Monthly Archives: November 2009

Blanchard Hall’s “Dugout” – Sesquicentennial Snapshot

In his memoirs The Wheaton I Remember, Edward “Coach” Coray (Professor Emeritus and former Executive Director of the Alumni Association) recalls his days as an undergraduate student at Wheaton in 1920s. Using a sports metaphor to recall a space full of active young men, Coray recalled a “dugout” from his past.

Blanchard 4th-floor residents, 1939-1940

“While I never roomed on the fourth floor of Blanchard Hall I have heard many stories of experiences of people associated with this historic area. I never really determined if the fourth floor attracted the kind of fellows it did or if there was something about the atmosphere of the place that made them that way. In any case fourth floor monitors, or whatever they were called, came and went quite rapidly. I think I should slip in here that some of our finest graduates are alumni of the fourth floor. Getting back to monitors, one bachelor professor got out of the job when he got married. It cannot be definitely proved that he got married in order to get out of the job. A young, scholarly graduate assistant got an unexpected shower bath, fully clothed. Even Del Nelson, a rugged athlete who served as “housemother” while coaching athletics, had some problems. Del is now Dr. Delburt Nelson, M.D., and a college trustee. I presume much of his success in life is due to his experiences handling inhabitants of the fourth floor. One night he was chasing a fellow who had shot off a big cannon fire cracker. The fellow tried to escape through an attic with an unfinished floor over the library on the floor below. Del was in hot pursuit. The boy’s foot slipped onto bare plaster and his whole leg came down through the library ceiling, scattering pieces of plaster over one of the tables. With the increase of dormitory facilities and the need for more office and classroom space, the fourth floor was closed as a resident hall. Alumni returning to campus still wander around the “Floor” pointing out where they and their friends roomed and swallowing lumps which come in their throats.”

Thiessen and Determinism’s cold and chilling effects

It is said that an institution is the lengthened shadow of a man. In a very real sense Dr. Thiessen, the first dean of our graduate school, left an indelible impression upon it…Though dead he yet speaketh. His influence continues through his writings and through the lives which he trained for God’s glad service.

So stated Dr. Enock Dyrness, Wheaton College registrar, eulogizing Dr. Henry Clarence Thiessen.

Henry C. ThiessenBorn in 1883 in rural Nebraska, Thiessen accepted Christ at 17 and grew steadily in the scriptures as he also proclaimed the gospel to his friends. Thirsting for deeper scriptural knowledge, he entered the Bible Training School in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. After graduating he pastored for seven years in Ohio before accepting a call to teach full-time at the Bible Training School, where he also functioned as principal. Seeking further education, he entered Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, teaching part-time to pay expenses. From there he enrolled at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, then moved to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for graduate studies, majoring in New Testament Greek. From there he served as Dean of the College of Theology at Evangel College in New Jersey. In 1931 Thiessen was hired by Dallas Theological Seminary, instructing New Testament Literature and Exegesis. He taught with distinction until 1935, when invited by Dr. J. Oliver Buswell to join the Wheaton College faculty. Responding with a letter to Buswell, Thiessen recounts his own impressive academic qualifications and that “…there may be a way of realizing my ideal at Wheaton College.” Specifically, this meant an ambition to establish “…a first class theological school of the fundamentalist and premillennial type in the North…” Once hired he started as Professor of Bible and Philosophy; a year later Buswell appointed him Chairman of the Bible and Theology Department. At this time, John Dickey, friend of the college, died, leaving an inheritance to be used expressly for instituting an advanced theological program within six months of his demise. As a result of this gift, Wheaton offered in 1937 its first graduate courses, headed by Thiessen. As the curriculum solidified and expanded, he chose Dr. Merrill Tenney as his associate.

Gordon H. ClarkThiessen was a popular but demanding instructor, firmly committed to dispensationalism. Sadly, this brought him into conflict with Dr. Gordon H. Clark, professor of philosophy and equally committed to Covenant theology. Wary of Clark’s “determinism,” Thiessen warned Buswell that his influence “…will do great, perhaps permanent, harm to many of the youngsters, because few of them are able to reply to his reasoning…” When V. Raymond Edman replaced Buswell as president in 1940, he followed Thiessen’s lead and took steps to dismiss Clark, first eliminating the philosophy major, then prohibiting Clark from teaching Reformed doctrine. Though Clark was tempted to leave, Buswell privately advised him to stay put. Edman then met with faculty and trustees to discuss Clark’s Calvinism and its “…chilling and harmful effect upon many students.”

