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The Teaching Life

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. Professor of Old Testament Paul House (who worked at Wheaton from 2001-2004) was featured in the Summer 2002 issue.

When I was a senior in college, I once sat in my favorite professor’s office and thought that it must be a wonderful thing to be a teacher. Like most kids from rural Missouri, I never met a college professor while growing up. Thus, it never occurred to me to think about Christian higher education as a vocation.

By the time I had finished my B.A. at Southwest Baptist College, however, my teachers had instilled in me a sense of the importance of the ministry of instructing others for, as we say at Wheaton, Christ and His Kingdom. Since I entered the teaching life I have not wanted to do anything else, at least not in place of it. Teaching students, writing books, and learning from colleagues continue to confirm what I thought as an undergraduate–the teaching life is a wonderful calling. I think this is especially true because I get to teach the Bible, God’s inerrant written Word.

Teaching the Bible to today’s students is an interesting, sometimes frustrating, task. They often know little beyond the basic Bible stories they learned as children, since biblical content is often left out of youth-group meetings. So students know that they should wait to have sex and should tell others about Jesus, but often little else. The result can be a dangerous division between worship on Sunday or in chapel and decisions made during the rest of the week. Thus, my task is to help them learn the Bible’s contents so they can have some chance of applying the whole of Scripture to their increasingly complex lives. As they learn, many of them grow rapidly. Their Christian worldview blossoms as they apply the Bible to life.

Writing books is one way to teach the Bible to people I will never meet in person. I am not alone in this conviction. Think of how many readers Scott Hafemann, John Walton, Andrew Hill, and my other colleagues have helped understand the Bible. For that matter, consider how many people beyond the Wheaton College community have learned about history from Mark Noll, Kathryn Long, and Edith Blumhofer. Or how many readers know more about literature because of Leland Ryken’s books. Writing is teaching; it is not just a way of getting promoted or becoming famous, or infamous for that matter.

Learning from colleagues is a great benefit of the teaching life. Through the years I have not only learned more about the Bible from other teachers, I have also absorbed knowledge about literature, history, current events, music, and athletics. Sadly, I fear that no matter how hard anyone tries, my brain rejects scientific knowledge. Despite my deficiencies, being taught by other teachers is a marvelous experience that helps me integrate the Bible more fully into the lives of my students.

I recommend the teaching life to young people all the time. I also recommend that donors and prayer warriors do all they can to support it. The teaching life is one committed to helping people learn what matters and how to act accordingly. More importantly, at Wheaton it is a life committed to the Lord, the sufficiency of His Word, and the growth of His people.

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Paul R. House is a graduate of Southwest Baptist College (B.A.), the University of Missouri (M.A.), and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. and Ph.D.). He has been a professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School since 2004 and served for six years as associate dean. Previously, he taught at Taylor University, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, and Wheaton College. Dr. House is the author or editor of 15 books, including The Unity of the Twelve, Old Testament Survey, Old Testament Theology, and Lamentations. He has been pastor of churches in Missouri, Indiana and Kentucky. He and his wife, Heather, have one adult daughter.

Mission Opinion

Guest posting by Special Collections staff member

Mission Opinion was a controversial publication edited and published by Kenneth and Margaret Landon in 1934 and 1935, from their missionary post at Trang, Siam. It was a strictly in-house magazine for the missionaries of the Presbyterian Mission, with which the Landons served at the time. Its aim was to facilitate “expressions of opinion by members of the Siam Mission on matters relating to the policies and practices of the Mission.”

The impetus for the magazine was a perceived lack of adequate communication among members of the Mission. The Landons took initiative in starting the publication and financed the printing of Mission Opinion out of their personal funds. They duplicated it in Trang on a mimeograph machine Kenneth had procured from Bangkok. From the outset it was understood that they would publish for “a trial period of twelve months.” A total of 10 issues were produced over the year running from May 1934 to April 1935, ranging in length from 30 to 60 pages.

