Monthly Archives: July 2011

Betsy Palmer

Betsy Palmer simply needed funds for a new car when she accepted the role of Jason Voorhees’s demented mother in the wildly successful slasher flick, Friday the 13th (1980). Reading the script, she realized it wasn’t exactly Shakespeare. “I never expected that anyone would see that darn thing,” she recalls. Nonetheless, her performance brought her a measure of fame that she had not before enjoyed. (In fact, she was nominated for a Golden Rasberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress). Asked about her “accidental” association with the horror genre, she remarks, “I love it. It’s exposed me to a whole new generation that didn’t know I existed.”

Though movie buffs remember her for this role, Palmer had performed for decades in a variety of productions, on film, television and stage. She acted alongside Jack Lemmon, James Cagney and Henry Fonda in Mister Roberts (1955); she appeared with Joan Crawford in Queen Bee (1955) and Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Sullivan in The Long Gray Line (1955). She was a panelist on the game show, I’ve Got a Secret, and appeared twice on the cover of TV Guide. She also acted on As the World Turns, The Love Boat and Knots Landing. In 1964 she recorded “Betsy’s Fashion Notebook,” an album featuring her cosmetic tips; and in 1969 she won the “Straw Hat Award” for her starring performance in the theatrical production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. However, her life swerved from its familiar patterns when, returning home after a stint as Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, she decided to end her 19-year marriage to New York gynecologist Dr. Vincent J. Merendino. “We married each other for the wrong reasons,” she said. “I married a doctor and he married an actress.” She turned her life over to God and experienced a new peace. “It was as though God welcomed me home. I began to see it was alright for God to take over.” She and Merendino had one daughter, Melissa.

Aside from show business, Palmer served on the Greater New York Advisory Board of the Salvation Army. A formal commendation from the Army acknowledges “…her active commitment of time, talent and resources to aid those in need in the New York area…” and “…her warmth of personality and grace, which has made her a standout in all phases of the entertainment industry…”

“Breezy” Betsy Palmer, ever gracious, offers this advice: “Instead of worrying about what other people think, don’t try to act, just be who you are from moment to moment. Give 100% of yourself, and if that’s not enough for someone that’s judging you, at least you have the integrity of knowing that you’ve done the best you can.” In 1985 she visited her high school in East Chicago, Indiana, her hometown. The mayor proclaimed it “Betsy Palmer Day” and offered her the key to the city.

Palmer’s papers (SC-28), comprising correspondence, scrapbooks, newsclippings and photos, are housed at Wheaton College Special Collections.

John Stott (1921-2011) – Global Christian

John Stott
John Stott with Hudson T. Armerding, circa 1968

Word spread today that John Stott has left this earth and moved on to his reward following a short illness. Stott, who died mid-afternoon London-time, had a relationship with Wheaton College that went back many decades. He spoke at Wheaton on numerous occasions with nearly thirty recordings being housed in the College’s archive. Stott, who studied at Cambridge University and was the long-time minister at All Soul’s Place, Langham Place (Adjacent to the BBC), was a frequent-enough speaker at Wheaton College that a pattern for his visit emerged where he would have a time of questions and answers with students following his address. During his 2003 visit to Wheaton, responding to a student’s question of how to proclaim Christ in a post-modern, relativistic age, Stott responded, “I, myself, am persuaded that the major way in which the gospel can be presented to a post-modern age is not by anything we say but how we live. There needs to be in us Christian people an authenticity which cannot be denied, so there is no dichotomy between what we say and what we are. No dichotomy between our public life and our private life. What an incredible thing it is in our day that politician after politician after politician says “My private life has nothing to do with my public life.” What unadulterated rubbish that is. So, there must be no dichotomy between what we are in private and in public. What we say. What we are. That is authenticity. People have to see Christ in us and not just hear what we talk about.”

Stott was a strong proponent of the expository form of preaching, which seeks to shine light upon the meaning of a particular text or passage. Former Wheaton faculty member Kenneth Kantzer wrote in Christianity Today‘s pages in 1981, “When I hear him expound a text, invariably I exclaim to myself, ‘That’s exactly what it means! Why didn’t I see it before?'”

