Christmas Greetings from Prexy Edman

PrexyXmasThe December, 1961, Wheaton Alumni magazine features on its cover a photo of President and Mrs. Edman sitting cozily before a blazing holiday hearth, probably at their home, Westgate.

(Or perhaps it is a cold fireplace with a lantern placed within, since there does not seem to be an actual fire.)

The caption reads, “We asked ‘Prexy’ and ‘Friend Wife’ to carry to you our greetings for Christmas and the New Year ‘For Christ and His kingdom.'”

Fulfilling the Two Tasks

Twenty years ago this fall, as a new Wheaton freshman, I sat with hundreds of others on the lawn of front campus to witness the dedication of the Billy Graham Center. Sharing the platform with Dr. Graham ’43 and President Hudson Armerding ’41 was the keynote speaker, Charles Malik, a Lebanese educator and statesman whose words profoundly changed my attitudes toward learning and the gospel. Malik’s central argument was that Christians in general and North American evangelicals in particular stood little chance of having a deep impact upon their society unless they proved able to know and influence the intellectual life of the world. We are, he contended, admonished to save both the soul and the mind.

The speech found such resonance in the College community that it was quickly published in pamphlet form as The Two Tasks. Malik’s words, together with my subsequent four years at Wheaton, helped me begin to see past my dualistic and utilitarian views of evangelism and education.

While working with evangelical student groups in the city of Munich in the late ’80s, I found that Christian students in Germany also had a strong desire to view their studies from within the context of their faith. But my German friends wondered how they could ever hope to think as Christians or share the gospel with their peers when they could barely see past the boundaries of their own disciplines.

Wheaton has long valued the integration of faith and learning and the wholeness of a liberal arts education. Since joining the faculty four years ago, I’ve been a part of two initiatives geared toward helping students and professors work more effectively at the two tasks envisioned by Malik.

The first is Freshman Experience, a required course in which students explore such issues as consumerism, forming a Christian worldview and the theology of work and leisure. Above all, Freshman Experience mentors aim to get students excited about being students, to encourage them to see their studies and other activities not just as means to an end, but as part of the work of the kingdom. Not surprisingly, The Two Tasks occupies an important place in the syllabus.

During the 1999-2000 academic year, I benefited from the second initiative: the new faculty Faith and Learning seminar, which might be considered the postdoctoral equivalent of Freshman Experience. Our eclectic group (representing 11 departments) discussed topics ranging from biblical ethics, to Christology, to ways of knowing. It was inspiring to see that God had called such different people to pursue scholarship in a single Christian academic community. Though there was ample disagreement, we were united in our desire to think, speak, and live as new creations in Christ.

How well is Wheaton carrying out the two tasks that were laid upon us two decades ago? My experiences in the classroom and the seminar room over the past year give me reasons to be optimistic. I’ve observed colleagues and students striving to love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds. In my own teaching and scholarship, whether it be analyzing the roles of prayer and providence in a recent German film or outlining cultural differences in a Business German course, I’ve found that true joy comes in pursuing both of the two tasks wholeheartedly.

The following statement was included at the time of publication (Wheaton Magazine, Summer 2000)

Dr. Clint Shaffer ’84 is an assistant professor in the department of foreign languages and director of the Wheaton in Germany program. He received his M.A. from Middlebury College and his doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His scholarly presentations and publications deal with 18th- and 20th- century literature, German cinema, and foreign language pedagogy. His current research is a study of Christian responses to Asian religions during the German Enlightenment. He and his wife, Virginia Davidson Shaffer ’84, are the parents of Bill (5) and Sarah (3), and enjoy introducing Freshman Experience students to Chicago-style pizza.

Loving our Enemies

by Sarah Borden (Wheaton Alumni Magazine, Autumn 2003)

Today’s a high alert day in New York. I have been spending a few days in the Bronx with friends, and last night came back on the commuter train after dinner down in Manhattan. At a quarter before midnight, Grand Central Station was filled with National Guard men and women, dressed in camouflage and carrying large machine guns. I have certainly seen guards with guns stoically surveying a crowd, but, previously, they were in other countries and at the borders of other lands. Now they stand in our train stations, at our borders and airports.

