The Rotunda of Witnesses, located in the Billy Graham Museum on the campus of Wheaton College, displays elaborate tapestries featuring notable representatives of Christianity. The individuals originally featured in the early 1980’s included the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, Justin Martyr, Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, John Wycliffe, Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, and Oswald Chambers. John Sung, Festo Kivengere, and Pandita Ramabai have since joined their ranks.
During the 1983-84 academic year, nine Wheaton College professors each delivered a chapel message honoring the accomplishments of these heroes of the faith. Recordings of their talks are below.
Dr. Thomas Howard, whose thoughtful journey from Protestantism to Catholicism became emblematic for others struggling with similar questions, died on October 15, 2020 — which happens to be the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila.
Born into an influential, Bible-believing fundamentalist family, he was the son of Philip Howard, president/publisher/editor of The Sunday School Times, and brother of missionary Elisabeth Elliot, author of Through Gates of Splendor. As Howard explored the diverse dimensions and traditions of Christian worship, he discovered in liturgical churches a beauty, order and historicity that he felt was lacking in his home assembly.
Immersing himself in literature by philosophers, theologians and novelists like C.S. Lewis, St. Augustine, G.K. Chesterton, Karl Adam and Romano Guardini, Howard converted to Anglicanism, relishing its sacramentalism and formality; but realizing after a few years that “the ground had shifted under me,” he converted to Catholicism, sensing in Rome the climax of his quest, the fullness of the faith. When asked if he ceased being an evangelical by becoming a Catholic, Howard replied, “Quite the contrary. Evangelical and catholic are, or ought to be, synonymous. I will never be anything but an evangelical.”
He chronicles his pilgrimage in Christ the Tiger, Evangelical is not Enough, Lead, Kindly Light and On Being Catholic, in addition to innumerable essays written in prose marked by honesty, wit and elegance.
In a phone interview with Christianity Today, Howard affirmed, “I’m a fundamentalist when it comes to the scriptures,” but added that the Catholic Church “is the appointed guardian of the scriptures.” Howard did not deny his Protestant, Bible-based heritage, but saw it as a necessary and admirable foundation for his movement into Catholicism.
Howard attended Wheaton College, where his appreciation for myth, symbol and story was nourished by Dr. Clyde Kilby, professor of English and founder of the Marion E. Wade Center. Howard taught English at Gordon College and later at St. John’s Seminary.
Dr. Thomas Howard spoke several times at Wheaton College:
One night in London a petite English parlor maid named Gladys Aylward (1902-1970) attended an evangelistic meeting, where she accepted Christ as her savior. Joining the Young Life Campaign, she was deeply impressed to serve as a missionary in China. Surmounting one obstacle after another, she made her way to that vast land and briefly connected with established missionaries. Caring for Chinese orphans while leading both children and adults to Christ, Aylward briefly returned to Britain in 1949. Ten years later she returned to China and founded the Gladys Aylward Orphanage. Her astounding story is related in The Small Woman by Alan Burgess, but far less reliably in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), starring Ingrid Bergman, a much taller Swedish actress. Aylward despised the Hollywood film because it so egregiously misrepresented her ministry.
The Wheaton College Record, October 22, 1959, announces Aylward’s visit during an international tour sponsored by World Vision:
…Miss Gladys Aylward is guest speaker at SFMF next Wednesday evening at 7:15 in Pierce Chapel. Her [biography] has been published by Reader’s Digest in condensed form and also served as the basis for the film Inn of the Sixth Happiness. In 1930 with less than eight dollars in her pocket, Miss Aylward traveled across what was then “impossible” Siberia to northwest China to begin missionary work. When war broke out with Japan her loyalty to Nationalist China caused her to spy on the invaders. As a result of this she was ruthlessly beaten, and then as a fugitive without food or money, led 100 homeless children across the mountains to safety. Illness forced Miss Aylward to return to England after more than 20 years of service, but she has returned to Formosa for more work among the nationalists.
Later commenting on her tour and its effect on her audiences, Aylward said, “There is much to do [in China] and I still have no one to help me except my own children. What I would do without them I do not know. I often wonder where all the young people who go through Bible colleges go to, for they do not come here.”
