All posts by David Osielski

Ronald Reagan visits Wheaton

Ronald Reagan at Wheaton College, 1980

On October 8, 1980, Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan came to Wheaton College at the invitation of the campus Republicans.  His visit  came after receiving his party’s nomination during the fall campaign season and was covered in the Record student newspaper.  Edman Chapel was filled early in the afternoon by students and area residents eager to see and hear the former California governor.  State and county political figures, including Illinois governor James Thompson, filled the platform and spoke at some length when Reagan failed to appear at the scheduled time.  A busy day of campaigning, which had begun in Youngstown, Ohio, delayed his arrival by one hour.

The governor’s whistle-stop visit was accompanied by numerous religious references within the first few sentences of his speech.  He spoke of deliverance, rebirth and C.S. Lewis–words that were well-chosen and that resonated with the audience.  Candidate Reagan’s address centered not on war or the proliferation of nuclear arms, but on education.

This work of educational excellence and missionary work is truly in the tradition of the biblical injunction: ‘Go ye, therefore and teach all nations.’

Only if the people closest to the problems of education — teachers, parents, school boards, and boards of governors — are allowed to make the basic educational decisions, will the quality of education improve.

He praised Wheaton as a school with a mission.  Reagan promised, if elected, to form a task force to analyze federal educational programs.  He expressed support for tuition tax credits for parents sending children to non-public schools.

What we want is so simple, so elementary.  All we want is to live in freedom and in peace, to see to it that our nation’s legitimate interests are protected and promoted.  We want to worship God in our own way, lead our own lives, take care of our families and live in our own style, in our own community, without hurting anyone or anyone hurting us…We want the kind of personal security human beings can reasonably expect in a system of economic freedom and democratic self-government.

At the conclusion of his address Reagan laughed when presented with a stuffed mascot-sized replica of Perry Mastodon by Brad Bright, president of the campus Republicans.  Obligated to hurry off to his next campaign stop, the visitor had no opportunity to tour the campus or chat informally with students.

Reagan would defeat Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter the following month in the general election. President Carter himself came to campus twelve years later to give the  Pfund Lecture.

Irina Ratushinskaya (1954-2017)

Irina Ratushinskaya in 1987

This past summer on July 5, Irina Ratushinskaya, former Russian poet and novelist who survived four years in a Soviet prison camp, died in Moscow.

Her heroic story captured the attention of the West after being arrested in 1983 for anti-Soviet propaganda.  She composed hundreds of poems while in prison and smuggled them on cigarette paper through her husband.  She was released before the Iceland summit meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and would later meet the U.S. President in Washington, D.C. after securing her freedom.

The papers of Irina Ratushinskaya came to Special Collections, Buswell Library, beginning in the summer of 1992 through contacts of Associate Professor of Communication Emerita, Myrna Grant.  They include works of poetry, correspondence, articles, audio and artwork.  As well, they include a memoir of her time in prison, entitled Grey Is The Color Of Hope.  The largest portion of the collection is devoted to secondary material about Ms. Ratushinskaya while she was imprisoned and as human rights individuals advocated for her release.

One of her poems speaks to the harsh labor conditions and her periodic hunger strikes at the prison camp:

And I will tell of the first beauty I saw in captivity.
A frost-covered window! No spy-holes, nor walls,
Nor cell-bars, nor the long endured pain —
Only a blue radiance on a tiny pane of glass.

In April 1987, Irina spoke at Wheaton College while she and her husband, Igor Gerashchenko, were guests of Northwestern University in nearby Evanston, Illinois.

On This Day in Wheaton History

Ruth Mellis
Ruth Mellis c1931

On this day in history (April 19), Wheaton alumna Ruth Margaret Mellis was born in 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri to Charles J. and Selina M. (Vollmer) Mellis.  She attended Ritenour High School (Overland, MO) and graduated from Wheaton College in 1931 with a B.S. in Elementary Education. She was a member of the Philalethean Literary Society, and volunteered with the Y.M.C.A.