Headed home that night, I realize that I increasingly find myself asking what it means to love our enemies. How, concretely, are we to be a neighbor to those who hate us? Jesus clearly asks us to pray for our enemies, and surely this includes asking God to convert the hearts and save the souls of Osama bin Laden and the members of Al Qaeda. But are we called to even more?

Consider the language that we use in describing our enemies. I admire President Bush’s concern for what is moral; he has strong and courageous convictions regarding good and evil.

But there is also a danger in calling any particular person evil. In calling someone “evil,” we run the risk of painting her as fully irrational, without reason or cause for her actions, as “other” than us. In so doing, we too easily allow ourselves the luxury of not asking why our enemy hates us, whether we have done something to wrong another, or whether we ourselves have also sinned. In calling the other “evil,” it becomes easy to presume that we are the innocent ones and are not therefore required to engage in self-examination, confession, and genuine repentance.

Our country and the American church certainly should be concerned about safety and protection. The guards, soldiers, police, and firefighters who have risked and given their lives for greater security for the rest of us are to be admired and thanked. But even as we are grateful for their great sacrifices, we should also take up the difficult and ongoing task of loving our enemies–praying not only for the salvation of our enemies’ souls, but also praying for our own souls and the full sanctification of all members of Christ’s church, that we may be presented to Him as a Bride without spot or blemish.

The following statement was included at the time of publication:

Sarah Borden ’95 is an assistant professor of philosophy at Wheaton. She holds master’s (1998) and doctoral degrees (2001) in philosophy from Fordham University in the Bronx. She has recently completed a book on Edith Stein for the Outstanding Christian Thinkers series and is a great, great grandchild of Hermann Fischer, Sr. (class of 1870) and a great, great, great grandchild of Jonathan Blanchard, Wheaton’s first president.

The Geography of Memory

JMWJeanne Murray Walker, poet and teacher, tells the tale of her mother’s slow, agonizing descent into the depths of dementia and eventual death in The Geography of Memory (2013). As her mother recedes increasingly into the past, Walker sees her own childhood illuminated. Better understanding their relationship, mother and daughter bind ever tighter as the days darken.

“Provides us with fresh glimpses into hidden joys and startling surprises.” — Richard J. Foster, author of A Celebration of Discipline

“I read it, mesmerized, wondering my way through this deeply moving portrait.” — Luci Shaw, poet

“A powerful tale of loss but also renewal, pain but also love. A treasure.” — Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian

“This deeply humane memoir is at once a memorial to a mother whose memory failed before her body gave way, a poignant reflection on the sister who lived close by while the author flew in repeatedly from afar, and an insightful exposition on memory itself. With a poet’s eye for the apt image, The Geography of Memory is also a case book of spiritual disciplines taught by what Jeanne Murray Walker calls “the ugly twins, aging and death.”   — Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame, author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

The papers of Jeanne Murray Walker (SC-72) are archived in the Wheaton College (IL) Special Collections.

Listening for Madeleine

MarcusLeonard S. Marcus, author and literary historian, has compiled Listening for Madeleine (2012), a collection of interviews by friends, family, writers and editors who knew Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, Bright Evening Star, Certain Women and many more titles. Sections concentrating on various aspects of her life include “Madeleine in the Making,” “Writer,” “Matriarch,” “Mentor,” “Friend” and “Icon.”

In his Introduction, Marcus describes a 2002 interview with L’Engle, conducted at her home, Crosswicks.

What followed was an utterly remarkable performance, and an act of generosity that must have drawn on every ounce of her strength and determination. I recognized, from the published interviews I had prepped on, her responses to some of my questions. But much of what she said, I thought, was new. When I asked her about the mail she received from readers, L’Engle told the story of a young reader of A Wrinkle in Time who ended what had seemed a typical fan letter with the news that he was ill with cancer. “We corresponded,” she said, “until he died. It was hard and wonderful both.” Then L’Engle said, “My books are not bad books to die with.” As she uttered this extraordinary remark, a chill ran up my spine. “What do you mean?” I asked her. “What I mean,” she said, “is that when I read a book, if it makes me feel more alive, then it’s a good book to die with. That,” said L’Engle, “is why certain books last.”

The papers of Madeleine L’Engle (SC-03) are archived in the Wheaton College (IL) Special Collections.