According to a Christianity Today write-up, Stott was born into a London doctor’s family where he spent virtually his entire life in the same London neighborhood. He would later become the pastor of the church he attended as a child, All Souls Church, though he was less interested in the service then than later. He would sometimes drop wads of paper from the balcony on to the hats of ladies below. When Stott was ordained Evangelicals were in the minority in the Church of England, without a single Evangelical bishop. He fostered the growth of Evangelical organizations, such as the National Evangelical Anglican Congress, within and outside of the church, proper. His biggest contribution to the church as a whole was his participation in the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization and its subsequent work. He gave the opening address and was the chair of the committee that drafted the Lausanne Convenant, which established a common mission for evangelical action. Lausanne was a defining moment in global evangelicalism. The records of the Lausanne meetings are located in the Billy Graham Center Archives. Stott was a concerned about global Christianity and his engagement was diplomatic and humble. When Stott traveled to Argentina to meet with Latin American theologian Rene Padilla the two found themselves in the middle of a heavy rain storm. They arrived to their destination completely drenched and muddied. Padilla remembered vividly the grace shown by Stott as he took the time to clean and shine Padilla’s shoes.

Along with the archival audio at Wheaton College several of Stott’s more recent addresses are available online through Wheaton’s WETN website

Seeing through the eye

Anyone who has read Malcolm Muggeridge extensively will be familiar with the recurring themes which he tended to call on, either in articles, speeches or books. The clear favorite was the rather overused quote from Blake, making the distinction between seeing with and seeing through the eye. Another was describing himself as a vendor of words, just as St. Augustine had done. But of course, another recurring theme was gargoyles and steeples.

Let’s think of the steeple and the gargoyle. The steeple is this beautiful thing reaching up into the sky admitting as it were, its own inadequacy–attempting something utterly impossible–to climb to heaven through a steeple. The gargoyle is this little man grinning and laughing at the absurd behaviour of men on earth, and those two things both built into this building to the glory of God… [The gargoyle] is laughing at the inadequacy of man, the pretensions of man, the absolute preposterous gap–disparity–between his aspirations and his performance, which is the eternal comedy of human life. It will be so until the end of time you see…Mystical ecstasy and laughter are the two great delights of living, and saints and clowns their purveyors, the only two categories of human being who can be relied on to tell the truth; hence, steeples and gargoyles side by side on the great cathedrals. ………. (Interview with William F. Buckley “Firing Line” television show, 1978)

One of the results of the Muggeridge Rediscovered conference in 2003 was the inception of the Malcolm Muggeridge Society. Formed on the 100th anniversary of Malcolm Muggeridge’s birth, the Society seeks to provide a focus for all worldwide who have a continuing interest in his life as journalist, author, broadcaster, soldier-spy and Christian apologist. The many mentions of Gargoyles, either by Muggeridge himself or in the writing of others about him, explain the aptness of the title for the mouthpiece of the Society, The Gargoyle.

Gargoyles have been around for thousands of years, some of the earliest known forms of gargoyle have been found in ancient Roman and Greek ruins. Originally fabricated in terra-cotta, later figures were carved of wood, yet a complete shift to stone took place by the 13th century. The term gargoyle is a contraction from the Latin gurgulio and the Old French gargouille, sharing an obvious root with the English word gargle, and means “throat”. Gargoyles were originally intended as waterspouts and drains to keep rain water from running down the walls of buildings and damaging the foundations. Projecting out from the roof or parapet, they served to throw the water from the gutter clear.

Malcolm MuggeridgeThe adoption of Muggeridge as a modern gargoyle was not in stone, the work of a skilled stonemason, but in caricature, the work of the famous cartoonist, Wally Fawkes, better known as Trog. It is extraordinary that the depiction of Malcolm Muggeridge as a gargoyle in ink reached a vastly larger audience than would ever be achieved by one of stone. The depiction was very apt and appropriate given Muggeridge’s fascination with gargoyles and his desire to identify himself with them so frequently in his writing and broadcasts.

It remains to be seen whether a more permanent Muggeridge gargoyle is ever commissioned, carved in stone and affixed to a building for future generations to gaze at in awe and wonder. A Muggeridgean gargoyle could perhaps make an interesting addition to Broadcasting House, London, home of the BBC. He could look down with amusement and “told you so” resignation at the fine mess broadcasters get themselves into.

Perhaps his presence there is needed as a constant reminder of his prophesies and dire predictions. In “Christ and the Media”, now republished, he lamented the falling standards of taste and the departure of the BBC from maintaining and expounding Christian moral values.

Excerpted from David Williams’ “Les Gargouilles de Dijon” and “Gargoyles — a chip off the old block” editor of The Gargoyle publication of the Malcolm Muggeridge Society.

The Malcolm Muggeridge Papers are available to researchers at the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections.

It’s a beautiful day in Chicago!