The Mission leadership may not have been ready for the open exchange of views made possible by such a publication. They are not likely to have welcomed even honest questioning of their policies and discussions concerning the overall direction of the Mission. Mission Opinion included frank discussion of what should be cut from the budget given the decline in the Mission’s financial and human resources in the midst of the Great Depression. The term ‘mission station’ is a throwback to a bygone era whose approach appears to twenty-first century eyes hopelessly entangled with colonialism; yet, a major challenge faced by the Presbyterian Mission in the Landons’ time concerned precisely whether to continue staffing their existing stations, whether to close some, or whether additional ones ought to be established.

Margaret said, “Let’s put out a little magazine of our own.”

Another burning question, to which the bulk of two issues was devoted, was ‘intensive’ vs. ‘extensive’ evangelism. Could they simply nurture those who had made some kind of profession, relying on biological growth as the faith was transmitted from parent to child? Or was it rather necessary to deliberately and incessantly push beyond the boundaries of the fledgling Thai church to the ninety-nine percent of the population who remained outside? Rev. Paul Eakin, the Mission’s executive director, gives his opinion concerning the evangelism controversy in the January/February 1935 issue. He believed that shoring up earlier gains ought to take priority over concerted proclamation in broad swaths of the country which remained virtually untouched by the gospel. History, however, seems to have vindicated the Landons and others who favored a more aggressive outward thrust.

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The Margaret and Kenneth P. Landon Papers are housed in the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections and are available for research.

In His Time

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. Professor Emeritus of Bible and Theology Walter Elwell (who worked at Wheaton from 1975-2003) was featured in the Winter 2003 issue.

As an undergraduate student at Wheaton more than 40 years ago, I felt something of a call to the mission field—first as a medical missionary and then as a Wycliffe translator. Neither of these materialized, and instead I pursued an academic career in New Testament studies.

I was never sure why the Lord led me in another direction rather than to the mission field, where I felt the need was so great and the laborers so few. I prayed about that over the years, but nothing seemed to take any particular shape in my mind.

Then, in 1989 to 1991, the Soviet Union fell and that part of the world opened up to missionary work from the West. By that time, urgent stirrings had arisen in my heart, and in a wonderful moment it all became clear—Eastern Europe was in desperate need of guidance and help at the academic level to train people for the next generation of leadership. More than two generations had been lost and there was no time to lose; cults and charlatans were trying to take advantage of the surging spiritual hunger in that part of the world.

God then answered my prayer of 40 years earlier, directing me to a ministry of training young Europeans academically for leadership in the church and the preaching of the Gospel.

Almost immediately after the fall of Communism, the Graduate School inaugurated a program of on-and off-campus training for these East Europeans. Other Wheaton professors and I made numerous trips to all parts of the former Soviet Union to teach in seminaries, help establish M.A. and Ph.D. programs, visit refugee camps, and sometimes (literally) walk through mine fields to reach the schools and churches where we were speaking.

Since these East Europeans also needed relief from their often oppressive situations, the Graduate School also established a six-week tutorial for scholars and educators from the former satellite nations. We bring anywhere from 15 to 25 participants (free of cost to them) for intensive personalized training in an area of study they have selected. While here, they are assigned a faculty mentor, make field trips to view local ministries, attend seminars, hear a series of speakers, and also work in their chosen area of interest.

In the last eight years, more than 90 scholars from 13 different countries have participated in the program. As a result, over 15 books have been written, eight Ph.D. degrees have been earned, and numerous other goals have been accomplished—from establishing children’s ministries to running a school. All this has been a great blessing to us, and we solicit your prayers on our behalf.

How could anyone have guessed at the height of the Cold War that someday the Iron Curtain would be removed and teacher/administrators would be needed to rebuild what had been torn down, seemingly for all time? But God knew. And in His time, he directed me, and others, to prepare for it.

What a blessing to follow the Lord, even when the way is unclear. For as William Cowper said, “He will make it plain.” It is testimony to the grace of God and the mystery of His ways that this door has opened and Wheaton has been enabled to step into the gap.

