Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ghost in the Machine

As the Wheaton College community bids farewell to WETN, perhaps this is an appropriate moment to commemorate W9ZXR, the “other” ham radio station. Since its inception in 1937 until about 1980, ham radio station W9ZXR was located in the base of the Tower of Blanchard Hall. Students were responsible for scheduling and programming,  learning many of the skills of broadcasting. However, as various media expanded, interest in ham radio gradually diminished, and many of those involved with its operation simply shifted their activities to WETN, then located in the basement of the newly-constructed Billy Graham Center.

In the late 1970s, Col. Warren Schilling, assistant director of the Physical Plant, was tasked with locating and shutting down campus energy drains. Consequently electrician Gary Beeman was sent up the Tower to investigate. Entering the rooms at the base of the Tower, he was amazed to discover that the studio, dusty and forlorn, had been abandoned for some time, perhaps years. Even more amazing, he discovered that the transceivers and generator were still fully operational and, in fact, currently activated, humming quietly to silent airwaves. Indeed, he had discovered an enormous energy drain. According to Beeman, it was as though the last announcer simply stood up from the console and walked away, locking the door behind without a thought of returning. Beeman shut down the controls, snipped the necessary wiring and began the process of dismantling the equipment.

Off campus, the tradition continues locally with the Wheaton Community Radio Amateurs, who meet to promote the advancement of the hobby and science of amateur radio.

1939 postcard advertising ham radio station W9ZXR, broadcast from Blanchard Tower

Prexy says, “Merry Christmas and fear not!”

President and Mrs. Edman decorate the tree, 1954.
President and Mrs. Edman decorate a tree, 1954.

Dr. V. Raymond Edman, fourth president of Wheaton College, wrote a brief devotional called “Prexy Says” for the Wheaton Alumni magazine. Here is his confident exhortation for December, 1959:

Of course we believe in angels – but do we?

The Christmas story abounds in references to angels who spoke to Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. The scriptures assure us that angels are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14).

They are our unseen but very real helpers; and we should believe in them Christmas Day and every day.

And here is his entry for December, 1960:

There is no need to be afraid! The Christmas story abounds in assurance for the apprehensive. The word to Zacharias was, “Fear not…” (Luke 1:13). To Mary it was, “Fear not…” (Luke 1:30) To Joseph it was, “…Fear not” (Luke 2:10). And to all of us it is, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10).

Afraid of something or somebody?

Fear not!

Friday Night Lights

Wheaton High School Football team, 1920The school year has begun in many parts of the country and, despite record-breaking heat, fall is in the air. This means football! Football begins on Red Grange field as the Wheaton Warrenville South Tigers take on the Glenbard West Hilltoppers from Glen Ellyn. Over ninety years ago Harold “Red” Grange (first row, third from the left) donned a football uniform along with his fellow Wheaton classmates and made his way to the local field with its simple wooden goal posts. Before play could begin it was likely necessary that the field needed to be cleared of the many apples that had fallen from the trees around the field. The “Red” Grange collection at Wheaton College is the largest publicly available archival collection on this football great. It covers much of his life and career.

The Best Laid Plans

From 1927 until 1937 Kenneth and Margaret Landon were Presbyterian missionaries in Siam, present-day Thailand. While there Margaret became interested in missionary history. After her arrival she realized that she was part of a much larger community and a continuity of ministry that went back many years.

Edna ColeMargaret became interested in three missionary women that traveled to Siam on the S.S. Peking in the fall of 1878. Interestingly all of their surnames began with “C.” These women were Belle Caldwell of Wheeling, West Virginia, Mary Margaretta Campbell of Lexington, Indiana, and, Edna Sarah Cole of St. Joseph, Missouri. Campbell and Cole, former schoolmates, were assigned to work in Chiengmai in northern Siam and Caldwell to a girls school in Bangkok. In 1880 Caldwell married fellow Presbyterian missionary John Newton Culbertson. They left the field in 1881. That same year, in February, Edna Cole’s partner, Mary Campbell, drowned while a brief vacation. This left Cole as the last of the three to remain in ministry in Siam.

Edna Cole graduated from the Female Seminary in Oxford, Ohio (later absorbed into Miami University of Ohio) and remained on the field until 1923. She later moved from Chiengmai to the Wang Lang School for Girls–where Caldwell had served. The Wang Lang School was succeeded by Wattana Wittay Academy. Landon saw Cole as the true founder of women’s education in Siam. This is what prompted Landon to write her first book on Cole after her own return from Siam in 1937. Landon had access to all of Cole’s correspondence to her sister while in Siam, but only if she would use them in St. Joseph, Missouri. With a family that included three small children and a husband seeking permanent employment after resigning from missionary service staying in St. Joseph to conduct research was not feasible.

