As Reformation Sunday approaches it is good to recall the work of God in the life of Martin Luther. In 1983, Wheaton College celebrated the quinquicentennial of the birth of Martin Luther with a semester of festivities. Dubbed Lutherfest, it included an Lutheran worship service in Edman Chapel with local Lutherans as well as an organ recital featuring Professor Warren Schmidt of Wartburg College. The pinnacle of the Lutherfest was an academic conference from September 19-21 that featured international scholars speaking on topics relating to Luther and Lutheranism.
The centerpiece of the conference was the renowned Reformation historian Heiko A. Oberman (1930-2001), who gave three plenary addresses during the conference. One of the greatest intellectual historians of the twentieth century, Oberman revolutionized Reformation studies by urging for interpretation of the Reformation especially in its late medieval context. In 1982, he published what has become a classic of Luther studies: Luther: Mensch zwischen Gott und Teufel, published in English in 1989 as Luther: man between God and the devil.
To commemorate Reformation Day, we’ve provided MP3 audio for all three of Oberman’s plenary talks.
(The Formation of Martin Luther – mp3 – 01:04:47)
(Luther in the Reformation – mp3 – 00:59:12)
(The Influence of Martin Luther – mp3 – 00:59:32)
As a natural beauty growing up in Hollywood, California, Colleen (known as “Coke” to her friends) Townsend worked as a model to pay college expenses. After receiving a scholarship for dramatic training, she took a screen test. Suddenly “discovered” by the studios, she signed a contract with 20th Century Fox and performed in such films as The Walls of Jericho, Willie Comes Marching Home and Chicken Every Sunday. Hers was truly the American Dream. But one night a high school friend, Louie Evans, Jr., son of Dr. Louis Evans, Sr., pastor of Hollywood Presbyterian, excitedly told her about his experience with Christ during services at a mountain retreat. At that moment Coke realized the difference between religion and relationship. Now her faith was energized. After marrying Lou, the young couple headed overseas through the auspices of the World Council of Churches, helping with reconstruction efforts after WW II. Returning to the U.S. with valuable practical experience, Lou pursued seminary training in San Francisco, then journeyed with Coke back to Europe for two years of post-graduate studies at the University of Edinburgh. As Coke’s missionary endeavors increased, her desire for Hollywood evaporated. “I was only shifting from something I enjoyed to something I wanted even more,” she told an interviewer.
Though the Evanses had asked the Los Angeles presbytery to assign them to urban neighborhoods, they were instead sent to Bel Air, and later La Jolla, to establish churches among the affluent. But Coke and Lou would not deny their desire to minister among the destitute and marginalized. After a successful ministry in Southern California, they moved in 1973 to Washington, DC, where Lou would lead as pastor of National Presbyterian. First living in the suburbs, they soon moved to the inner-city, occupying a 100-year-old row house located four blocks from the Capitol. Eager to serve, they frequently opened their home to visitors. “Using our home for entertaining is something we love,” she remarked. “Our kids have always brought home lots of friends from college during the summer or on holidays. One night we had 29 for supper.” In addition to teaching adult classes, leading prayer groups and developing “covenant relationships” among ethnic friends, Coke was honored to chair the 1986 Greater Washington Billy Graham Crusade. After 16 years in DC, the Evanses relocated in 1989 to California. They were the parents of four children. Colleen Townsend Evans is the author of several books, including Love is an Everyday Thing, Living True, A New Joy and Bold Commitment, co-written with Lou.
The papers of Colleen Townsend Evans (SC-39), comprising manuscripts and interviews, are housed at Wheaton College Special Collections.
This charming sketch of Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., drawn by Dewitt Whistler Jayne, accompanied by Buswell’s written greeting to the student body, is published in the 1935 Tower, wherein the president briefly thanks the staff for their excellent work on the current edition and for “…so tastefully furnishing the office during your second year in college…” Jayne in 1936 pushed for developing the art department, convincing the administration that it would provide a major contribution the liberal arts education. As a result, one course in art and one course in music were incorporated into the curriculum. During the 1970s Jayne donated over 1300 etchings, woodcuts and drawings by his uncle, renowned illustrator Allen Lewis (SC-60), who was also a distant cousin of James McNeill Whistler. Jayne’s painting, “Who Was That Shining One?” hangs in the Wheaton College Special Collections public area. It depicts missionaries Bob Ekvall and Ed Carlson’s encounter with frightened bandits in western China, who saw something mysterious that Ekvall and his companion did not see at the time.
Generally, on alternating years Wheaton College Special Collections has hosted a conference examining the influence of Christian faith and traditions in the poetry and plays of William Shakespeare. Dr. Beatrice Batson, Professor Emerita of English at Wheaton College and Coordinator of the Shakespeare Special Collection, has invited accomplished scholars from all over the world to present papers exploring a suggested theme. These specialists typically address such issues as whether the Immortal Bard of Avon was Protestant or Catholic, or the presence of Christian reconciliation and other scriptural elements woven throughout his plots. After each conference Dr. Batson, acting as editor, collects the lectures into a book.
