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Exalt Christ, not Wheaton College

Guests invited to speak in the Wheaton College chapel during the 1940s were given a card  with the following instructions sometime before their scheduled message:

Unidentified speaker leads worship in Pierce Chapel, 1944.

You will be speaking to young MEN and WOMEN who are COLLEGE STUDENTS, from 45 different states and 20 foreign countries.

We will appreciate it if you will:

Feel at home with us.

Preach the Lord Jesus — and seek to point students to deeper truths of the Word.

Exalt Christ, not Wheaton College.

Avoid controversial subjects.

Be sparing in your use of humorous stories.

You will have approximately 20 minutes for your message.

Close your message on time (within 2 or 3 minutes after the red light goes on).

Close your message with prayer.

Come again.

Chapel begins at 10:30am, closes at 11am.

The Allure of the Little Old Lady

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!

Camp Wecolldac

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.

James Pooley, Assistant Coach at Wheaton Academy, 1962.

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.

This diorama, probably displayed in the Memorial Student Center, advertises HoneyRock and Wecolldac, 1954.

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.

A Tale of Two Towers

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.

Wilson Hall at Fermilab

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.

Blanchard Hall

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.”

Red Grange: The Life and Legacy of the NFL’s First Superstar by Chris Willis

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.

Leighton Ford at Wheaton College

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.

Leighton Ford, 1951

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.

Leighton Ford preaching in Wheaton College chapel

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.

Worthwhile Struggle by Pat McCaskey

Worthwhile Struggle by Patrick McCaskey features a grab bag of inspirational stories woven with tales of exemplary athletes. Included are McCaskey’s “10 Commandments of Football,” based on his upbringing in the Halas-McCaskey family with the Chicago Bears. Deeply involved with faith-based initiatives and charitable causes, McCaskey is active in promoting strong principles and honest gamesmanship.

In the chapter titled “Oswald Chambers,” McCaskey briefly highlights the life and ministry of the great Scottish preacher, including a photo of Chambers with his wife, Biddy, and their baby daughter, Kathleen. The image is archived in Special Collections, Buswell Library, Wheaton College (SC-122)

McCaskey also profiles his friend, Wayne Gordon, who graduated from Wheaton College in 1975, and currently serves as the pastor of influential Lawndale Community Church. “You won’t see Coach Wayne Gordon’s name in the headlines or his face on television,” writes McCaskey. “And yet, he has been one of Chicago’s movers and shakers for over 40 years…He is about selflessly helping others get a fair shake, helping others succeed, helping others build their own healthy community, and helping others to live faithfully.”

Pat McCaskey is a Board Member and Vice President for the Chicago Bears. Encouraged by his grandfather, George Halas, he attended DePaul University, where he earned his master’s degree. He is the author of six books.

Putting the Husbands Through

In the years following World War II, returning soldiers enrolled at Wheaton College to pursue their college degrees. While the popular G.I. Bill assisted in paying the tuition and living expenses of the veterans, many of the former soldiers’ wives also worked outside the home to support their families. Wheaton College President V. Raymond Edman observed this service, and to acknowledge the wives’ significant contribution to their husbands’ education, created the “Putting Husbands Through” or “PHT” honorary degree.

Joy Henricksen's "Putting Husband Through" Honorary Degree
Joy Henricksen’s “Putting Husband Through” Honorary Degree

One recipient of this degree was Joy Henricksen. Joy worked at the Wheaton Academy to support her husband Charles’ Wheaton education. Charles had served in the Air Force as a bomber pilot in Europe during the war where he had flown 30 missions. After returning from the war, he married Joy, before enrolling at the University of Arizona and then transferring to Wheaton. When Charles graduated from Wheaton in 1949, President Edman presented Joy with her “PHT” certificate.

Joy and Charles’ daughter Susan reported that her mother was always proud of this recognition. Joy even directed that it be mentioned in her obituary and in the eulogy at her funeral. Susan recently donated her mother’s cherished certificate to the College Archives, where it witnesses to Joy’s service, as well as the contributions of other World War II-era wives.

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!