Margaret had to give up her project on Cole (who died at 95 in 1950), however, several years later, once settled in Washington, D.C. Landon was able to complete another book project. Anna and the King of Siam was not the story that Landon wished to write. It was not her best laid plan, but it was the one could be completed. Landon’s interest in Siam missions history had been aroused and continued throughout her writing career. She found the missionaries in Siam to be some of the most interesting and unusual people. Landon’s second book, Never Dies the Dream, a semi-autobiographical story of a female missionary running a girl’s school in Siam, was a way for her to sustain that interest.

Jesus Freaks

Jesus PeopleThe late 1960s and early 70s were years of tremendous ideological upheaval in the United States, not only in secular culture but also within the church. Christian youth, frustrated with staid worship and lifeless routine, longed for energetic, artistic expression. The Jesus Freaks were not seeking new content for their faith, but instead desired a re-packaging of traditional messages with brighter, hipper wrappings. An example is Larry Norman’s widely-popular song, I Wish We’d All Been Ready, its lyrics lamenting the absence of the unsaved in Heaven after the Rapture of 1 Thess. 4:16-17, the instantaneous “catching away” of Earth’s Christian population immediately preceding the worldwide Tribulation. Norman sets to music doctrines advanced in Hal Lindsey’s best-seller The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), which attempts to succinctly outline biblical end-time events from a premillennial perspective. Another influential text of this time-period is Kenneth Taylor’s Living Bible, a paraphrasing of the scriptures in modern idiom. Jesus PeopleIn his autobiography, My Life: A Guided Tour, Taylor expresses satisfaction that his work spoke to this audience: “These were the early days of the Jesus People Movement and, concurrently, the charismatic movement. One leader of the charismatics gave me his opinion that Living Psalms was one of the chief sources of nurture within the movement…This youth rebellion took some destructive and damaging forms, but at the same time it produced a sort of counterrevolution…Suddenly great numbers of young people in their late teens and twenties were turning to Christ for the answers they were so sincerely seeking…[They] were a receptive target for the fresh, up-to-date vocabulary and contemporary style of the Living version of the Bible.”

Recently an individual wrote to the Special Collections with appreciation for the influence of the Living Bible: “As a high schooler from 1970 to 1974, [Ken Taylor’s] Reach Out version of the Living Bible made a big difference in a lot of the young people of that era, me included. [H]is dedication to having the Bible in an easy to read format was so novel, so new, that it seems hard to believe now in the 21st century! So praise be to our Lord for using Mr. Taylor to bring the Good News to so many young, impressionable people who are now aging ‘young adults’!”

From Five Cents to Fifty Thousand Dollars…

When Jonathan Blanchard came to Wheaton he was brought to the Illinois Institute to resurrect the failing school. He was known for his connections and his fund-raising–having saved Knox College from financial despair and leaving it with hearty reserves.

Thaddeus StevensIn February 1868 Blanchard wrote to Thaddeus Stevens, the radical Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, “…I am building a college building as a breakwater against secret societies and all like abominations, for which I want fifty thousand dollars more than are provided: and if, after providing for those who have been faithful to you and your principles, you have any sum from five cents to fifty thousand dollars to leave for the erection of the main building of Wheaton College Ill. and I survive you, I will see every cent you give sacredly devoted to that object and if you leave and (sic) considerable sum the building will bear your name.”

Under Jonathan Blanchard’s plan the completed limestone building atop the hill of center-campus would have been called Stevens Hall and would not have borne his own name. A newspaper report indicates that the completion of the tower was marked by shouting, cheers, a “comparatively feeble” ringing of the bell, and a raising of “the glorious old stars and stripes.” Jonathan Blanchard’s office was “elegantly fitted up” the same day as a surprise for the president.

When Jonathan Blanchard retired as president in 1882, the building remained asymmetrical–built out mainly to the west. In 1890 the east side of the building was flanked with an addition with a full wing, to complement the west wing, being added in 1927. The 1890 addition included a museum, laboratories, and the first library. Other portions of the building contained the above mentioned president’s office, a prayer room, laundry, apartments and classrooms.

So Send I You

So Send I You

So send I you to labor unrewarded,
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown,
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing,
So send I you to toil for me alone.

So send I you — to loneliness and longing,
With heart a-hungering for the loved and known;
Forsaking home and kindred, friend and dear one,
So send I you — to know my love alone.

So send I you — to leave your life’s ambitions,
To die to dear desire, self-will resign,
To labor long and love where men revile you,

So send I you — to lose your life in mine.

Margeret ClarksonThis hymn, So Send I You, has been called the greatest missionary hymn of the twentieth century. A lonely and scared young teacher wrote it as she contemplated her isolation — a loneliness that pervaded her heart and soul. Margaret Clarkson experienced loneliness of every kind — mental, cultural, and spiritual — as she began teaching at a logging camp during the depths of The Great Depression in northern Ontario, Canada. She wrote these words of pain and suffering.

However years later she would see the “one-sidedness” of this hymn and compose a newer version — one that reflected her growth and rest in Christ.