In 1945 she left the city school system to volunteer to teach missionaries’ children in Africa as a non-professional at the Empress School in Ethiopia. During this 3 year short-term she assisted in the formation of the Wheaton Alumni Association of Ethiopia where many grads worked in that country.

In August 1954 she sailed to Greece to be a teacher where she served alongside Worldwide Prayer and Missionary Union as an independent missionary ministering to grown orphans around Athens. In a 1967 prayer letter she began to direct funds to ELWA Greek programs with Sudan Interior Mission. The ELWA Ministries Association traces its roots back to 1952 when SIM (then known as the Sudan Interior Mission) joined with the West Africa Broadcasting Association that was attempting to start the first Christian radio station in Africa.

Radio ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa), located in the Paynesville area east of central Monrovia, started to broadcast in January 1954. By 1973 she had moved to Puebla, Mexico with the Central Ameican Mission as a church planter among internationals. In 1977 she “retired” after 33 years of foreign service to St. Louis. For many years afterward she made many short-term trips to Mexico and Greece. She died on January 15, 2007 in Saint Ann, MO, three months prior to her 100th birthday.  Her college memorabilia and scrapbooks are held in Special Collections and her personal papers are held in the Billy Graham Center Archives.

Why Do Some Nations Prosper?

Twenty-five years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles entitled “On My Mind” in which Wheaton faculty wrote about their thinking, research, or favorite books and people. Dr. Peter (P.J.) Hill, Professor of Economics Emeritus, was featured in the Winter 2009 issue. Dr. Hill served as the George F. Bennett Professor of Economics at Wheaton from 1986-2011.

Peter (P.J.) Hill

Some countries languish in no-growth mode while others flourish.  A new economic school of thought provides insights into economic disparity

My discipline has long been termed the dismal science, a description given to economics by historian Thomas Carlyle in the nineteenth century. Indeed, much economic analysis has taken the form of throwing cold water on reforms that will supposedly improve human well-being, arguing that good intentions are not enough and that one needs to carefully think through the incentive effects of any policy change.

More recently, however, one sub-discipline in economics, the New Institutional Economics, has given a positive response to an important question: Why the great differences in income and wealth across societies?

In 1800 the richest countries of the world had per capita incomes about three times that of poor countries. By 2005 this gap had widened so significantly that the per capita incomes of the richest countries were sixty times that of the poor countries.

Almost all of this growing difference is not because of exploitation of the poor by the rich. Instead, the vast gap has arisen because of varied abilities to produce wealth. In other words, some parts of the world have discovered the engine of economic growth, while such growth has bypassed other parts.

Economists have tried numerous explanations for such differences in growth, varying from natural resources to infrastructure to education. All of these have been found to be lacking, especially when embodied in foreign aid programs.

The fundamental cause of economic growth is found in the institutional structure of an economy. The rule of lax protection of property rights, openness to trade, enforcement of contracts, and a stable money supply are all-important for rewarding the individual endeavor that produces increases in economic well-being.

That doesn’t mean other efforts are futile. Microfinance—the making of small loans to individual entrepreneurs—has been successful in numerous settings. A new movement, Business as Mission, also shows real promise. In this endeavor Christians start businesses to glorify God by both creating wealth for all stakeholders and exemplifying biblical principles. Both of these efforts, however, are more likely to thrive in a good institutional environment.

If it is as simple as getting the right institutions in place, why have some countries remained in the no- or slow- growth mode? Usually this is because the elites, or those in control, don’t find such an institutional environment to their advantage. Indeed, when one examines institutions in less developed nations, one often finds that things like property rights and contract enforcement are not easily available to the poor and marginalized.

Therefore, Christians concerned with poverty should work toward a well functioning set of rules, and those rules should give those at the bottom the same access to a fair judicial system and protection of their property as those at the top of the economic order.