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Walter A. Elwell, born 1937 in Florida, is an evangelical theologian and noted editor of several evangelical standard reference works. He is professor emeritus of Bible and Theology at Wheaton College where he taught from 1975 to 2003. Elwell earned his B.A. ’59 and M.A. ’61 from Wheaton College. He then attended the University of Chicago and University of Tubingen before earning his Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. He has been a consultant to both the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and the Evangelical Book Club, and a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, Institute for Biblical Research, Evangelical Theological Society, and Chicago Society of Biblical Research.

Studs and Clyde

Chicago’s distinctive personality is a complex amalgamation of revolutionary architecture, excellent food, famous streets and most importantly, its multitudinous colorful citizens, wise-cracking and hardworking. For decades the man who most perfectly captured the spirit of the Windy City, serving as its most loyal ambassador, was Louis “Studs” Terkel. A graduate of the University of Chicago and the Chicago Law School, he acted on stage and radio and wrote scripts for WGN, among many other jobs. Forever curious, he hosted his own radio show on WFMT, enthusiastically interviewing scores of fascinating writers, actors and politicians, signing off with his signature, “Take it easy, but take it.” He acquired his nickname from James T. Farrell’s trilogy, Studs Lonigan, about a Southside Irish family struggling during the Depression.

Terkel was probably best known for conducting oral interviews, collected as transcripts in a series of books. Division Street: America (1966) explores urban conflicts of the 1960s. The Good War: An Oral History of World War II won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. His autobiographical writings are contained in three volumes, Talking to Myself: A Memoir of My Times, (1977), Touch and Go (2007), and P.S.: Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening (2008).

Visible in Chicago and nationally, Terkel was widely connected with many prominent figures, so it is not surprising that he knew Dr. Clyde Kilby, professor of English at Wheaton College and founder of the Marion E. Wade Center, housing the manuscripts of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and five additional British writers. What is somewhat surprising is an inscription Terkel wrote for Kilby and his wife, Martha, in the front flyleaf of American Dreams: Lost & Found (1980):

For Clyde and Martha Kilby — How, with such delight, I remember our meeting — your godlike simplicity — but mostly your effect on Nell’s life — and helping her become the wondrous human she is. With a great deal of respect and affection, Studs Terkel.

According to Terkel’s close friend, film critic Roger Ebert, the indefatigable journalist was “a contented, not an outspoken, atheist.” Considering that, it is intriguing that Terkel recognizes and commends the Kilbys for their “godlike simplicity.” Though the full story behind the inscription is unknown to the Archives, it is fully appropriate that two men who collected stories and relished good storytelling intersected with such intensity, however briefly.

Studs Terkel died at 96 in 2008.

Unwitting Accomplices

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. Franklin S. Dyrness Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies C. Hassell Bullock (who worked at Wheaton from 1973-2009) was featured in the Spring 2001 issue.

I have sometimes pondered the question, “Is it possible for a society to commit the sin against the Holy Spirit?” Obviously, Jesus, in Matthew 12, spoke about individuals who had turned the moral code upside down–good was evil, and evil was good. Isaiah too described that state of moral depravity:”Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isa. 5:20).This is what the sin against the Holy Spirit means. John Milton summed it up well in Satan’s apostrophe,”Evil be thou my Good.”

Yet I don’t think believers can commit this sin.They belong to God, and Jesus assured us, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).Then why should believers be concerned about this warning at all? Perhaps the answer is that we can become accomplices in the process of moral decline.We can, by our own indifference to the issue of right and wrong, abet our society in its trek toward moral inversion. In the debate over our current attorney general’s confirmation, one opposing senator referred to abortion and homosexual rights and called them “fundamental values.” “Rights” have become “values.”The moral battle is being waged in the church too. Despite the mounds of exegesis that favor moral clarity, the claim is that we should be neutral on certain moral issues. If Satan can first get us to become neutral or indifferent on morality, then he has made us accomplices in progress toward the reversal of moral standards.