During an era that produced such extraordinary missionaries as Amy Carmichael and Jim Elliot, Gladys Aylward, however short in statue, surely stands tall among the the most dedicated and bold ambassadors for Christ.
Students and visitors using the Wheaton College gymnasium (now called Adams Hall) in the early nineteenth century were required to sign a card with the following stipulations:
1) The Gymnasium is for the benefit of students of Wheaton College and others.
2) It will be open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. of each school day in the Fall, Winter and Spring terms, and at such other times as may be arranged.
3) The fee for students will be $1.00 per term: for non students, $2.00 per term. If paid for the year in advance, for students, $2.50: for non students, $5.00.
4) Baths will be accessible during the hours when the Gymnasium is open. Members using them will furnish their own soap and towels.
5) The dress will be, for men, dark blue sweater with orange W on breast; grey trousers, black Gymnasium shoes and belt: for women, dark blue blouse waist and Turkish trousers trimmed in orange; black stockings and shoes. The suit must be used when in class work.
6) No persons will be allowed to practice except as assigned by the Director, and perfect order must be maintained in the building. Tobacco may not be used in buildings or on College grounds.
An advertisement for power tools might feature burly men in a noisy workshop. An ad for luxurious perfume might feature sultry film actresses or pop divas posing in exotic locales. But what if the product is an annuity contract? Naturally, the advertisement will display a kindly-visaged matron in her rocking chair, serenely contemplating her sunset days.
The following ads, placed by Wheaton College in Moody Magazine throughout the 1950s, unashamedly brandish the heartwarming images of genteel elderly women, wondering exactly where they might securely, Christ-honoringly allocate their monies.
If these precious, irresistible old dears can trust Wheaton College with their funds, surely you can too!
HoneyRock in Three Lakes, WI, has long served Wheaton College as both a recreational getaway for staff and faculty as well as an educational facility for students. Lesser known in the annals of history is Camp Wecolldac (Wheaton College day camp), which operated from the early 1950s to the early 1970s. Whereas HoneyRock accommodates visitors in furnished cabins and other comfortable facilities, Wecolldac’s activities, designed for much younger adventurers, mostly occurred during daylight hours, with an occasional overnight stay at a forest preserve. Bob Dresser, Classroom Technology Support and former Wecolldac attendee, fondly recalls his participation in the the program from 1961-63:
Because I had working parents, my mom enrolled me for all the summer sessions for two years. I recall she got special permission since I was under age my first year (age 8?)
When I think of my time at Camp Wecolldac I first think of Coach Pooley (as we campers called him) – otherwise known as “Big Jim” to the staff. James Pooley was the camp director and man in charge of all the daily activities. He spent each day with us and was directly involved with the kids – organizing games, leading the craft sessions, leading in prayer and lunch time. Of course, he had helpers in the form of “counselors” who were college students.
Coach was a big, tall man (over 6’ 6”) – but he was never intimidating. He was kind, fun loving, and very tolerant of us wild kids. I remember he enjoyed telling us “war” stories and he teased a lot !
The Camp was organized into two week sessions and met Mon–Fri, 9am to 5pm or so. At the end of the two weeks, an optional overnight camp-out was held at White Pines State Park in Oregon, IL. There were maybe three or four sessions in the summer overall. And it was a boys only camp – maybe about 40 – 50 kids. I think a girls camp was also running elsewhere.
A typical day started with a bus ride to North Central’s pool for swim lessons. I hated the water (over my head) and was not a happy swim student. The counselors would often just throw me in – to at least get me wet. I think next we climbed in the bus and would head to some county forest preserve for lunch and activities. Rocky Glenn, McDowell Woods, Wayne Woods, etc. We brought our own bag lunches, but the camp provided “bug juice” – lemonade, etc. After lunch followed activities/crafts on the picnic tables. I still have some of my bracelet weavings! Just when the boys were getting antsy there would be game time, Capture the Flag, football and other outdoor games that would wear you out. I also recall free time, or time to explore the parks we were visiting, wading in creeks, climbing trees, whatever came up. Then the long bus ride back to Centennial Gym. I recall some of the songs the whole bus would be singing: “B-I-N-G-O,” “Ants are Marching 2×2,” “This Little Light of Mine,” etc. Sometimes the bus would be rather late, and parents’ cars would be all lined up in the parking lot, waiting to pick up their kids after a long, fun day at Camp Wecolldac.
