 inception until his retirement in 1985. He was elected to the Wheaton College Honor Society and was bestowed the Doctor of Divinity in 1960. The Home and his alma mater contributed funds to establish the Franklin S. Dyrness Chair of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College. He was also president of the Board of Trustees of The Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America. According to his son, F. Seth, Jr: “We gathered around his bed and sang some of his favorite hymns for him. As we sang the final verse of Rock of Ages, he closed his eyes and went to be with the Lord. It was beautiful and deeply comforting for us as a family.” Franklin Dyrness died on June 16, 1990.

New Book on Evangelical Left Published

A newly released book by Wheaton College graduate, David Swartz is receiving favorable reviews by scholars and critics alike. Significant research was conducted in the Sojourners Records and other archival resources of the Archives & Special Collections prior to publication of Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism (University of Pennsylvania Press). Dr. David R. Swartz is an assistant professor of history at Asbury University. He earned his Ph.D. in American history at the University of Notre Dame under the direction of George Marsden and Mark Noll. Areas of expertise and teaching interest include American religious history, twentieth-century American politics, global religion, and issues of war and peace.

According to the book’s website, “Moral Minority charts the rise and fall of a forgotten movement: the evangelical left. Emerging in an era when it was unclear where the majority of evangelicals might emerge politically, the evangelical left held great potential. The convergence of civil rights and antiwar activism, intentional communities, and third-world evangelicals in the early 1970s prompted the Washington Post to suggest that the new movement might ‘launch a movement that could shake both political and religious life in America.’

In the end, it did not. Moral Minority charts how identity politics roiled the evangelical left–and how the Democratic Party in the 1970s and the religious right in the 1980s left progressive evangelicals behind. The failure of the evangelical left, thus, was the product of a particular political moment more than a reflection of evangelicalism’s inherent conservatism. As a new century dawns, Swartz suggests that this marginalized movement could rise again, particularly if the Democratic Party reaches out to evangelicals and if Christian immigrants from the Global South are able to reshape American evangelicalism.”

According to the New York Times:

“Moral Majority is a vivid topography of a little-understood corner of evangelical thought. It is not an account of a political movement–because there was no movement to speak of. This is a story of failures and might-have-beens, but it is just as illuminating as a history of political success.”

Dr. William Leslie and LaSalle Street Church

Located halfway on the mile between Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute and Moody Memorial Church stands LaSalle Street Church, its 130-year old spire tucked snugly amid a row of upscale condominiums, only two blocks from Lake Michigan. But when William Leslie left his position in 1961 as assistant pastor of Moody Church, serving under Dr. Alan Redpath, to lead the struggling assembly, the district was severely blighted, collapsing beneath the weight of decrepitude, poverty and racial tensions. Leslie, a graduate of Wheaton College, realized that he must not only preach to touch the spirit, but he must also address the material welfare of his parish.

And so, operating under the motto, “The Whole Gospel for the Whole Person,” LaSalle Street Church instituted a tutoring program, eventually gathering over 300 students. Soon other ministries blossomed. LaSalle Street Young Life recruited men from gangs, providing alternatives in Bible studies, sports and summer camp. LaSalle Street Senior Center provided meals, counseling and exercise for the Northside elderly. The Cabrini-Green Legal Aid Counsel sought justice for the ill-served, offering legal aid. Bridging was established to assist single pregnant women, offering an alternative to abortion. These programs not only fulfilled Leslie’s desire to mobilize his strategically-placed church, rather than allowing the members to sit passively, but strengthened LaSalle Street’s purpose to holistically worship, educate and evangelize. Another vital component was the incorporation of the arts, drawing heavily from the talents of gifted members. Plays, banners, slide shows and dance were all used to enhance worship and brighten the sanctuary. As a result of these innovations, Leslie was known to his congregation as “the resident dreamer.” Busloads of students from Wheaton College arrived weekly to assist with the various ministries.

Dr. William Leslie died of a heart attack at age 61 in 1993. Writer Philip Yancey, longtime member of LaSalle Street Church, wrote a memorial published in Christianity Today:

Bill Leslie was a most unlikely pioneer. He was disheveled, disorganized (several times I waited in vain for Bill, who had forgotten our appointment or gone to the wrong restaurant), and hardly a promising candidate for racial reconciliation. (He had attended the strictly segregated Bob Jones University, and his father-in-law had worked in racist Lester Maddox’s gubernatorial campaign.) Yet he, as much as anyone, was responsible for pointing the evangelical church back to the city and for reminding us that Jesus came to redeem communities as well as individual souls.