Clark was a supremely capable teacher of unquestioned piety, much-respected by his students, including young Ruth Bell (Graham) who, awash with the over-gushy pietism prevalent during those years, sought his refreshing “logic” and “…his unemotional brilliance…” Faced with intensifying hostility from the administration, Clark finally negotiated a technical resignation in 1942, moving on to a successful career at Butler University. After his firing, Edman reinstated the philosophy major but hired no trained philosophers to teach it, instead opting for theology professors to lead the course until Dr. Arthur Holmes revived the program in 1957.

Thiessen with studentsThough the dispensationalists prevailed, they did not necessarily represent the position of all students or faculty. “Thiessenism,” wrote one, “is the only creed of Wheaton’s Bible Department…but a bitterly dogmatic and autocratic one…It’s agree with and memorize what Thiessen and his satellites say – or flunk…Of course, Dr. Clark isn’t the epitome of broad-mindedness – but he is [the epitome] of gentlemanly consideration…I’ve never found him forcing his views on anyone.” Premillennial dispensationalism remained Wheaton’s unofficial eschatological statement for the remainder of Edman’s tenure.

Thiessen continued teaching at Wheaton College until debilitated by asthma, which allowed him only an hour or two of sleep each night. Advised by doctors to seek a warmer climate, he accepted in 1946 an invitation to serve as president and dean of Los Angeles Baptist Seminary, placing Wheaton’s Bible Department in Merrill Tenney’s capable hands. Thiessen preached his farewell sermon, titled “Facing the Future with Christ,” at Wheaton Bible Church. After moving to California his condition worsened as he endured numerous nasal operations, and on July 25, 1947, he died. His widow, Anna, requested that Thiessen’s brother complete and publish his classroom syllabus. Lectures in Systematic Theology, in print since 1949, steadfastly advances Dr. H.C. Thiessen’s hope that it might “…set forth the truth more clearly and logically, and that the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be glorified through its perusal.”

(Information regarding the Thiessen/Clark controversy is obtained from The Fundmentalist Harvard: Wheaton College and the Enduring Vitality of American Evangelicalism, 1919-1965 by Michael S. Hamilton and Clark: Personal Recollections by John W. Robbins.)

Lighting the Spark – Sesquicentennial snapshot

“The idea of having a college in Wheaton was born in the minds of the Wesleyan Methodists of Illinois. Back in 1836 in Cincinnati, the Methodist General Conference passed the following resolution:

Resolved, By the delegates of the annual conferences in General Conference assembled: that they are decidedly opposed to modern abolitionism and wholly disclaim any right, wish, or intention to interfere in the civil and political relation between master and slave as it exists in the slave-holding states of this country.

Out of this resolution was born the Wesleyan Methodist Church, to whom slavery and the use of intoxicating liquors were anathema. A large number of Wesleyan Methodists settled in Wheaton, where anti-slavery sentiments were shared by many other citizens of the growing community.

In 1850 the Illinois Wesleyan Methodists decided to establish an anti-slavery school of their own. Too many of their young people had attended colleges where members of the faculty were either pro-slavery or indifferent to the issue. Wheaton was selected as a site because of its proximity to Chicago and because of the generous offers of its citizens to support such an educational experiment. Among those early devotees to the cause of Christian education were Warren L. Wheaton and his brother Jesse.

Nearly a mile from the Wheaton railroad station a pleasant site was selected, and land was bought for $150.00 from John C. Howard (some records indicate Gaius Howard). Although some maintain that Mr. Howard donated the land, records reveal that the original site of the College was purchased from him. There, on the crest of a small hill which overlooked the rolling prairie, preparations for the erection of a building were begun, when on a sweltering day in the summer of 1852 a group of devout Christians knelt in the tall prairie grass at the summit and dedicated ‘the hill and all that should be upon it to that God in whom trusting they had boldly gone into the thickest fight, not only for the freedom of human bodies, but of human souls as well,’ The new school was called Illinois Institute.”