Though, as of the writing of this blog, it is not a beautiful day in Chicago with its heat index in the 100+ degree mark for several days running, the radio career of Everett Mitchell was signified by his recognizable phrase.

Everett MitchellEverett Mitchell, born March 15, 1898, grew up on a small farm near Chicago in Oak Park, IL, just eight months after radio was invented by Guglielmo Marconi in 1897. Growing up impoverished, Mitchell once had to wear his sister’s hand-me-down shoes to school. Of Quaker lineage, he learned dozens of hymns at an early age and often sang as he performed his chores. Soon his melodious voice attracted the attention of local churches seeking musicians and revivalists. One of the nation’s prominent evangelists, Gypsy Smith, noticed young Everett and hired him as a soloist for Smith’s revival services at Pacific Garden Mission in downtown Chicago. Smith later convinced Billy Sunday to utilize Mitchell’s talent for summer revival services at Winona Lake, IN. There he sang hymns during Sunday’s invitation plea, imploring hundreds of seekers to accept Christ as savior.

After completing high school, Mitchell worked as a clerk at First Trust and Savings Bank and in the evening he moonlighted as a part-time announcer for station WENR. The bank supervisor noticed Mitchell’s often bedraggled appearance after his radio gigs presented him with an ultimatum: leave radio or be fired. Mitchell quit with little deliberation. As he departed, his supervisor fumed: “Radio is nothing but a passing fad!” Mitchell entered full-time at WENR where he soon developed a consistent programming format, allowing a convenient predictability for both the performer and the listener. Now he could schedule jazz, gospel or classical music ahead of time and advertise, thus hooking the audience. For Mitchell, this was a definitive first in a long career of firsts.

Mitchell later departed WENR for NBC, assuming responsibilities as announcer for the “National Farm and Home Hour,” a program dedicated to presenting livestock reports and light entertainment. As host, he was posed with two dominant tasks: 1) be friendly with the audience; and 2) be accurate with the reports. Mitchell got the job because he was the only person in the 26 applicants who could describe the difference between a strawstack and a haystack. Soon after, the Great Depression devastated the country, hurling thousands of Americans into financial ruin. On May 14th, 1932, riding the train to work, he wondered how he might relieve their distress. Ironically, the same day’s papers carried news of the Lindbergh baby’s murder.

Mitchell recalled that “It was raining and misting. It was in the depths of the Depression,” and “a fellow on the train was complaining about the weather and hard times. He said, ‘As far as this nation is concerned, we’re doomed. God has forsaken us.’ And I said, ‘No, we’ve forsaken God to worship the almighty dollar.'” That morning, Mitchell, not discussing his intent with the station management, stepped to the microphone to introduce the show, stating confidently: “It’s a beautiful day in Chicago! It’s a great day to be alive, and I hope it’s even more beautiful wherever you are.” He hit the “beautiful” really hard. Everett MitchellThe impromptu greeting upset the management, but created a sensation among an audience desperately hungry for good cheer. The station received 13,000 calls and letters and as a result, the phrase became his signature for the remainder of his career.

An extensive traveler, Mitchell did half of his shows from farm locations. He traveled over 2 million miles and visited over 50 countries, reporting on agriculture in Europe, Central and South America, Russia and Asia. He served as a war correspondent in Korea, investigating famine.

Mitchell died November 12th, 1990, in Wheaton, Illinois where he and his wife lived on Beautiful Day Farm.

Movie Madness

William “Willy” Kuntze, former Dean of the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College, was a man of tremendous musical gifts, enjoying an international reputation for his compositions and solo performances. Graduating in 1891 from Kullak Conservatory in Berlin, studying under Kullak and L.E. Bach, he served as Conductor of the Chicago Teachers’ Union from 1898 to 1906, during which time he also served as Instructor in the Piano Department of Balatka Musical College. From 1906 to 1909 he was in Concert and Lyceum Work. During the early 1920s, Kuntze acted as Director of the School of Music at the University of New York, as well as Instructor of Pipe Organ and Piano at Wheaton College.

Kuntze in 1904 married a former student, Mary O’Neil Morrison, granddaughter of Jesse Wheaton, one of the city’s founders. Mary taught piano, serving with her husband at Wheaton College, and attended the Methodist Church. She died in 1964, collapsing beside the piano while living with Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Bundy at 310 W. Evergreen, the home built by Jesse in 1838.