“Quite an Aristocratic Negro”

Morris3Charles Satchell Morris, Jr., born in West Newton, Massachusetts, on June 11, 1899, was the great-grandson of ex-slave Frederick Douglass, and the son of a renowned Harlem pastor. Morris, Jr., entered the world equipped with extraordinary talents. Known during his early years as the “boy orator,” he was recognized for his dexterity with the English language. During high school he won the state oratorical contest over 120 white contestants.

As an African American, he frequently faced with poise and fortitude the humiliating challenges of the day. First attending Wilson Academy in New York and then Wheaton Academy, he matriculated to Wheaton College in 1919, studying English, geology, math, history, philosophy and German. In addition, he participated in the Student Army Training Corps (SATC). He was a fine student in all endeavors, but his creativity naturally blossomed in oratory, which he perfected in the busy social milieu provided by the Excelsior literary society.

After Wheaton College Morris attended the University of Chicago and Columbia University, then traveled the country, spellbinding audiences with his splendidly crafted speeches and captivating preaching before securing employment at Tennessee State College as Head of the Department of Speech, then Chair of English at Virginia State College, and eventually as Dean of Baptist Seminary and College, now defunct.

In 1943 he was invited by Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., father of Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., to deliver the Twentieth Anniversary Sermon of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where Morris’s father had served before Powell, Sr. Dr. Powell writes fondly of Morris, Jr., in his memoir, Against the Tide (1938), honoring his friend for defending him during a controversy:

The brilliant Charles Satchell Morris, Jr., then Dean of Virginia Seminary and College, dropped in at the Baptist Ministers’ Conference at Roanoke, Virginia, where I was being verbally assaulted. He got the floor and by eloquent words expressed his approval of my letter and convinced some of the brethren that my position was in harmony with the teachings of Christ and His Apostles. He told them that they were fighting God and not Dr. Powell.

Eventually Morris moved with his wife to Los Angeles. Desiring to reconnect with classmates in 1946, he requested from registrar Enoch Dyrness a list of local alumni. Dyrness, responding in an interoffice memo, writes:

…Mr. Morris is one of our few colored former students, and was quite a silver tongued orator when he was in school. My last contact with him was at the University of Chicago where he was taking some graduate work. He is quite an aristocratic negro, and I am afraid he has some rather radical leanings. I would be very hesitant about releasing any kind of a list to him, but I thought you might suggest that he get in touch with the president of the Los Angeles club. I hope he has reformed, but my guess is that he is still something of a rascal.

Dyrness does not explain in existing correspondence his perception of Morris as a “radical” or a “rascal.”

Continually in demand as a speaker, Morris preached in 1958 at North Montgomery Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where Rev. Martin Luther King served as pastor.Morris  Opening remarks for the event were presented by King, who that evening wrote on the program: Tonight we have heard one of the greatest messages we have ever heard. It was inspirational, eloquent, profound and scholarly.

In 1987 Morris received a request from the Wheaton College Alumni Association, asking for a financial contribution to assist with the renovation of Blanchard Hall. On the back of the request he wrote:

While I do not wish to discourage your monetary efforts, my contributions to Wheaton are over as long as I maintain my sanity. I would not give 10 cents to complete Blanchard Hall. This man was responsible for a life-time insult. Please never, never, never ask me to make any further contributions to the College. As a soldier being asked out of the dining room (on the part of a so-called Christian college) which action was sustained by Blanchard, haunts my memory after 69 years. Nor do I wish any more pleas for funds. [The University of] Chicago does not even have to ask, nor does Columbia, both secular schools.

Despite ill feelings toward Wheaton College, Morris admired Edward Coray, director of athletics.  Morris wrote to Lee Pfund, then-director of the Alumni Association: “If they had about 10 persons at Wheaton like Coach Coray, then my attitude toward the College would be entirely different.” The origins of his discontent during his student career can only be surmised; nonetheless, Wheaton College is honored that this distinguished man passed through its doors.

In addition to his roles as lecturer and educator, Morris was the former National Executive Secretary for French war orphans, and a member of the National Security League. Charles Satchell Morris, Jr., died on November 20, 1999, in Santa Ana, CA.