[The following statement was included at the time of publication — Wheaton Magazine, Winter 2009]  Dr. Peter (P.J.) Hill, the George F. Bennett Professor of Economics at Wheaton, is a Senior Fellow at Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana. He is a coauthor of Growth and Welfare in the American Past; The Birth of a Transfer Society; and The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier. He has also written numerous articles on the theory of property rights and institutional change and has edited six books on environmental economics. He is a graduate of Montana State and the University of Chicago. P.J. also owns and operates a ranch in western Montana.

God’s Hand in History

Why the secular notion of luck should not replace providence.

While conducting doctoral work at the University of St. Andrews, I was challenged to ponder the factors that influenced the church’s theological and institutional development within a secular history department. During that time, I observed that while the cause of historical events was primarily attributed to human action, the mysterious role of fortunate circumstances or “luck” also factored into historical explanations on occasion.

I first became aware of this rationale when grading a freshman history paper, which claimed that Cortez’s conquest of the Incas was successful due to luck. This explanation surprised me, particularly in a culture supposedly moving toward the disenchantment of the world, or Entzauberung, as scholars of secularism purport.

With new eyes, I began to see the offhand comments about luck in all manner of sources. It soon occurred to me that “luck” had become the “providence” of secular culture: that force beyond human comprehension, which could not be ignored, bringing about opportune circumstances for some and not for others at particular moments.

If Tertullian were alive today, he might ask, “What do Christians have to do with luck?” For a believer and an historian of the church and theology, luck is not the ultimate explanation.

I am reminded of a powerful scene in the 1982 movie Gandhi in which Gandhi and a clergyman were walking on the sidewalk together. According to the custom in India at the time, Gandhi was expected to walk in the street. Despite the presence of threatening men, he refused. When the confrontation did not lead to violence, the clergyman—clearly shaken—turned to Gandhi and exclaimed, “Well, that was lucky!” To that, Gandhi pointedly replied, “Ah, but I thought you were a man of God.”

At Wheaton College, we have the precious freedom to integrate faith and learning in the classroom. In my discipline, there are ways to do this responsibly. While we cannot determine God’s will with ease—particularly when considering issues of theodicy—we can be confident in God’s mysterious providence at work in our world and in the course of history without resorting to the secular rhetoric of “luck.”

Moreover, human history reveals many remarkable events from our past, but none can compare to the singular event of Christ’s incarnation in our world. Napoleon’s remarks on the unique power of Christ are worth reflecting upon:

“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and myself have founded great empires, but on what did those creations of our genius rest? Upon force . . . . But Jesus Christ by some mysterious influence, even through the lapse of 18 centuries, so draws the hearts of men towards him that thousands at a word would rush through fire and flood for him, not counting their lives dear to themselves.”

Understanding the ongoing “mysterious influence” of Christ in our world is not a search for luck, but for God’s hand in history.

Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt, Assistant Professor of Theology and History of Christianity — Wheaton Magazine, Spring 2009

Rebuilding on a Solid Foundation

Article excerpted from Wheaton Magazine, Wheaton (IL) College, Spring 2008.

Numbers aside, one of Wheaton’s most well loved math professors looks at the solutions the new campaign will provide.

Although Wheaton’s state-of-the-art science center will be pleasant, it is not the comfort of new offices and the expectation of attractive student space that capture my imagination— rather, it is the possibility of renewing Wheaton’s mathematical and scientific enterprise for the next generations of Wheaton students.

pict0Our existing science and mathematics facilities in Breyer and Armerding Halls have their roots in the technologies and perspectives of the 1950s and ’60s. Over the last half century the content and methods of these disciplines have grown enormously—new sub-disciplines in math and science have emerged, different interdisciplinary relationships have evolved, and new departmental interdependencies have been established. Computational chemistry, mathematical models for dynamical physical systems, environmental science, computer-based simulation and visualization, and many, many other new mathematical and scientific domains now play crucial roles in helping us to better understand important processes within God’s creation.