Jesus warned the religious leaders of His day that, if they continued to see the work of God and persisted on calling it evil, their hearts would fossilize in that state of thinking.They would see evil and think it good, and good, and think it evil.Their moral code would turn upside down, and they would become incapable of repentance and thus of forgiveness.

The final goal of our moral journey is not neutrality about right and wrong. Even when we insist that one has the right to determine one’s own moral standards, we become a catalyst in the movement toward moral inversion.Then there are no standards of the whole, no absolutes by which our actions and attitudes can be reckoned right or wrong. Everyone has become a law to oneself.This is happening with homosexuality, and there are signs that some are determined to put pedophilia in the same category.

As Christians, in our attitude toward sin we are either accomplices or members of the opposition.There is no neutrality. Some of us need not only to repent of the sins we have committed, but we need to repent of our neutrality to sin.We need God to renew in us a sense of righteous indignation as well as compassion about the sinful world we live in. C. S. Lewis said that an absence of righteous indignation might be one of the alarming symptoms of a society that is losing its moral moorings. Can a society commit the sin against the Holy Spirit? Broadly speaking, I believe it can.That’s what happened to Canaanite society whose sexual perversion rendered it irredeemable. God help us not to be an accomplice in the progress of our cultural journey toward moral inversion, where good is evil and evil is good.

Why They Left

Guest posting by Special Collections staff member

Kenneth Landon graduated from Wheaton in 1924, just ahead of his wife-to-be Margaret (Class of ’25). Newly married and full of hope, they set out in 1927 for a lifetime of ministry in Southeast Asia with the Presbyterian Mission. For most of their decade of service in Siam, they were stationed at Trang, 500 miles south of Bangkok.

The Landons had considered their call into mission to be life-long. How then did it come about that just ten years into their work in Thailand, they came home on furlough never to return as missionaries? As you might imagine, multiple and complex issues were involved. The fact that their resignation letter, dated October 9, 1940, runs twenty one typed, double-spaced pages attests to that.

The letter, written after three years away from Thailand and a year after they formally severed ties with the Mission, details their reasons for leaving. There had been serious conflict between the Landons and the leadership of the Presbyterian Mission in Thailand. Yet the Landons alleged that the problems pre-dated their arrival in Thailand. On page two of the letter, we read: “The inharmoniousness of the Mission was clearly evident when we joined it in 1927.”

The lightning rod for their criticisms was the Mission’s Executive Secretary, the Rev. Paul Eakin. Writing in 1940, the Landons decried the fact that “strifes, jealousies, and antagonisms are worse now than they were thirteen years ago.” The Landons’ enumeration of Eakin’s alleged misdeeds runs the entire length of the letter. Chief among their concerns were a “policy of secrecy”–poor communication within the Mission, together with personal animosity and slander on the part of Eakin toward themselves.

But there were wider issues as well. The Landons did not agree with the overall emphasis of the Mission at that time. It was a period of growing institutionalism; evangelistic efforts were being curtailed in favor of educational and medical work. The Landons charge in the letter that “Mr. Eakin has openly opposed the work of evangelistic missionaries like…ourselves.”

Kenneth, looking back at the situation decades later, asserted (in The Landon Chronicles) that the Mission had been “absolutely backward and without vision,” and that the Mission people were “not raising up a national church, as they should, and were failing to do the obvious things to create an indigenous, Thai church.” It is interesting to compare the substance of the carefully-worded 1940 letter with Kenneth’s less-guarded comments forty years later. In the latter account there is no mention of Eakin; he speaks only against “the Mission.” Perhaps time had faded or healed the memories and it was no longer personal; the passage of forty years certainly had given him a broader perspective.