So send I you — by grace made strong
To triumph o’er hosts of hell,
O’er darkness, death and sin
My name to bear, and in that name to conquer
So send I you, my victory to win

Lawson Field

Victor LawsonThe tract of land called Lawson Field was the gift of Victor Fremont Lawson (1850-1925), friend of Wheaton College and proprietor of the Chicago Daily News — known as a publisher with a conscience. In 1900 when the field was dedicated, acreage, fencing and stands cost about $1500. For the following 90 years Lawson Field was the on-campus home of Wheaton baseball; it now functions as training grounds for various intramural sports programs. Another landmark named after the philanthropic publisher is the Lawson YMCA, a 25-storey art deco structure located at 30 W. Chicago Ave, erected in the early 1930s. The elegant River North edifice, once the flagship for the Metropolitan Chicago Y, was utilized from time to time as additional off-campus housing for Moody Bible Institute students. On the Southside, the University of Chicago’s Divinity School boasts Victor Lawson Tower, designed as a compromise between the classic church-style spire and traditional square-style educational architecture. The chapel’s windows are patterned after the stained-glass in Chartres Cathedral in France; and its cloisters display stones from Christian sites the world over. Lawson met his wife, Jessie, an aggressive real estate developer, in a church choir at Green Lake, WI. After honeymooning there in 1888, they purchased for their summer home 10 acres of land once occupied by Winnebago Indians and settlers. Initially calling it Lone Tree Farm, the Lawsons gradually added more properties until their vast estate, now called “Lawsonia,” comprised 1,100 acres. After the death of its owners, Lawsonia fell into various hands until the General Baptist Convention bought it in 1943 for $300,000. The GBC currently manages the grounds, known as Green Lake Conference Center. As a youngster Lawson attended Chicago’s first Norwegian Evangelical Church; as an adult he took active membership in The New England Church. During his career he was a generous contributor to the Congregational Missionary and Extension Society. A civic and ecclesiastical benefactor, Lawson’s kindness extended to the workplace as well. Historian John J. McPhaul writes in Deadlines & Monkeyshines: The Fabled World of Chicago Journalism, that the pious, fair-minded Lawson “…gave his staffers turkeys [at] Thanksgiving and Christmas.” Victor Lawson’s grave, located in Chicago’s famed Graceland Cemetery, is marked with a granite crusader bearing sword and shield, symbolizing his sacrificial, militant spirit. It was sculpted by Lorado Taft, who oversaw all stonework for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Lawson’s papers are housed at the Newberry Library.

Casual Worship

V. Raymond EdmanI recently drove past a church and its sign said “Casual Worship, 9:30 a.m.” I know what they meant as they placed this message on their sign, but it also can communicate something completely different. The sign could have some unintended consequences. Evangelicalism is exhibiting signs of broad differences of opinion in the area of worship. As one segment goes further into minimizing worship styles to appeal to a wider unchurched public another segment seeks to retain or heighten the liturgy that has been a part of the church for over a millennia.

V. Raymond Edman’s last chapel address, and his last sermon, was also his last moment on earth. On September 22, 1967, unbeknownst to him he made the topic of his address the topic of worship and how one enters into the presence of a king. The story of this event has reached hagiographic proportions as the fuller story is not told. Edman was preaching about being in the presence of the King, but he wasn’t preaching about this as he faltered and fell to the floor. He had been chiding students about their casual worship–about their wearing ball-caps into chapel, about their chatter as worship began and about their general sense of informality “in the presence of the king.” He was preaching against those who would use the chapel time, and pulpit, to advance their own agenda.

After Edman’s death an edited pamphlet was produced that emphasized the better parts of this final address–the parts that Edman certainly meant to the primary focus of his talk. His biography, written by Earl Cairns, was titled In The Presence of the King.

The Archives & Special Collections has placed the text of the pamphlet online, along with a link to a fuller recording.

Francis Schaeffer And the Shaping of Evangelical America recently published

Francis Schaeffer And the Shaping of Evangelical AmericaContinuing the Eerdman’s Library of Religious Biography series (edited by Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch and Allen Guelzo), Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America seeks to provide a ciritical biography of this noted evangelical figure.

Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) was probably the single greatest intellectual influence on young evangelicals of the 1960s and ’70s. He was cultural critic, popular mentor, political activist, Christian apologist, founder of L’Abri, and the author of over twenty books and two important films. It is impossible to understand the intellectual world of contemporary evangelicalism apart from Francis Schaeffer.

Barry Hankins explains how Schaeffer was shaped by the contexts of his life — from young fundamentalist pastor in America, to greatly admired mentor, to lecturer and activist who encouraged world-wary evangelicals to engage the culture around them. Drawing extensively from primary sources, including personal interviews and materials housed in the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections, Hankins paints a picture of a complex, sometimes flawed, but ultimately prophetic figure in American evangelicalism and beyond.

This volume should provide more information into the life of Francis Schaeffer–in addition to the recently published Crazy for God, the autobiography of Frank Schaeffer, Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s son.