Willard, W. Wyeth. Fire on the Prairie: The Story of Wheaton College. Van Kampen Press (Wheaton, IL). 1950. pp.20-21

Edward Woodward — TV’s Equalizer

Edward WoodwardOn Monday TV’s Robert McCall, or as he was known to those that truly knew him Edward Woodward, died of pneumonia in his home in Cornwall, England. Woodward had an acting career that had spanned nearly 45 years. He was well-known on the stage, silver-screen and television. Some even knew him for his voice as he recorded recitations and musical albums.

Woodward’s passing is of note to the Archives & Special Collections for the connection that he had with Coleman Luck. Luck worked on The Equalizer series for several years in the mid-1980s. He was co-producer, co-executive producer and senior writer. He valued what Woodward brought to the character of Robert McCall — the “great strength, resolution and energy, coupled with an underlying sorrow.” Despite many attempts in Hollywood to mimic this show and its cast of characters they, according to Luck, failed because “Hollywood misunderstands the meaning of redemption.”

The Luck Papers in the Archives & Special Collections contain numerous scripts and recordings of Woodward’s performances in The Equalizer.

Trust in God and do the right…

M. R. DeHaanA profoundly useful agent for disseminating scriptural principles during the middle years of the twentieth century was Radio Bible Class (RBC), founded and hosted by Dr. M.R. DeHaan. Quitting his Reformed Church pastorate in 1938 for health and theological reasons, DeHaan also resigned his medical practice to preach the Word of God over the airwaves, residing with his family first in Detroit, Michigan, then in Grand Rapids. The broadcasts were often transcribed and published as books, with several Bible commentaries still in print.

DeHaan’s second son, Richard, accepted Christ when he was about ten, the result of a dedicated Sunday School teacher. As a young man he received substantial biblical education, first at his father’s knee, then at Calvin College before transferring to Wheaton College to finish his undergraduate degree, and finally to Northern Baptist Theological Seminary for graduate studies. During his Wheaton days, the 1944 Tower yearbook describes a glimpse of his social activity in an off-campus dormitory called the House of Baa: “Upperclassman Dick DeHaan was an aggressive one-man debate team in bull sessions. Starting out slowly, he wound up the ‘fastest’ man in the house.”

Richard DeHaanAfter Dr. DeHaan suffered a heart attack in 1946, Richard accepted increased administrative responsibilities at the radio station, taking the microphone from time to time with a voice, “…deep and mellow and mild,” as his mother observed. When his father died in 1965, Richard smoothly assumed the presidency of Radio Bible Class. Its continued success on radio compelled him and his colleagues to expand the ministry to television. So in 1968 Day of Discovery aired, ranking for years among the top ten religious broadcasts. Additionally he published a series of pamphlets, first appearing as articles in the Our Daily Bread devotional, focusing on the Christian life and end-times issues, all written with characteristic clarity and analytical insight. Indeed, Dr. Lehman Strauss, renowned Bible teacher, praises DeHaan’s 1968 book, Israel and the Nations in Prophecy, for its “…sound and sane presentation of numerous prophetic scriptures.”

Dr. Richard W. DeHaan died in 2002, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Ever the encourager, his favorite expression was, “Trust in God and do the right.” Richard’s son, Mart, continues RBC Ministires, as it is now called, reflecting its worldwide range of resources.

Echoes from the Past – Sesquicentennial Snapshot

In her article “Echoes of the Past” in the The Wheaton Alumni News, Julia E. Blanchard, class of 1899 and Jonathan Blanchard’s granddaughter, retold one of the many stories she heard her grandfather tell of his past.

Julia E. BlanchardGrandfather says in speaking of his early life, “I now think the Holy Spirit influenced me from my early childhood.” He was not four years old when he first heard the firing of the guns in the battle of Plattsburgh. It filled him with horror to know that men would kill each other. He was a man of strong passions, which were ever stirred most fiercely by oppression, cruelty, or anything which destroyed human life or welfare. Always a great lover of God, his great passion was to seek the God like in man. We children always teased for stories about the poor, black folk, whom they sheltered in their Cincinnati home, the thrilling episodes of the anti-Masonic meetings, which were broken up by angry Masons, armed with bricks, rotten eggs, and so forth. We especially loved to hear about the time they tried to throw him into the Ohio River. It was grandfather’s fierce hatred of the great secret empire, which threatened the very life of the nation, that led him to Wheaton, the smallest, poorest and least promising of the places offered him when he left Knox College; but near Chicago “the Gate City between the Atlantic and Pacific; between western Europe and eastern Asia” — a strategic location for a college whose motto is “For Christ and His Kingdom.”