I don’t recall if the overnight campout at White Pines was Friday or Saturday. There were shared pup tents, nighttime bonfire, group sing, serious “capture the flag” games in twilight, morning breakfast with “egg-in–the–hole” and, of course, bug juice. I also vividly remember when a certain (not Coach Pooley, who was probably leading an early morning hike) counselor’s tent stakes were loosened at midnight, such that his tent caved in. It really got fun the next morning when that counselor grabbed the prime suspect by his ankles and slowly descended him – head first – into the pit of the outhouse (no modern bathrooms at that time) – until the stake puller cried “Uncle” and “I’m sorry!” Most of the whole group witnessed the trial and punishment.
At first glance, Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, share few points of commonality; but a closer examination reveals otherwise.
Wheaton College (est. 1860) and Fermilab (est. 1967) were intentionally situated on the largely undeveloped prairie about thirty miles west of Chicago for convenient access by cross-country traffic.
Both institutions employed talented veterans of the classified Manhattan Project, which eventually ended WW II. Dr. Robert Rathbun Wilson (1914-2000), Fermilab’s first director and guiding visionary, served as the head of R (Research) Division at Los Alamos, New Mexico, under the supervision of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb.” Similarly, Dr. Roger Voskuyl (1910-2005), professor of Chemistry at Wheaton College and later president of Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, served as a group leader for the top-secret mission.
Administrative and academic activities for both campuses revolve around iconic loci featured on signage and letterhead. Fermilab’s Wilson Hall, aesthetically influenced by the gifted architect Robert R. Wilson, dominates the landscape at sixteen stories. The upward sweep of its outer walls, somewhat resembling praying hands, purposely evokes the Beauvais Cathedral in France, the most daring Gothic undertaking of the 13th-century.
Wheaton College’s neo-Gothic main building, Blanchard Hall, recalls structures admired by founder and first president Jonathan Blanchard during a European journey.
While Jonathan Blanchard was a rock-ribbed Yankee who protected escaped slaves via the Underground Railroad, Robert Wilson was a proud descendant of abolitionist John G. Fee, founder of Berea College, a school for blacks and whites in pre-Civil War Kentucky. Wilson also actively recruited people of color to work at Fermilab during the Civil Rights Movement.
Fermilab’s staggeringly complex machinery, particularly DUNE (Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment), is extensively networked beneath the farmland of Batavia, while the sandstone blocks used to construct Blanchard Hall were cut from a quarry in Batavia.
Both institutions boast pretty good cafeterias.
A herd of buffalo, brought by Wilson to recall his beloved childhood home in Wyoming, graze the high grasses on a ranch at Fermilab, while a gaggle of haughty geese strut freely through the manicured acreage of Wheaton College.
Fermilab educates students, scientists and engineers from all over the world. Likewise, globally minded Wheaton College prepares international missionaries, teachers, pastors and other workers, fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
As Dr. Leon Lederman, the Nobel Prize winning second director of Fermilab, observes, the U.S. Department of Energy research facility investigates with perpetual wonder and perplexity the subatomic conundrums posed by “inner space, outer space, and the time before time.” Exploring multidimensionality from a literary vantage, Wheaton College displays a wardrobe owned by British author C.S. Lewis, which modeled the magical doorway into Narnia. In addition, the Christian liberal arts college archives the papers of Madeleine L’Engle, who wrote A Wrinkle in Time, about a perilous trek through the centuries. In fact, her award-winning science fantasies were inspired by papers published by theoretical physicists Albert Einstein, Max Planck and Niels Bohr.
And despite the efforts of the finest minds and the most sophisticated instrumentality, the comprehensive “theory of everything,” the invisible energy field that holds the universe intact, remains frustratingly elusive. “The universe is the answer,” laments Lederman in The God Particle (1993), “but damned if we know the question.”