The most recent title, Word and Rite: The Bible and Ceremony in Selected Shakespearean Works (2010), produced by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, attempts to show something of the ways in which the Bible and Christianity intersect the language of Shakespeare. Word and Rite also focuses on the matter in which rites are efforts to illuminate mysteries: the mystery of marriage, the mystery of baptism, the mystery of confession, the mystery of the Eucharist, the mystery of funerals, and even the mystery of words in their relation to the Word. Holy objects such as the Fountain of blood are also considered. Contributors include Dr. Leland Ryken (“Shakespeare and the Bible”), Dr. Brett Foster (“‘Each letter in the Letter': Textual Testimonies in Shakespeare”) and Dr. Jack Heller (“‘Your statue spouting blood': Julius Caesar, the Sacraments, and the Fountain of Life”).
Reviewing the contents, Dr. Maurice Hunt, author of Shakespeare’s Romance of the Word and professor at Baylor University, states: “This book amounts to a fitting capstone of the several previously published Institute volumes of high-quality papers. Deserving special mention in this latest volume are Jeffrey Knapp’s fresh reading of Shakespeare’s sonnets as confessional autobiography, Grace Tiffany’s comprehensive analysis of the triumph of the English language over the French tongue in Shakespeare’s plays, Christopher Hodgkins’ eloquent account of Christian apocalyptic thought in The Tempest, and David George’s persuasive linking of the abbreviated rites and interrupted ceremonies typical of Shakespeare’s plays to the wars of religion waged in the playwright’s lifetime…Here we have a banquet – a smorgasbord – of commentary on Shakespeare’s art.”
The Shakespeare Special Collection (SC-34), housed at Wheaton College, is considered the premiere holding of secondary literature pertaining to the use of religion in the plays of William Shakespeare.
Dr. Charles Blanchard’s ostensible obituary for the late R.J. Bennett, trustee and reliable benefactor, appears on the front page of the March 5, 1924, Record. Ever vigilant for additional funding, President Blanchard moves quickly from pious memorializing to a frank review of Bennett’s previous financial contributions to Wheaton College, and a rather anxious expectation for one more posthumous gift. It is not known whether the school received it.
Mr. R.J. Bennett, LLD of Pasadena, California, for many years a leading wholesale merchant in Chicago, recently passed away. Mr. Bennett was a member of Ravenswood Congregational Church and cooperated with most of the missionary churches of Chicago for many years. He was one of the most influential and useful members of the Board of Trustees of Wheaton College. He and Mr. Charles H. Case, also of Chicago, both on this board, were both men of large wealth and generous activities, and were among the most conservative and helpful of our trustees. Mr. Case gave to the college by will one-half the residuum of his estate. This has not yet been received, but is still in the courts. It is supposed that this provision will ultimately furnish Wheaton College one-hundred-ten or fifteen thousand dollars. Mr. Bennett died suddenly, painlessly, and restfully, after his long, honored, and useful life. It would be a long story to tell of the different college activities with which he has been associated. Improvements on the campus, the erection of the academy building, the increase of endowment funds, together with constant contributions, were a part of his work. We have heard a number of statements respecting his will which at the present time we are not able to confirm. Some two or three years ago Mr. Bennett said to us that at that time he was supposed to be worth about two-hundred-fifty thousand. A year ago or less when he was in Chicago he said to us that in his will he had provided for his family and personal friends and had directed that all the residuum of his estate should be paid to Wheaton College. We have not seen his will. It was offered for probate in California, February 27th. We have been told not on authority that the specified bequests amounted to something like one-hundred-twenty thousand dollars. If this should prove to be true, and if the amount of his estate has not changed materially from his statement to us several years since, the amount coming to the college would be very considerable, but we are not able to give more surmises and reports at this time. The facts will appear in due time.
The work for Christ and His Kingdom has been under-girded and advanced by a wide range of people, some with very deep connections with Wheaton College and the surrounding areas and others who have heard of its work and simply offer support in encouragement. One such encourager was Benjamin Ogden Chapman. A Presbyterian layman, Chapman was known as a “devoted servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. A partner in Ogden, Merrill and Greer, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based pottery and glassware wholesale firm, founded in 1855 by Henry S. Ogden. The thriving concern eventually became Merrill, Greer and Chapman company. Married to Ethel C. Brown, 1905 Carleton College graduate, Chapman was an elder at House of Hope Presbyterian Church, a member of the Minnesota Historical Society and treasurer of the Sons of the Revolution in the State of Minnesota. The generous gifts from Chapman and his family established a memorial scholarship, as well as furnishing a chemistry lab, in Chapman’s memory. The original laboratory was located Blanchard Hall and then moved to Breyer Hall in 1995. Though replete with new furnishings the name has been carried into Wheaton’s newest Science Center.