Category Archives: Alumni

Project Evangel

The Evangel 4500, constructed by pilot-mechanic Carl Mortenson of Wycliffe Bible Translators, was the first twin-engine airplane specially designed for missionary use in the most remote, rugged areas of the world. Before Mortenson’s innovative engineering on the craft, small planes were limited to single-engine capability, susceptible to power failure during takeoff and landing on short jungle runways.

EvangelReceiving funding from several Chicago laymen, the Evangel 4500 was ready for its first major mission in 1969. Passengers for thetwo-month voyage to South America were pilot Mortenson, Dr. Paul Wright, chairman of the chemistry department  at Wheaton College, and nine other board members of Project Evangel.

Explaining the need for the plane, Wright remarked, “We don’t feel it’s right to expose missionaries to the hazards of a single engine plane. The Evangel 4500 can carry two passengers in addition to its 4 x 4 x 9 storage area, or the entire space can be used for passengers. It can take off with a full load in 498 feet. Its maximum altitude is 22,500 feet, but one with engine gone it can still fly at 7100 feet.” After the successful flight, Wright often lectured at local churches, telling the story of the unique airplane and its mission.

Thumbprints in the Clay

Luci Shaw, in her newly released book, Thumbprints in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Roder and Grace (2016), traces the “thumbprints” of an endlessly creative, ever-creating God. ShawInterspersing poetry with autobiographical essays, Shaw writes, “I knew I had to make this writing the centerpiece, the birth announcement of my spiritual liberation and purpose in God.”

In addition to her reflections, Shaw includes moving reminiscences of her friendships with novelist Madeleine L’Engle, with whom she wrote several books, and mentor Clyde Kilby, her beloved and highly influential English professor at Wheaton College.

Thumbprints in the Clay is published by InterVarsity Press. The papers of Luci Shaw, Madeleine L’Engle and Clyde Kilby are archived at Wheaton College.

 

The Greg Livingstone Story

Greg Livingstone is a pioneer missionary to unreached Muslim peoples. His love for the millions of Muslims who had no opportunity to hear the gospel led to the founding of Frontiers, a mission agency specializing in church planting among Muslim nations and communities. LivingstoneFrontiers oversees 1,300 workers in 50 countries of Africa and Asia. Livingstone tells his story in You’ve Got Libya: A Life Serving the Muslim World (2014). The following passages relate his experiences as a student at Wheaton College in the late 1950s.

At Wheaton, I met for the first time real Christians who weren’t Baptists. I initially confused Plymouth Brethren with Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they used different church vocabulary than I’d known. But I figured that since Wheaton grad Jim Elliot, who had been killed two years earlier as a missionary in Ecuador, had been Plymouth Brethren, they couldn’t be that bad. Even more riveting to me was my discovery of Bible-believing Presbyterians. They seemed to love God with their minds!

Unlike me, most of the other students at Wheaton came from evangelical families. They’d heard it all before — sometimes ad nauseum. Far too many students were at Wheaton at the insistence of their families, who feared secular universities. Wes Craven, a suitemate during my freshman year, later became a director of horror films in Hollywood, despite spending his first twenty-two years imbibing sound biblical teaching.

In my quest to hang out with the spiritual guys, I got acquainted with an unknown Wheaton graduate, Bill Gothard, who was organizing Bible clubs in high schools. He asked me to oversee a group in Roselle, near Wheaton. Later, I became his assistant as he developed a new ministry. He would often use clever chalk illustrations to explain biblical concepts. Lugging his chalk board from church to church, we visited pastors to explain the principles that were later incorporated into his Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts. Gothard’s ministry was helpful to many young people.

My experiences at Wheaton College were certainly formative and preparatory for the rest of my life. Daily, we sat in chapel listening to some of the greatest bible expositors of the time. I was stunned when the British pastor Alan Redpath spoke on Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares. I worried that I might be chaff — that I wasn’t really born again. I ran back to my room, dropped to my knees, and prayed, “Lord, if I am not really converted, if I am not really yours, I submit to you right now as my Lord and Savior.” I’ve never had to bring up the question again.

You’ve Got Libya is endorsed by George Verwer of Operation Mobilization, Don Richardson, author of Peace Child, Professor John Frame of Reformed Theological Seminary and many others.

A Twisted Wheaton College Love Story

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A Wheaton College Love Story

The Rock Island Argus, September 19, 1922, published the following delightful love story:

 A romance that endured through half a century approaches its climax at Evanston today, when Mrs. Ella H. Ellis, 73, of Evanston, and Edward F. Fox, 76, of Albany, Oregon, exhibited a marriage license. They were sweethearts when they attended Wheaton College together in 1868 and became engaged then, but Mr. Fox left to finish a college career at the University of Michigan. Then he went west. They drifted apart until both married others. The wife of Edward Fox died two years ago. When he came out and called on his old sweetheart while passing through Chicago, he learned that her husband, John Ellis, a Congregational minister, died 13 years ago. Old memories were rapidly recalled and other events forgotten. “There’s nothing half so sweet in life as love’s young dream,” Mrs. Ellis quoted as they planned their honeymoon.