John Q. Public

John Q. Public

Many cultures have a name for their “everyman.” In England it is Joe Bloggs or Tommy Atkins. In Poland Jan Kowalski fills the bill. In Puerto Rico you’ll likely bump into Juan Del Pueblo out on the street. In the United States the moniker is John Q. Public. This generic name is used to denote a hypothetical “common man.” This “average joe” represents the randomly selected “man on the street.”

The roots of John Q. Public, according to Hess and Northrop in Drawn & Quartered: the history of American political cartoons, seem to go back to Frederick Opper’s “Mr. Common People” who was the symbol of the average American and appeared in the Arena in 1905. Opper’s character was drawn as a bewildered bald man whose hat was a bit too small and who was subject to the whims of big business’ monopolies and greed. Twenty-five years later as the Great Depression began “John Q. Public” emerged from the pen of Vaughn Shoemaker onto the pages of the Chicago Daily News, where Shoemaker began his career in cartooning in 1922.

Shoemaker’s “everyman” influenced fellow editorial cartoonist Jim Lange’s “Mr. Voter,” a similarly-looking glasses-wearing and mustachioed man clad with a fedora. The Oklahoma State Senate eventually adopted Lange’s character as the state’s official editorial cartoon.

Shoemaker’s editorial cartoons, including those with John Q. Public can be viewed in the Archives & Special Collections.

A bookworm’s heaven

After V. Raymond Edman’s sudden death in 1967, his friend, William Akin of Evanston, IL, donated his personal library (SC-01) to Wheaton College as a memorial. The collection contains rare editions of Johnson, William S. AkinBronte, Milton and others.

In addition to his generosity, Akin was a lively, occasionally insightful critic, issuing monthly book reviews during the 1950s for Union League Men and Events, the official newsletter of his beloved “and famously exclusive” Union League Club, located in Chicago’s Loop. “To me,” he wrote of the club’s library, “it is a bit of heaven on earth.” As chairman of its library committee, he expertly acquired world-class literature from a far-flung network of booksellers, universities and publishers. Happily engaging a volume’s content, he offered warm praise if he liked (“I like anything about Pope Pius XII and where he lives…”) and saucy shots if he did not (“…another expose of Dickens…459 pages of tripe that is nothing more than a rehash of old rehash…”).

Akin’s legacy evokes the ghost of an extinct creature: the gentleman scholar with his book, savoring the perfection of a crafted poem or sentence, his feet propped on a hassock in the oak-paneled, smoke-filled lounge, serenely nested high above the streets where taxis honk and newsboys shout.

Keep off the Grass – Sesquicentennial Snapsot

In his memoirs The Wheaton I Remember, Edward “Coach” Coray (Professor Emeritus and former Executive Director of the Alumni Association) recalls his days as an undergraduate student at Wheaton in 1920.

Charles Blanchard, Cedar Lake, Indiana (1923)Dr. Blanchard had his own way of handling discipline and I must say it was effective, In the spring of my freshman year he told us in chapel that we all wanted to have the campus looking nice for commencement. He said one way to make this possible was to keep off the growing grass. He asked us to be sure to keep on the regular walks. The next morning I overslept a little. I must have studied late the night before. To make up a few seconds on the way to my 8:00 o’clock class I was cutting across campus from the corner of Washington and Seminary Streets. As I approached the main building, to my horror I saw President Blanchard on his way out to meet me. From his office window in the southwest wing he had seen me running on the grass. With a big smile he put out his hand and said, “You are my friend from the coal regions of Pennsylvania.” He had an unusual memory for where people came from better than remembering their names. He asked for it and I gave him my name — incidentally my right name. We shook hands. He said, “I came out to ask you something. If you should encourage all your friends to keep off the campus grass and I should do the same thing, do you think it would help?” I said, “Yes, President, I think it would.” He said, “Will you do this?” I said, “Yes, President, I’ll be glad to.” With a big smile he said, “Thank you so much. Now hurry along to class. The Lord bless you and give you a good day.” I didn’t walk on the campus grass again.