The story of LaSalle Street Church is related in The Church That Takes on Trouble (1976), by James and Marti Hefley; it is also the subject of the film, “The Heart Cannot Run.” In 1992 the City of Chicago cited Leslie in the 1993 “Who’s Who in Religion,” commending to him its “deepest and most sincere gratitude for all [he] has done to improve the community, and to better the lives of the citizens of the City of Chicago.”

Leslie’s papers (SC-75), comprising correspondence, photographs and cassettes, are archived at Wheaton College Special Collections, available to researchers.

Banners of Truth

Treasures of all shapes, sizes and shades, from manuscripts to memorabilia, are maintained in the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections. Most materials are housed in a restricted climate controlled storage facility, but a few are displayed in the public area. Among the more colorful artifacts exhibited are the pink, red and purple liturgical banners hanging above the microfilm cabinets in the back corner of the reading room. Designed and crafted by artist Marjorie Geiser, the banners hung for years in the Bible Seminar Room in the Graduate School. The wall hangings and other renovations were implemented as a memorial to Jean Kennedy, who with her husband, Ted, established the B.H. Kennedy Memorial Scholarship Fund in the Graduate School.

Marjorie Geiser explains the symbology of her banners to Dr. Richard Chase, President of Wheaton College

Calvin Miller and the Unfinished Business of Earth

Calvin Miller, author, pastor and professor, died on August 19, 2012. He was 75. His first book, The Singer, published by IVP in 1975, is a poetic, colorful retelling of the life of Christ, flavored with dashes of Milton and Tolkien. In the following years he produced a nonstop flow of novels, non-fiction, apologetics and a memoir, Life is Mostly Edges. His final book, Letters to Heaven, is a series of letters written by Miller, a late-life nod to the now-deceased men and women who positively touched his life, some of whom he’d met, others complete strangers. He begins with this bit of verse:

How shall I finish up the unfinished business of earth?

Letters, I think.

Each of you who will receive these letters is dead

at least in this realm

and I am counting on some courier

whose form of delivery I do not know

to get these words through to you.

Composing 26 entries, he cites individuals from personal and professional spheres, including members from his former pastorate, Westside Baptist in Omaha. He recalls Sophie Smithson, whom he “never much liked” because of her scowling aspect and relentlessly critical spirit. Nonetheless, she provided a beautiful foil to her husband, John, whose patience and abundant kindness demonstrate to Miller the binding strength of the marriage vow: For better, for worse, ’til death do us part.

He expresses appreciation for better-known Christians such as Norman Vincent Peale who “taught me effective pulpit communication,” and C.S. Lewis, whose struggle with doubt in A Grief Observed leaves a somewhat sour taste in his mouth. “Maybe [in Heaven],” writes Miller, “in better light, you will display the customary optimism about God that so marked your life.”

A particularly interesting and somewhat surprising entry is actress Farrah Fawcett, at whose home Miller and his family enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner in 1969, just before she became famous. He recognizes her career-long understanding that “beauty is more than skin deep; it is soul deep.”

Sprinkled throughout Letters to Heaven are several names associated with Wheaton College, whether alumni or donors. For example, he thanks missionary martyr Jim Elliot, the “crisis man” whose dedication forced men to “turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” Miller writes, “My whole life was redeemed by your counsel.” Miller thanks 911 hero Todd Beamer. “The hero you never meant to be became a legend in the world you had to leave.” Again discussing the matter of matrimony, Miller thanks author Madeleine L’Engle, with whom he was a member of the Chrysostom Society, for her strong, long marriage to Hugh Franklin – and her steady continuation with life after his death to cancer. He thanks publisher Harold Shaw, meeting him but once for dinner in 1975 with Luci, “…your dear wife and my only important poetic fan in the beginning…” The Shaws encouraged Miller to continue writing after the publication of The Singer, pushing ever forward.

Now that Calvin Miller has joined the subjects profiled in this book, readers may consider his generous writing, ripe with humor, hard-won wisdom and sanctified imagination, as letters from Heaven addressed to those yet confined to Earth, awaiting passage.

The papers of Calvin Miller (SC-24), Luci Shaw (SC-46) and Madeleine L’Engle (SC-03) are archived in the Wheaton College Special Collections.