The Power of Self Command

Today it is common for public speakers to adopt informal methods of delivery. Contemporary audiences  might see the speaker slouching before them wearing bleached blue jeans with a loose, untucked Hawaiian shirt. In some instances, the speaker might even sit cross-legged on the stage, attempting to establish a friendly bond with his hearers.  Straw4However, the notion of excessively easygoing oratory delivered before an expectant auditorium was unfathomable when Dr. Darien Straw (1857-1950), Professor of Rhetoric and Logic and Principal of the Preparatory Department of Wheaton College, published Lessons in Expression and Physical Drill (1892), a consolidation of his classroom wisdom.

He emphasizes that proper posture, efficient gesticulation and precise elocution contribute immeasurably to the intellectual development and future success of the sensibly educated young man or woman. Outward order merely reflects inward stability. “Helping young people to discover ill temper in the voice, carelessness in the walk, selfishness in the bearing and laziness in the words,” writes Straw, “and giving them facility to avoid these, avails more than business proverbs and social precepts.” Throughout the book Straw offers helpful examples.

Straw2This gentleman stands in the drill position. “Heels together,” writes Straw, “toes turned out from 45 to 90 degrees apart, knees straight, body erect, head well back, chin slightly curbed, chest expanded, arms down at the side with the edge of the hand forward. A good test of erect positon is to stand with the back against a door or other vertical plane so that you can touch it in four places — with the heels, the hips, the shoulders and the head. If you find it difficult to do this there is the more reason for perservering in an erect position.  Once the drill position is properly maintained, the student can practice his vocals. Avoid any attempt at loudness,” warns Straw, “but listen to the tone to see if it is correct.”

Straw3Straw later discusses the calculated use of the prone hand and the supine hand. “The primary meaning of the Prone Hand is repression or covering. It is the reverse of the Supine hand, the palm is turned down. It has a great variety of uses, but all related to this primary meaning. The idea of the snow spread upon the earth contains also the idea of a covering. The idea of peace, quiet or stillness contains at the same time suppression of noise or movement and may be expressed by the Prone Hand. There is a gradual shading of this position to that of Averse hand, as we would repress an action or thought disagreeable. As our emotions shade into one another, so our action combines different expressions.”

 

“This, then,” writes Straw, “is an effort to help teachers in giving to pupils the power of self command.”

 

Jack & Jill Ranch on Big Wildcat Lake

Before Camp Honey Rock (later Honey Rock Camp)  became firmly established as a favorite getaway destination, Wheaton College faculty and students seeking a fresh blast of the great outdoors slipped northward to the Jack & Jill Ranch (“for young people, 19-35 years old”) in Rothbury, Michigan, about 200 miles from campus. The 650-acre lakeside property provided an ideal venue for horseback riding, swimming, boating, canoeing, archery, riflery, meals and lodging.

Ranch1

In addition to these activities, the promotional booklet loudly boasts, “Dance music is provided by our own orchestra. There’s square dancin’, too…we’ll teach you right from scratch.” Abiding by the Wheaton College rules of conduct, students probably quite reluctantly refrained from “dancin'”, especially in the presence of college administration. And when Sunday rolled around, guests were transported to one of “…our little Catholic or Protestant churches in the quaint village of Rothbury.”

In  May, 1953, the Senior Sneak, comprising the entire graduating class, fled campus and settled for two days at the Jack & Jill Ranch. Ranch2In addition to hearty relaxation, the Senior Sneak organized a worship service with Dr. V. Raymond Edman, President of Wheaton College, conducting the communion table.  The Sneak, probably gathered around a roaring campfire, sang their class song:

We’re on the road to victory,

And we can fight as you will see,

As we throng around,

You’ll hear the sound

Of cheering loud and free, Rah! Rah!

We are the first in all the fun,

Loyal we stand through gloom and sun;

Pressing forward together

In any kind of weather,

We’re the class of ’53.

Today the former Jack & Jill Ranch is the 1000-acre Double JJ Resort, including a golf course, water park and conference center. The Double JJ occasionally hosts the Rothbury Festival, featuring music from such rockers Snoop Doggy Dog and John Mayer.

More to Gain

a120As professor and administrator, Dr. Bob Baptista, who died at 93 on Friday, October 9, demonstrated firm leadership and sound judgment on many levels during his years of service to Wheaton College. However, he most visibly exhibited his stellar character after coaching a 1966 soccer game, Wheaton vs. Lake Forest. The following article from the Chicago Sun-Times tells the story:

The winners made the protest as the aftermath of an unusual soccer game in which Wheaton College beat Lake Forest 1-0, it was learned Wednesday. Wheaton coach Bob Baptista didn’t learn from goalie Bill Bott until after the game two weeks ago that Lake Forest had also scored. The ball, kicked by a wing on a breakaway, went past Bob Bott’s arms and 50 yards beyond the goal. Play had resumed before the surprised goalie realized no official had recognized that the ball went through the net. Baptista and the officials found a torn cord near the bottom of the net through which the ball had zipped. Baptista offered to consider the game a tie if the contest had no bearing on the final standings of the league. He also offered to replay the game if it should become significant in the standings. “Suddenly and unexpectedly faced with the acid test,” Baptista told the student body, “Wheaton has a lot more to gain than to lose.”