To supplement a rather meagre income, Kuntze lent his extraordinary talent to various local gigs, not all evangelical. For instance, he served as organist and choirmaster for Temple Beth-El in Chicago. On a more secular note, he played for the cinema in downtown Wheaton, employed part-time as the accompanying organist, providing stirring background music as dramatic black and white images flashed over the screen. Unfortunately for him, film attendance for staff, faculty and students was forbidden by the college, which viewed this activity as injurious to the soul and unworthy of consecrated Christians. Learning of Kuntze’s moonlighting, Dr. Charles Blanchard, after some administrative deliberation, sent this June 1st, 1925, note to the renowned musician:

My Dear Dr. Kuntze:

Professor Green has notified me of your decision respecting the movies. I was hoping that you might decide to stay with the college rather than with them. But he tells me that your decision is to remain with them. Of course, you are the party that has to make the decision. I found no difference of opinion in our Executive Committee. All of them felt that it would not do for the college to be tied up with things like the movies. If you can see your way clear to do that, that is a matter for you to decide.

With best regards, I am sincerely yours, Charles A. Blanchard (dictated by President Blanchard, signed in his absence)

Since Dr. Kuntze is not listed among the faculty after 1925, it is assumed that he presented his decision to President Blanchard. He died in the mid 1930s. The William Kuntze collection (SC-70), comprising his collection of music, opera histories and composer biographies is housed at Wheaton College Special Collections.

On My Mind – Lyle Dorsett

Twenty years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Former Professor of Christian Educational Ministries and Evangelism Lyle Dorsett (who taught at Wheaton from 1983-2005) was featured in the Winter 1993 issue.

When I was a teenager, the father of my best friend used to sing a song that included these lines:

……………Well I might have gone fishin’,
……………but I got to thinkin’ it over,
……………and the road to the river,
……………is a mighty long way.
……………It must be the season,
……………no rhyme or no reason,
……………just takin’ it easy,
……………it’s my lazy day.

Today my mind is filled with gratitude. Why? It could be the season. As I write, leaves of rich yellow, red, and golden hues are falling all over campus. The football Crusaders played again yesterday and won rather handily. Turkey, pumpkin, and cornstalk decorations adorn the offices and dormitories. ‘Tis the season to be thankful.

But my gratitude has a reason that goes much deeper and way beyond the season. It is tied up in being a part of the Wheaton College community.

Mary and I and our son, Michael, came to Wheaton from Colorado in the summer of 1983. Looking back over ten years here stirs my heart with gratitude. I am thankful for numerous things some far too personal to set forth here. On the other hand, there are several causes for gratitude that are on my mind, and I feel constrained to share them with the extended Wheaton College family.

First of all, I am grateful for colleagues on the faculty and staff–true brothers and sisters in Christ who encourage me, pray for and with me, bear my burdens, and hold me accountable. I am also thankful for those seldom-noticed heroes and heroines who keep the buildings so clean and the grounds well groomed.

Besides colleagues on the faculty and staff, students fill my heart with joy. I realize it is fashionable nowadays to bemoan the fall of America in particular the morals of our young people. Quite frankly, Mary and I–thanks to our Wheaton College experience–feel hopeful rather than concerned. In my office I have a large map of the world on the wall. This map is covered with red pins that pierce scores of cities and countries on every continent but Antarctica. Each pin represents a place where at least one, but often many, former students work in vocational missions and ministry.

I am grateful to God for raising up SO many students out of Wheaton College to work in the great harvest He has prepared. I am also grateful to these former students for responding to God’s call on their lives.

In addition to these who work directly with the harvest, there is another group of alumni that warm my spirit. These are the women and men who have not been called to serve in vocational ministry or missions, yet are giving sacrificially to support their friends who have been called to go. Mary and I feel a deep sense of gratitude to those people, who for one reason or another, have stayed at home but feel a marked sense of responsibility to assist their former classmates who are doing yeoman service on the front lines.

Recently, Mary and I have become deeply involved in a new mission agency, Christ for Children International, designed to minister to children in Latin America. CFCI has yet to celebrate its second birthday, but already there are eleven missionaries serving in two cities in Mexico. Of those eleven, ten are Wheaton College graduates. Because of our daily involvement with this agency, we have seen first-hand how Wheaton students and alumni are giving sacrificially to make this work possible. They also comprise a prayer network that has undergirded the work and enabled it to go forward.

Finally, I am grateful for the chapel services we hold three days each week. It is in chapel where we meet together and learn who needs prayer and a burden shared. Together we join to sing praises to our Lord Jesus Christ, for it was in his name that Wheaton College was built, and it is in his name that we go forth to advance his kingdom.

Yes, I am grateful. And much more than the season makes me this way.