In my dream for a new science building, I see students vigorously engaged in mathematics and science without the discouraging limitations imposed by two old buildings. The math and computer science department will finally have student project and research rooms, an improved seminar room, enlarged and well-lit student study rooms…and all of these in immediate proximity to our departmental faculty offices.These offices will even be large enough to help three or four students all at once—without having to search for a frequently nonexistent empty classroom. We will be freed to do science and mathematics; our classrooms will have the flexibility to be reconfigured for group work, media-based presentation, traditional lecture instruction, or seminar-style meetings. Departments will be arrayed in proximity to a central core to enable easy connection and collaboration.

As of now, the obsolescence of our old facilities along with the constraints that they impose upon learning, research, and teaching threaten to utterly compromise mathematics and science at Wheaton. I find it personally unsettling to know that we are already losing strong students who would become salt and light as cutting-edge scientists, health professionals, mathematicians, or computer scientists. Wheaton’s contribution to these disciplines stands to be diminished.

The prospect of a markedly improved teaching and learning environment with resources better configured for student engagement, practice, interaction, and collaboration really stirs my enthusiasm for The Promise of Wheaton. The new science building will create and dramatically enhance numerous possibilities for contemporary research, for more effective student mentoring and collaboration, for sophisticated interactive instruction, and for developing a renewed stream of Christian mathematicians and scientists who will not be left behind by these advancing disciplines.

Dr. Terry Perciante, Chair of Mathematics and Computer Science

Rediscovering Our Christian Heritage

Clipboard01Last summer I had the chance of a lifetime—a six-week trip to exotic places, all expenses paid. The catch: take 30 students with me.

Because these were Wheaton students, the job was easy and delightful, but personally challenging nonetheless. I expected physical and intellectual hurdles as we traveled through Israel, Istanbul, Greece, and Rome, but was unprepared for the richness of spiritual enlightenment as I journeyed through places of religious turmoil, encountering Jews and Muslims, as well as Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic Christians.

Often exhausted, sweaty, hot, and dusty after our lengthy hikes, I gained a clearer picture of Jesus’ tired frame slumping by Jacob’s well as he appealed to the Samaritan woman for a drink. Exploring Philippi, I caught whispering echoes of the Apostle Paul proclaiming the gospel to Lydia at the river, the water still flowing over the same rocks that witnessed the gospel’s entrance into Europe. From the magnificent heights of the Parthenon, I looked over the ancient Athenian agora (market) and marveled at the rich extravagance ascribed to the ancient gods and goddesses. (Little wonder many scoffed at Paul’s claims about a simple Jew being the Savior of the world.) In Rome, the still impressive Forum and Coliseum are now a crumbling reminder of the empire’s former strength and cruelty.

The physical stresses and intellectual challenges prepared me for the most trying contest-delving deeply into questions surrounding Christian unity and charity. For the first time, I engaged with Orthodox Christians and their worship. The holy sites in Bethlehem and Jerusalem are perfumed with the incense of centuries of devotion—a piety totally unfamiliar to my Evangelical Free Church upbringing.

In Istanbul, our group was granted rare privileges: an audience both with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, and with the Armenian Patriarch, Mesrob II. The latter was a jovial conversationalist who entertained our direct questions for an hour. Having studied in the United States, he contrasted the American situation with that of his flock, for whom simply confessing oneself a Christian in public was bold indeed. He added that serving both Muslims and Christians in their church-operated hospital spoke volumes to the wider public. His All Holiness Bartholomew I granted a formal audience where he stressed his unity-building work with Muslims in Turkey as well as his concerted efforts to protect the environment.

Perhaps nothing so poignantly symbolizes the tensions and aspirations for peace between faiths as the Hagia Sophia, built as the grandest church in Christendom, and later converted to a mosque. Currently Christian frescos and Islamic medallions compete for a visitor’s attention. Scaffolding rising from the center, 20-stories high, epitomizes the rebuilding hopes of Christians seeking peace with their Muslim neighbors.