The Landon family in 1937, just before they left Thailand

The Landons’ exit from Siam in 1937 is a case study in missionary attrition. The cause of Christ in Thailand lost two sharp and passionate minds–at least as far as their presence on the ground as missionaries. No doubt they continued to engage in the spiritual battle, helping the fledgling Thai church through their prayers in the ensuing decades. They also maintained a number of relationships with Thai friends–Christians and non-Christians alike. Both Kenneth and Margaret distinguished themselves in other pursuits following their resignation from the Presbyterian Mission. Kenneth worked for the government as a specialist in Southeast Asian affairs. Margaret became a notable author, best known for her work Anna and the King of Siam, upon which the Broadway hit The King and I is based. Yet, what might their talents and drive have contributed to the mission to reach the Thai people in the 1940’s and beyond?

The Landons’ resignation letter is part of a larger body of material that had been restricted until 2010.

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The Margaret and Kenneth P. Landon Papers are housed in the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections and are available for research.

Wheaton College and the Encyclopedia Britannica

For over 200 years, from 1768 to the present, the Encyclopedia Britannica has published “the sum of knowledge,” collecting articles on a vast array of subjects written by experts. For decades the multi-volume set has graced the shelves of homes, schools and libraries the world over. In 2012 the company announced that the 2010 edition would be the final printed set. From now on Encyclopedia Britannica will be published exclusively online. Throughout the decades Britannica has engaged the talents of many capable contributors to write entries. One such was Dr. S. Richey Kamm, professor of history and political science at Wheaton College. In 1958 Kamm was asked by John V. Dodge, Managing Editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica, to revise an article about Lincoln, Illinois. Dodge instructed Kamm to not exceed 150 words and emphasize Abraham Lincoln’s role concerning the the city. The article was to completely replace the previous version, “to be written from a fresh point of view.” Dodge included a four-page, single-spaced Contributor’s Guide. “The typical reader of an Encyclopedia Britannica article is a person of average intelligence and education,” states the Guide, “not a specialist. Specialists seldom, if ever, consult Britannica articles in their own or related fields.” The Guide covers such matters as organization, length, quotations, copyright, bibliography, illustrations, captions and photographs. “There is, of course, no pat formula for a good article,” the Guide goes on. “Generally speaking, the article should proceed from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex. Many articles may be best organized in chronological order, but it is advisable to consider other possibilities.” Kamm continued revising this entry for several more editions.

Kamm’s handwritten corrections for the 1967 entry about Lincoln, Illinois

The Corruption of Conscience

In honor of the recent homegoing of Chuck Colson, an abridged version of his address “The Corruption of Conscience” (given during the Wheaton College Graduate School commencement ceremonies on May 6, 2000) is featured below. Charles W. Colson is the author of over 15 books that have sold over 5 million copies, and his daily radio commentary, “Breakpoint,” reaches an audience of over 3 million people. Mr. Colson first achieved national notoriety as an aide to President Richard M. Nixon from 1969 to 1973, when he as known as the White House “hatchet man.” After converting to Christianity and serving seven months in prison on Watergate-related charges, he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, now the largest prison outreach organization in the world.

More than ever before in American history, indeed in Western history, we are witnessing the near-death of conscience. By virtue of being created in His image and likeness, all men have a conscience that is sensitive to God’s Law. Paul writes:”For when the Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:14-15, NASB). But for many years this God-given internal moral compass has been rapidly faltering. I regularly confront that brutal truth in prisons across the country. An incident in Indiana a few years ago brought it home to me dramatically. I had visited the prison several times before, but that day a young inmate responded to my proffered handshake by smacking my hand away–a first for me. In many years of visiting prisons, I had never before encountered such direct and immediate hostility from a complete stranger. For obvious reasons, prisoners are rarely cheerful, but I saw in those eyes that day a chilling hardness I had never encountered before. Since then, however, I have seen similar hardness reflected in the eyes of countless other inmates, particularly younger ones.

Click HERE for the full address.

The Other Wheaton College

Delivering the 2010 commencement address at Wheaton College, NBC Today Show anchor Ann Curry famously flubbed when she cited several distinguished alumni: evangelist Billy Graham, filmmaker Wes Craven and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. The problem, as she quickly learned, is that these notables graduated from the Wheaton College in Illinois, not the one located in Norton, Massachusetts, where Curry had been invited to speak. “I am mortified by my mistake,” she wrote, “and can only hope the purity of my motive, to find a way to connect with the graduates and encourage them to a life of service, will allow you to forgive me.”