Reflections on a Sabbatical

by Leland Ryken, Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English Emeritus (Spring 2004)

Sabbatical. Noun. A year or half year of absence for study, rest, or travel, given at intervals, originally every seven years, to teachers, in some colleges and universities. This dictionary definition confirms again what I regularly tell my students in my literature courses-that abstraction and propositional discourse, for all their usefulness, never do justice to human experience as actually lived.

It is doubtless risky for me as a teacher to say that my recently completed sabbatical semester was my best semester in 36 years on Wheaton’s faculty, but…last semester was my best semester at Wheaton.

What my sabbatical semester gave me more than anything else was leisure of a certain type.The word leisure is traceable back to the French word leisir, from the Latin licere, meaning, “to be allowed.” Our word license comes from the same root.

What did I have license to do while on my glorious sabbatical? I was free to pursue a wide range of research and writing projects without intrusions. I was still sometimes the first person to arrive at the office and the last to leave, but since it was something I was free to do rather than obliged to do, even that felt leisurely. In addition, I woke up without the sense of latent anxiety that I feel even after all these years when I wake up knowing that I need to stand before an audience.

My sabbatical gave me the freedom to speak around the country in a way not allowed by my teaching routine-at Milton conferences in Tennessee and Pittsburgh, a Reformation Day in Dayton, a writer’s conference in Virginia, a theology conference in Atlanta, colleges in Alabama, a Christianity-and-the-arts conference in Kansas City.

I also had license to do some of my study and writing in sites far removed from Wheaton, and the result was a feeling of accomplishment with a “value-added” sense of refreshment and expanded horizons. My ongoing scholarly project is to contextualize Milton’s sonnets in a Puritan milieu. It was more invigorating to work on it at a chalet in Wisconsin and a hunting estate in Maryland than in my office.

All of my previous leaves of absence have been conducted under severe time pressure to meet a publishing deadline. I resolutely refused to let it happen this time, and it is one of the best decisions of my scholarly life.

In my writings on work and leisure, I have asserted that leisure must be felt as leisure before it genuinely is such. The sabbatical allowed me to translate that theory into practice, and I am grateful.

The following statement was included at the time of publication:

Dr. Leland Ryken has taught at Wheaton College for 36 years. He has published two dozen books (including edited and co-authored books). In 2003, Dr. Ryken received the distinguished Gutenberg Award for his contributions to education, writing, and the understanding of the Bible. His wife Mary ’88 is a graduate of the Wheaton Graduate School, and his three children- Dr. Philip Ryken ’88, Margaret Beaird ’93, and Nancy Taylor ’98-are graduates of Wheaton College.


tradiquette1950 was a very good year for courtesy at Wheaton College. Concerned about campus decorum in daily routines, the Intersociety Council compiled a handy booklet for instructing the average clueless Wheaton student on the correct social behavior involved in such matters as successful interaction with the opposite sex, polite chitchat, appealing dress and proper dinnertime comportment. This instructional is titled “Tradiquette,” smashing together the words “tradition” and “etiquette.” The editors state:

No one wants to feel odd, awkward or ill-at-ease. To be known as a person of poise is very much to be desired. In order that this be true of one, he must know the answers — what the inhabitants of his particular little world considers important — “how to do what, when.” So in your hand you have, for that very purpose, a little guide book compiled by Wheatonites for Wheatonites.

The advice is sensible. For instance, “…be free with the toothbrush. After all, water doesn’t bite, and being friendly with it can take a lot of the sting out of life.” The entry called “Don’t be an iceberg” encourages smiling and friendly conversation with students, staff and campus visitors. The entry called “Don’t be a clinging vine” warns the young lady about excessive arm-in-arm strolling with her guy because “…maybe he doesn’t want the extra load.” She must be reasonable. “But very seldom,” it adds, “does a girl grab a wing without a reason.”

The entry called “Class in class” cautions students against disrespectful behavior like 1) coming in late 2) writings letters 3) looking out the window 4) chewing gum 5) combing hair 6) whispering 7) filing fingernails 8) sleeping. “If you’re guilty of this — to the doghouse, please.”

What would the editors think of cell phones and instant texting?


Standing with the Titans

by Lon Allison, Former Director of the Billy Graham Center

This summer (2002) I visited with two titans of the Christian faith, John R. Mott and Billy Graham.