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Dr. Lynn Cohick, Associate Professor of New Testament, is interested in how average Jews and Christians lived out their faith in the ancient setting of Hellenism and the Roman Empire. Prior to coming to Wheaton, she taught overseas at the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology in Kenya for three years. She enjoys riding horses, reading mysteries, and jogging with her husband, Jim. (The above statement was included at the time of publication — Wheaton Magazine, Autumn 2008)

Inspiration

Derek-McNeil

How does “paying it forward” play out in academia?

I was recently asking a very talented former student about her experiences as a new instructor. She expressed how much she loved what she was doing, and parenthetically asked how I had known teaching would fit her calling. I couldn’t quite bring myself to tell her how evident her talents and gifts were, or to dispel the mysteries around my powers of observation. However, still enjoying the moment of grandiosity and humor, I was reminded that I had simply lived out a generational legacy.

When I was a junior in college, the head of the psychology department, Dr. Martha Shalitta, said to me, “You are going to teach college students one day:’ It was a remarkable thing to hear as a young African American man-the first generation of his family to attend a four-year college. At that time my highest aspiration was simply to graduate, so becoming a faculty member was not a real consideration. In fact, to this day I’m not sure what compelled her to say this, but it began a dream that God brought to fulfillment. I have been very fortunate throughout my academic career to have people invest themselves in my future, and speak inspiration into my life; moreover to offer dreams beyond my imagination, and wisdom beyond my life experiences.

I am convinced that mentoring is more than scholarly assistance or career coaching; but it is also helping students see their greater potential and then facilitating the possibilities.

This is the most inspiring and renewing aspect of my work. Consequently, of my three most rewarding duties, teaching/training, collaborative scholarship with faculty and students, and mentoring young professionals-mentoring is the most personally satisfying. It means that I sometimes allow students to disturb my scholarship moments, or occupy my research time and linger in conversations that go beyond a particular question to the larger questions of living wisely. I find that this allows me to hear a deeper narrative of their dreams and possible selves, but it also provides a chance to question their perceptions and distortions. Mostly, it gives me a chance to learn who they are and see how God is shaping and inspiring them.

Supporting students as they identify their calling and capacities has become as important to me as helping them determine the future questions that their generation must answer. For them to answer these challenges, they will need to be people of creative intellectual abilities, plus spiritual men and women of maturing qualities. Mentoring can help students avoid the pitfalls of becoming self-absorbed in aggrandizing ventures, or the experience of disillusionment from kindheartedness without discernment. Most importantly, mentoring can inspire them beyond their first dream.

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Dr. J. Derek McNeil, Associate Professor of Psychology, received his Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Northwestern and his M.Div. from Fuller. He teaches diversity; clinical interviewing skills; group, marital, and family therapy; and has traveled nationally and internationally presenting workshops and seminars. He has also published four articles and authored chapters in five books. (The above statement was included at the time of publication — Wheaton Magazine, Winter 2008)

 

Why Literature?

When I was a graduate student, I received a letter from my father that I will never forget. A career military man, he wrote in his typically clipped prose: “Explain terminal objectives of the Ph.D. in English.”

The question is not as hostile as it sounds. My father just wanted to understand why I was willing to endure a five-year diet of Ramen noodles. But the assumptions behind his question struck me. How could I explain to him that the study of literature exists, in part, to remind us that life is more than what can be measured by “terminal objectives”?

This truth has become central to my research concerns in recent years. Technologically advanced nations dazzle their citizens with dreams of genetically engineering children, escaping into virtual reality, perfecting the body, and even attaining immortality. Anyone who has followed the biotech and nanotech revolutions knows that these goals are not the stuff of science fiction only. And technocratic futurists like Ray Kurzweil try to make the desirability of these goals a given. What could be wrong with wanting children who are born without a genetic predisposition to cancer, they ask? Why not pursue the science of perpetually renewing, wrinkle-free skin? And if life is good, shouldn’t we all want to live longer, healthier lives?

While some might say that our rapidly changing biotech culture proves that the study of literature can be only an ivory tower indulgence, I believe that problems like these prove that we cannot afford not to study literature. Literature trains the moral imagination—that faculty that is uniquely able to challenge culture’s cherished assumptions. The moral imagination sees more broadly. It sees motives. It sees into the future—and into the past. It sees the potential for unintended consequences. It cautions us.