Curry’s eloquent apology was accepted. In fact, her mistake is common. Both colleges frequently field inquiries meant for the other. Though both institutions were founded by families named “Wheaton” rooted in the East, there is no known connection between their bloodlines.

Wheaton Female Seminary, c. 1840

Founded in 1834, Wheaton Female Seminary was designed to accommodate young women of the middle classes seeking the same education as that provided by colleges for men. Wheaton was chartered as a four-year liberal arts college in 1932, and became co-educational in 1988.

Notable alumnae from Wheaton College of Norton, Massachusetts, includes 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, former EPA Director Christie Todd Whitman and Oscar-nominated actress Catherine Keener.

No Peace Without Obedience

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. Professor of Kinesiology Marilyn Scribner (who taught at Wheaton from 1961-2002) was featured in the Spring 2002 issue.

As the end of the school year approaches, I am increasingly aware that this year will be like no other in my career. It will be the end of 41 years of teaching and coaching in the physical education and kinesiology department at Wheaton College. Those words bring to mind a multitude of student faces along with a rush of wonderful memories. It would be a conservative estimate to say that I have taught 4,000 students in various classes during these many years. What a privilege and a joy to be a part of their lives.

My call to teach came in 1952. I had previously attended Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon, and intended to do missionary service in China. Upon my graduation, though, China was closed to missions because of a takeover by the communist regime. Contemplating my future one particular day while working as a receptionist, I stopped and asked the Lord, “Is this all there is?” He led me to consider teaching and coaching sports, which I loved. Four years later, I began to teach.

In 1961, Harve Chrouser ’34, then chair of the physical education department and athletics director at Wheaton, contacted me in my home state of Washington. He proposed that I teach at a remote little college in the Midwest. I desired to be open to the Lord’s leading but was resistant to leaving the beautiful northwest. Nevertheless, I made the trip to visit Wheaton. The campus was bare of green foliage between winter and spring break, and the people were unfamiliar (and talked funny). I returned to Washington and wrote a letter to Coach Chrouser, turning down the position. But the Lord spoke to me through Hebrews 11:8, which tells of Abraham’s obedience to Him. Truthfully, I had an intense inner struggle. And with the recognition there would be no peace without obedience, I returned to Wheaton.

Those early years were difficult for me and for the department, for I was horribly homesick, declaring each year my intention to return to my beloved Washington. I turned again to Hebrews 11:8, thinking I might find something that would release me to go home. But Hebrews 11:9 brought conviction: “By faith, he [Abraham] continued in the land.”Though it wasn’t easy, connecting to Wheaton was the best decision I ever made, second only to accepting the Lord’s saving grace. Teaching and coaching at Wheaton has been exhilarating, challenging, and demanding. Have I been the perfect professor? Hardly. Nevertheless, not a day has gone by that I haven’t felt excitement upon entering a classroom or gymnasium. For the teacher and the student, each day is a fresh opportunity to make a difference in the life of another.

People have often told me that I would know when it was the right time to retire. But that was not necessarily true. I needed the Lord’s direction, as before. While reading in Samuel, the story of David’s later years came to my attention. After years of service, David had planned to build a house for the ark of the covenant, but God informed him that his labors were to cease, that David’s son, Solomon, was to become king. Immediately, I recognized the similarities between David’s story and the question of retirement. God had been faithful again.

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Professor Marilyn Scribner has been a coach and teacher at Wheaton since 1961. She graduated from Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon, in 1951, and then earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Western Washington University in Bellingham. Marilyn has written Free to Fight Back, a self- defense guide with a companion video and a bowling manual, Striking Out in Your Spare Time. She has spoken to groups on self-defense for women and has assisted local schools in initiating self-defense programs.