Mr. Mott died in the fifties, so obviously, my introduction to him was by way of biographies and his own writings. Mott, more than any other leader, was responsible for the Student Volunteer Movement, which recruited more than 25,000 college students to careers in missions. In 1910, he drew church leaders together at the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, with the vision to present Christ to every tribe and nation in their generation. Mott was the friend of presidents and the counselor to corporation leaders. His knowledge of world events was so vast and his friends so many that Woodrow Wilson twice sought him to be America’s first ambassador to China. Princeton offered him its presidency, though his formal education concluded with a bachelor’s degree. He declined both appointments because of a more important calling. In 1946 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.Yet for all his accomplishments, he voiced at the end of his life that he wished to be remembered as an evangelist.

This week I sat with Billy Graham for part of an afternoon. Our talks over ice cream sodas covered a range of subjects, but, as was Mott, Mr. Graham is first and forever an evangelist. His love for the gospel and lost people consumes his thoughts. Billy Graham was to the second half of the twentieth century what John R. Mott was to the first; his commitment to the whole church birthed a host of “Edinburghs” around the world. His desire to raise up the next generations of evangelism leaders built the Billy Graham Center.

In our musings, I mentioned my fascination with John Mott and how much he, Billy Graham, reminded me of him. At the mention of Mott his eyes began to sparkle, and he said,”I knew him. He was a giant.” I learned later from one of his closest advisers that Mr. Graham saw John R. Mott as somewhat of a hero and model for his own life.

Yes, I stood with two giants from two generations this summer, though my hunch is neither of them ever thought of themselves as such. They and so many like them are quick to tell us that it is Christ who is to be lauded, and that Christ is the source of whatever accomplishments we may see in their lives.

As I left Mr. Graham and reflected on our talk, I realized that I am the same age difference from our incoming freshmen as Mr. Graham is to me. Who, then, are the “titans” of evangelism in my generation? God save us from ever seeing ourselves as giants of the faith. But should the light of Christ shine through us enough to spill on the generations now rising, let us be both humbled and grateful.


Twenty years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles, titled “On My Mind”, in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Former Director of the Billy Graham Center, Dr. Lon Allison (who taught at Wheaton from 2000-2013) was featured in the Autumn 2002 issue.

The following statement was included at the time of publication:

For the past 25 years, Dr. Lon Allison has immersed himself in many aspects of church and parachurch ministry. As an author, educator, minister, evangelist, and performing artist in music and theater, he travels extensively in sacred and secular venues sharing his passion for relating the Christian faith to all aspects of life. In addition to membership on several missions and evangelism boards, Dr. Allison is director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton. He lives with his wife, Marie, and three children in Palatine, where he enjoys a variety of athletic pursuits.


Death Takes No Holiday

Men die each day. But in certain instances, an intriguing coincidence occurs. For instance, former U.S. Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within four hours of each other — on the 4th of July, no less. On a smaller scale within the Evangelical community, two notables passed on January 1, 1937: Dr. George H. Smith, the “Grand Old Man of Wheaton College Athletics” and Dr. J. Gresham Machen, who staunchly defended theological orthodoxy in the face of encroaching liberalism during the 1920s.

The larger world little noted their passing, but the event was splashed on the front page of the January 6, 1937, student newspaper, The Wheaton Record. Death Takes Drs. Smith, Machen over Holidays announces the headlines in large, bold lettering.

SmithSmith, “…the kindest, friendliest of men,” was Retired Head of the Classics Department. In addition, he was instrumental in founding the Athletics Department at Wheaton College, encouraging intercollegiate sports in an era when it was disparaged by educators. As professor of classical languages and head of the department of foreign languages, he was noted for “untiring zeal.” An ordained Congregational minister, he served churches in California, Hawaii, Ohio and Illinois. Dead at 89, his funeral was conducted at Gary Memorial Church in Wheaton.

J. Gresham Machen, founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, was not associated with Wheaton College, but wrote such classics as What is faith?, The Origin of Paul’s Religion and The Virgin Birth, used during theology classes. Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, President of Wheaton College and fellow Presbyterian, likened Machen to Athanasius, whose witness, if accepted by the church, would have precluded the dark ages. Machen died of pneumonia in Bismark, North Dakota.