For example, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Birth-Mark” teaches us that behind the desire for beauty there may lurk a narcissism that is disdainful of real people. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World teaches us that a social utopian’s vision of the good life might be, in fact, quite ugly. Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake teaches us how our culture is shaping young people who, in the name of “progress,” see no problem with sacrificing humanity to attain it. Literary fiction can shock us into seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly—and the real difference between them. As Flannery O’Connor puts it, “I’m always highly irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.”

Why study literature? Because in some ways it has never been more important for us to know who we are-and where we are really going.

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Dr. Christina Bieber Lake, Associate Professor of English, received her Ph.D. in English from Emory University in Atlanta, and is associate professor of English, specializing in contemporary American literature. She is the author of The Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor, and is currently investigating American fiction’s engagement with posthumanism. She enjoys this excuse to watch Star Trek and to write about cyborgs, clones, and artificial life. Christina and her husband, Steve ’91, recently added their son, Donovan, to the family. All three eagerly await a Chicago Bears Super Bowl victory. (The above statement was included at the time of publication — Wheaton Magazine, Winter 2007)

 

True North

Market economies do an amazing job of providing goods and services that we enjoy on a regular basis. A stroll through your favorite supermarket, chain drugstore, or major department store—with countless products on display—clearly illustrates our grand array of choices. When we go to sleep at night, there are literally hundreds of millions of people around the world investing time and energy thinking about us, what we need and want, and how they can produce those things.

I get excited when I can help students appreciate the power of economic forces and understand how market economies work. But at the core of any market system is a concept of value that is egocentric, humanistic, and relativistic. Markets are defined by a sense of value that says, Things are worth what I say they are worth. This poses no little challenge to a Christian professor of economics.

I have come to believe that your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness, and sometimes a real weakness, in another context, can actually work for you. Such is the case, I believe, with marketplace morality. The greatest weakness of markets is they are morally neutral—they can’t distinguish between penicillin or pornography, peanuts or prostitution, housing or heroin. In 2004 Americans spent $92.8 billion on gambling as compared to $38.7 billion on computers and peripherals. But markets are excellent mirrors for reflecting whatever values people bring to them. If we bring the right values to the marketplace, then that is what will be reflected back to us in the form of goods and services.

Over the last several years, I’ve been trying to synthesize a list of values that transcend pure economic individualism. Are there values that everyone can agree and aspire to? I offer these twelve:

• People are more important than things.
• Treat others as you want to be treated.
• Truth matters at all levels.
• Leave things a little better than you found them.
• People are looking for a cause to live for that is larger than themselves.
• Let freedom ring. (In the best companies, people don’t feel like slaves. They feel that they can have influence.)
• Community counts.
• Good laws will outlive good men.
• Value vocation. (Decide who you want to be, and let that drive what you do.)
• Life is a mix of duty and delight.
• Choice has consequence.
• Keep the core when all else is changing. (People will be better positioned to accept change when they know something isn’t changing fundamentally.)

I’m not suggesting that people have embraced these values to the point where they are fully integrated into economic activity, but people do want to live in an economic world where critical transcendent values operate throughout the system. This requires economic leadership, and leaders who know where to go. Our desire at Wheaton is for students to graduate with a recognition of knowing how to find “true north,” a keen sense for moral direction. It is the only way we can be truly pleased with all the outcomes of the marketplace.

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Dr. Bruce Howard ’74, Professor of Business & Economics, is chair of the business and economics department of Wheaton College. He is a CPA, and earned his Ph.D. in economics and his M.S.A. in accounting from Northern Illinois University. Dr. Howard enjoys spending time with his family, and his hobbies include art, music (guitar and banjo), and playing tennis. He is also currently working on a book that elaborates on his 12 values for a moral marketplace. (The above statement was included at the time of publication — Wheaton Magazine, Winter 2006)