Wes Craven at Wheaton College

Elm Street — where nightmares undoubtedly occur — is located six blocks south of Wheaton College, but Wes Craven never lived in the last house on the left or anywhere else on that shaded lane. In fact, residing near the campus as a student, he rented rooms in Craven3three different homes at various times on Scott, President and Franklin streets. The wildly successful film director, who died of brain cancer at 76 on August 30, 2015, studied English at Wheaton College from 1957-63.  Raised in a strict Christian home in Cleveland, Ohio, his family was somewhat concerned that Wheaton College was “too liberal.” Inquisitive with a touch of the maverick, Craven was anxious to explore the power and passion of language, especially during the topsy-turvy 1960s. The March, 1962 Kodon, the Wheaton College literary magazine, sponsored a Creative Arts Festival with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gwendolyn Brooks as one of the judges. Craven won first prize in the short story category. Serving as editor for the Fall, 1962 Kodon, he prophetically writes:

This edition of KODON will be controversial. It was not planned to be so, and were things ideal, it would not raise a whisper of protest. But the ideal is never here. So be it. Besides, a controversy is healthy, I  feel, and constructive if carried on honestly and fairly. Let us hope that this will be the case in the consideration of this magazine’s contents….In addition, there is the conviction in this office that, in the arts, the Fundamental Christian world, and more specifically Wheaton, is sadly short of its potential and far behind its contemporaries. Therefore the copy of this magazine will remain (as long as the present staff remains), free and limited only by the criteria and the boundaries of artistry.

Braced for the fallout, Craven published two edgy-for-the-era stories, “A New Home,” by Marti Bihlmeier, about an unwed mother, and “The Other Side of the Wall” by Carolyn Burry, about an interracial couple. As predicted, the stories stirred discomfort in the campus community and were not well-received by the administration. Soon Dr. V. Raymond Edman, President of Wheaton College, informed Craven that he had failed in his duties as editor. Consequently, publication of Kodon was suspended for a year. Interestingly, this issue also features work by Jack Leax and Jeanne (Murray) Walker, who would enjoy successful careers as published poets and professors of literature.

As a senior Craven was stricken with Guillan-Barre syndrome, paralyzed for several months from the chest down, delaying his graduation by nearly a year. During this difficult time he was visited by friends and several strangers. “I remember feeling terribly down,” Craven told a reporter in a June 8, 1997 Chicago Tribune interview. “People I didn’t know came to visit, to pray for my recovery. Craven2To me, their thoughts and prayers represented the best side of Christianity. I’ll never forget that side of Wheaton College. Never.” A retired professor remembers Wes Craven as “a fine, serious-minded student” who excelled in Shakespeare and drama. In addition to deep, wide reading, Craven played guitar in a folk band.

Leaving Wheaton, he completed his graduate degree  in philosophy and writing at Johns Hopkins. He briefly taught school in New York before committing his prodigious talents to Hollywood. Specializing in horror franchises, his directorial debut was The Last House on the Left (1972). Craven went on to write or direct A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Scream (1996) and the non-scary drama Music of the  Heart (1999), starring Meryl Streep, who garnered an Academy Award nomination for her performance. He also published a novel, The Fountain Society (1999) and co-scripted a graphic-novel series called Coming of Rage (2014).

 

 

Wheaton at the Edgewater

For fifty years the Edgewater Beach Hotel stood as a beacon for luxury, recreation and hospitality in a city renowned for its magnificent lodging. Famous as Chicago’s “Metropolitan Hotel with the Country Club Atmosphere,” the Edgewater boasted 1000 rooms, several cocktail lounges and five large dining rooms, in addition to nightly ballroom dancing. The grounds included an outdoor swimming pool, cabanas and tennis and shuffleboard courts.

EdgewaterSituated on the North Shore a few hundred feet from Lake Michigan, the massive pink stucco complex served a variety of visitors, vacationers and celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Tallulah Bankhead. Band leaders Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey broadcast from the hotel’s radio station. In addition to an array of dignitaries, the Edgewater even hosted the Wheaton College Washington Banquet on February 21, 1958. The cost was $11 per couple. The ceremony was emceed by Dr. Gerald Hawthorne, and the speaker for the evening was Dr. Edward Elsen, pastor to President Dwight D. Eisenhower at National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC.

Nearly 300 students and faculty attended, with Dr. and Mrs. Bernard Nelson portraying George and Martha Washington. The menu included fruit cocktail, baked sugar-cured ham with raisin sauce, salad, julienne string beans panache and frozen torte with chocolate sauce. Undoubtedly this was a thrilling, noisy night in the big city for the small Christian college from the western suburbs.

Sadly, because of urban renewal and a steady decline in business, the Edgewater Beach Hotel closed its doors in 1967. The buildings were razed in 1970 except for one, now refurbished as residential apartments with landmark status. The structures were so solidly constructed that it took nearly a year to demolish. That happy 1958 Washington Banquet, along with the grand old hotel, belong to fond memory.