Lyle W. Dorsett received his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri and for several years taught in state and private universities. He came to Wheaton College in 1983 to become Director of the Marion E. Wade Center. He was involved with the Billy Graham Center’s Institute of Evangelism and in 1991 was appointed as Professor of Educational Ministries and Evangelism in the Christian Education & Educational Ministries department. He has also authored numerous books and articles including biographies of Billy Sunday, E.M. Bounds; Joy Davidman (wife of C.S. Lewis), D.L. Moody, and A.W. Tozer. Since 2005 he has been the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism at Beeson Divinity School and Pastor at Christ the King Anglican Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

Army Specialized Training Program

John LaVine

John LaVine

Photo: Minnesota Historical Society

In mid-August 1942 Wheaton College experienced its first war-related blackout. At 10:30pm on August 12th alarms, whistles and air-raid sirens blew sending students to shelters below ground. The following summer 250 soldiers arrived on campus to begin Army Specialized Training Program 3672, otherwise known to everyone as ASTP. The program sought to meet the wartime demands for junior officers and soldiers by training skilled technicians and specialists. Headquartered in the old gymnasium (Adams Hall) the 20-dozen or so men were housed around campus and took their meals in the basement of Pierce Chapel. About a half-dozen faculty were involved in instructing these post-basic training soldiers. It was an interesting joining of forces in that Wheaton College did not adjust its lifestyle expectations for the soldiers while on campus. Due to the final pushes of the war and the need to replace fallen soldiers the program was cut back and was withdrawn from Wheaton in April of 1944.

One of the soldiers stationed at Wheaton for supplemental training was John LaVine. gathered by the Minnesota Historical Society, below are some of his recollections-devel of his time at Wheaton.

“We finished our basic training…and was awaiting transfer to the Army Air Corps when my assignment to go to Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, came through, to the ASTP unit there, and David’s assignment came through to the same college, so we boarded the train with several others and proceeded to return to Chicago. From Chicago we took, I think it was, the North Shore Line, an electrified commuter railroad up to Wheaton, to the college, and reported in there. Were assigned our billets, which were in the college gymnasium, and that was where about 50 of us slept on Army bunks, in Army fashion. Wheaton College was kind of a nice assignment. Wheaton was a fashionable Chicago suburb. I believe it still is. Wheaton College was, I believe, a Methodist school — [it had a] religious affiliation, anyhow. It was a small liberal arts school. The city of Wheaton was “dry” because of its college and Methodist background, so we had to go into Chicago, for the action, and so that’s where we did go. I think we went into Chicago only a couple of times, probably down on Clark Street, and so forth.”

“We were at Wheaton — I think it was winter semester, and then it was quite an engineering and scientific-oriented curriculum– it was not a humanities — and I think I had an Algebra test, and Algebra, although I’d had some in high school, really wasn’t my forte, and I did engage in attempting that famous dictum, a parody of “Victory through Air Power”, the slogan during World War II. I was trying “Victory with Eye Power” on an examination and got caught. If they’d had any sense they’d have bounced me out of the program, but I ended up walking a penalty tour al a West Point. We didn’t have our own weapons at Wheaton College. They had had an ROTC on it, and they had, I think, old Civil War muskets, that they’d fill the barrels with lead, and I was issued one of those — which must have weighed about 40 pounds — to walk around with on my shoulder for a couple of days. By this time, the needs for soldiers was acute with the increasing activity in the European theatre and the imminence of the invasion there, and also in the South Pacific, so the Army decided that it could not afford the luxury of the ASTP program, and so the program was closed down after that one semester at Wheaton College, and we were then returned to real life. The entire unit was loaded onto a troop train in Chicago, destination Camp White, Oregon.”

What Wheaton College Did for Me: Norman Rohrer

Norman Rohrer’s recollection appeared in the March, 1966, edition of Alumni magazine. In addition to writing several books, he was Executive Secretary of the Evangelical Press Association.

God used Wheaton College to pull me off the road where I was wandering aimlessly and set me on a course of Christian service. When I stopped at Unit I Men’s Dorm in the summer of 1949 I intended only to spend the night and then be on my way to Alaska. Mr. Arthur Volle, then living in the dorm with his family, asked if I had come to go to school. I explained that, though I was 20 years old, I had no high school and couldn’t even think about college. But he didn’t give up. He invited me to take a series of aptitude tests which I did in the Wheaton Administration Office. At the end of that time I was given a letter which I took to York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois.