If one imagines an anthropomorphized Wilson Hall crying out the plaintive inquiries of a puzzled quantum physicist to the starry cosmos, then Blanchard Hall, standing only ten miles away, simply responds to that plea with Hebrews 1:3, “[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
In an age of superstar athletes, Harold “Red” Grange (1903-1991) stands among the greatest, embodying the spirit of honest sportsmanship and American achievement. Chris Willis’ Red Grange: The Life and Legacy of the NFL’s First Superstar (2019) chronicles the rise of the humble football player from his first job delivering ice blocks in Wheaton, Illinois, to performing immortal exploits on the gridiron, to his brief acting career in Hollywood, and finally his role as the esteemed elder statesman for the National Football League.
Consulting an array of resources, including the Red Grange Papers (SC-20) at Special Collections, Buswell Library, Wheaton College, Willis offers a fresh perspective on the beloved coach, broadcaster, pitchman, Hall of Famer and ambassador.
Chris Willis is head of the research library for NFL Films. His books included The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr (2010); Dutch Clark: The Life of an NFL Legend and the Birth of the Detroit Lions (2012); and The Inside Story of the 1984 San Francisco 49ers (2014). He was nominated for an Emmy in 2002 for his work on the HBO documentary The Game of Their Lives: Pro Football’s Wonder Years and won an Emmy in 2016 for his work on HBO’s Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Houston Texans.
Dr. Leighton Ford is President of Leighton Ford Ministries, preparing younger leaders to spread the gospel of Christ to a needy world. From 1955 until 1985 he served as Associate Evangelist and later Vice President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Ford’s ties with Billy remained strong throughout the decades.
Not only were they eventual brothers-in-law, but the renowned evangelist, preaching at a 1949 Youth for Christ rally in Chatham, Ontario, suggested to young Leighton that he consider attending Wheaton College near Chicago instead of Knox College in Toronto. Persuaded, Leighton packed his bags and headed south to the Land of Lincoln. Biographer Norman B. Rohrer relates a few episodes from Leighton Ford: A Life Surprised (1981):
The gray Oldsmobile was loaded for the trip that would take Leighton to Illinois, farther from home than he had ever traveled. Mrs. Ford insisted on going along and further embarrassed her son by renting an apartment near the campus to keep an eye on him…All who entered with Leighton in 1949 signed a pledge of total abstinence from tobacco, liquor, and movie-going. Mrs. Ford, watching from her post off-campus, found the movie ban curious. Her austere conservatism could match anybody’s, but she had not struck movies off her list of permissibles. She tugged occasionally on the apron strings from her watchtower while Leighton tried to keep her clinging presence a secret.
Wheaton [College] was a daily serendipity for the young preacher. His room was only a few blocks from the international headquarters of Youth for Christ where his heroes came and went. Gil Dodds, world champion indoor miler, was Wheaton’s track coach; a school friend named Bill Davies was the brother of internationally famous basketball star Bob Davies, who had embraced the Christian faith.
Many thought that Leighton had copied Billy Graham’s style of preaching. The similarities were explainable: both were tall (Leighton nearly an inch taller than Billy) and thin (Leighton runs ten pounds lighter than his brother-in-law but is an inch broader in the shoulders). Both have the same vocal characteristics. Both have expansive gesticulation, a commanding voice, an urgency of theme. And both were caught up in the fervor of the new Youth for Christ movement that demanded such a flamboyant style.
In 1951 Leighton became a candidate for student body president during his senior year. He persuaded a reluctant Sam Befus to manage his campaign and the stage was set. For buttons blossomed. His campaign slogan was: “There’s a Ford in your future.” Posters showed a boy and a girl — the girl poised for a kiss, the boy admiring instead a passing Ford car. It was the wrong poster for conservative Wheatonites in the early fifties.
Leighton’s nimble mind was a seedbed for the postulations of such professors as Merrill Tenney, Arthur Holmes, Kenneth Kantzer and Clarence Hale….Leighton was qualified to enter upon his college major of philosophy. He proved it by graduating with the highest score on his comprehensive examinations of all other students in Wheaton’s 92-year history.
Leighton Ford is the author of several books, including Sandy: A Heart for God, chronicling the unexpected death of his son. His autobiography, A Life of Listening: Discerning God’s Voice and Discerning Our Own, was released by InterVarsity Press in 2019.