On the basis of that letter I was given five two-hour exams called the General Educational Development tests provided by the Armed Forces. I passed those on Friday, got my high school diploma for $4.58 and enrolled the following day for second semester Summer School at Wheaton College. I knew immediately what I wanted to do and went straight to the table marked “Writing.” This became my major. Each summer at Wheaton I traveled abroad in search of stories and experiences. From Wheaton I went to Grace Theological Seminary and earned the B.D. degree and from there into Christian journalism. Today I am a freelance writer serving 14 accounts among mission agencies and service organizations, including my post as executive secretary of the Evangelical Press Association.

I hand much of the credit to Wheaton College. Without its providential intervention I would no doubt have wound up in Alaska with little aim or purpose and of even less usefulness to the Lord. It’s easy to see why I can say, “Thank God for Wheaton College!”

On My Mind – Ruth Bamford

Twenty years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Former Dean of Students Ruth Bamford (who worked at Wheaton from 1970-1994) was featured in the December 1991/January 1992 issue.

Ruth BamfordOften I find myself thinking about how hard students at Wheaton work. It is no wonder they look forward to days off and holidays just like the rest of us. While their lives are often very exciting, they are also tough and tiring as well.

It’s like this: Most students have a part-time job. They spend anywhere from 4 to 30 hours a week at work. A full course load means 12 to 15 hours of lecture and lab in addition to the multiple hours spent preparing for daily written assignments, tests, and papers. Remember “all-nighters?” They are still a popular way for students to squeeze everything they can into the day and night. On top of all this, many students are involved in a weekly outreach or ministry, which takes all or part of an evening.

All this activity not being enough, most students place a high value on relationships and spend a lot of time talking, playing, praying, falling in love, and out, and making up!

Summer does not even bring relief from busy schedules. There are summer jobs to be had, summer youth programs to lead, and plans for life after college to be made.

Will there ever he a time in their lives when there is more opportunity for enriching experiences?

I am often asked how students have changed over the years.

Taking an outward glance, students today are much more affected by our culture than they have been in years past. Popular music and clothes fashions change every six months or so and are much more casual, Students’ dress fluctuates anywhere from conservative to funky or downright weird. Except for freshmen, most students have access to a car. Everyone has a favorite TV show.

Taking a deeper look, the “sins of the fathers” are affecting these young people. Some are torn emotionally as a result of divorce, abuse, and addiction within their families. They are also dealing with tough issues in the classroom and in their relationships including: environmental ethics, equality for women and minorities, hunger for two-thirds of our world, economic recession for most of the world, and popular views of sexuality that are ungodly. (For those of you interested in understanding how our popular culture has affected our youth, I recommend that you read Dancing in the Dark. (Schultze, Anker, Bratt, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991).

From an educational standpoint, students coming in today certainly know a great deal more of what is going on in the world than we did, and a significant number of them have been overseas. Computer literacy is as important today as knowledge of a foreign language. Students at Wheaton today are both bright and culturally aware.

They are also, however, much more individualistic. Except for required chapel services where we enjoy regular worship together, all-school events draw much smaller numbers than in years past. On the other hand, these students have a heart for God, and often put us to shame with their zeal for evangelism and their excitement for reaching out to those less fortunate than they are. An exception to the general rule: recently the Gospel Choir, 80 strong, led an evening of exciting worship with almost 2000 in attendance.

What do I think of today’s students? Frankly, I’m impressed. They are extremely creative and energetic. Granted, there are varying degrees of personal maturity, but overall their commitment to the Lordship of Christ is very strong.

They can be very critical of the way decisions are made. Many students would like to see the “no dancing” rule changed, but despite this, they show restraint, honesty, and thoughtfulness in how they approach this issue. They have good ideas, and expect to be treated with fairness and integrity.

Being an administrator has its ups and downs–mostly ups, however. We love these students. They are God’s gift to us, and to each other. We learn from them the idealism and hope that still believes that individuals and groups with commitment can make a difference in this world. They keep us on our toes as they question us and look to us for models of the ethics and commitment to the Lordship of Christ that we espouse.


Following graduation from Wheaton, Ruth taught public school music in Detroit, Michigan. After earning her master’s degree in administrative services front Michigan State University, she accepted a position as counselor in charge of student activities at West Suburban Hospital School of Nursing. After ten years at West Sub, Ruth was invited by Dr. Henry Nelson, former vice president of student development, to become Associate Dean of Students at Wheaton College. For the last 19 years, Ruth has coached, supervised, trained, assisted, counseled, and befriended thousands of Wheaton College students.