Wheaton College (Illinois)
|Motto||Christo et Regno Ejus|
Motto in English
|"For Christ and His Kingdom"|
Coeducational Liberal Arts
|Endowment||$405 million |
|President||Philip Graham Ryken|
|198 full time
104 part time
|Location||Wheaton, Illinois, United States
|Campus||Suburban, 80 acres (32.4 ha)|
|Athletics||Division III (NCAA)|
|Affiliations||Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges|
Drawing 2,500 undergraduates from all 50 United States, 50 countries, and over 55 church denominations, Wheaton offers 40 majors in the arts, humanities, literature, foreign languages, social sciences, and natural sciences.
Wheaton is noted for its "twin traditions of quality academics and deep faith," according to Time magazine and is ranked 20th among all national liberal arts colleges in the number of alumni who go on to earn PhDs.
Wheaton is included in Loren Pope's influential book Colleges That Change Lives.
Wheaton College was ranked 15th in "Best Undergraduate Teaching" by the U.S. News & World Report for national liberal arts colleges. The school was ranked 56th overall among national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report for 2013. Forbes lists Wheaton among the Top 100 Colleges and Universities in its 2014 rankings.
- 1 History
- 2 Academics
- 3 Campus
- 4 Athletics
- 5 Library and collections
- 6 List of campus buildings
- 7 Student life
- 8 Activism and controversy
- 9 Presidents
- 10 Notable alumni
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
Wheaton College was founded in 1860. Its predecessor, the Illinois Institute, had been founded in late 1853 by Wesleyan Methodists as a college and preparatory school. Wheaton's first president, Jonathan Blanchard, was a former president of Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois and a staunch abolitionist with ties to Oberlin College. Mired in financial trouble and unable to sustain the institution, the Wesleyans looked to Blanchard for new leadership. He took on the role as president in 1860, having suggested several Congregationalist appointees to the board of trustees the previous year. The Wesleyans, similar in spirit and mission to the Congregationalists, were happy to relinquish control of the Illinois Institute. Blanchard officially separated the college from any denominational support and was responsible for its new name, given in honor of trustee and benefactor Warren L. Wheaton, who founded the town of Wheaton after moving to Illinois from New England.
A dogged reformer, Blanchard began his public campaign for abolitionism with the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1836, at the age of twenty-five. Later in his life, after the Civil War, he began a sustained campaign against Freemasonry. This culminated in a national presidential campaign on the American Anti-Masonic Party ticket in 1884.
Blanchard Hall, Wheaton College
|Location||501 College Ave., Wheaton, Illinois|
|Area||Less than one acre|
|Architectural style||Classical Revival, Romanesque|
|NRHP Reference #||79000836|
|Added to NRHP||November 14, 1979|
Under Blanchard's leadership, the college was a stop on the Underground Railroad.The confirmation came from the letters of Daniel Studebaker, one of Blanchard's relatives by marriage, who notes that the town and college's anti-slavery beliefs were so widely held "that he, along with hundreds of other Wheaton residents, had seen and spoken with many fugitive slaves".
Blanchard consistently lobbied for universal co-education and was a strong proponent of reform through strong public education open to all. At this time, Wheaton was the only school in Illinois with a college-level women's program. Also, Wheaton saw its first graduate of color in 1866, when Edward Breathitte Sellers took his degree. Additionally, he is the first African-American college graduate in the state of Illinois. In 1882, Charles A. Blanchard succeeded his father as president of the college.
In 1925, J. Oliver Buswell, an outspoken Presbyterian, delivered a series of lectures at Wheaton College. Shortly thereafter, President Charles Blanchard died and Buswell was called to be the third president of Wheaton. Upon his installation in April 1926, he became the nation's youngest college president at age 31. Buswell's tenure was characterized by expanding enrollment (from approximately 400 in 1925 to 1,100 in 1940), a building program, strong academic development, and a boom in the institution's reputation. It was also known for growing divisiveness over faculty scholarship and personality clashes. In 1940, this tension led to the firing of Buswell for being, as two historians of the college put it, "too argumentative in temperament and too intellectual in his approach to Christianity." By the late 1940s, Wheaton was emerging as a standard-bearer of Evangelicalism.
By 1950, enrollment at the college surpassed 1,600, and in the second half of the twentieth century, enrollment growth and more selective admissions accompanied athletic success, additional and improved facilities, and expanded programs.
In 2010, The public phase of The Promise of Wheaton campaign came to a close with $250.7 million raised, an "unprecedented 5-1/2 year campaign figure for Wheaton College".
In 2010, Wheaton College become the first American Associate University of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Faith and Globalization Initiative. Tony Blair noted that the partnership will "give emerging leaders in the United States and the United Kingdom the opportunity to explore in depth the critical issues of how faith impacts the modern world today through different faith and cultural lenses" and that Wheaton's participation will "greatly enrich the Initiative". Politician Corey Conklin attended the college for a year. 
Wheaton College is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
According to The Princeton Review's The Best 351 Colleges, "If the integration of faith and learning is what you want out of a college, Wheaton is arguably the best school in the nation with a Christ-based worldview." Students may choose from about 40 majors in many liberal arts disciplines and in the sciences. Some of the most popular in recent years have been Business, Communications, English, Biology, Biblical Studies, Political Science, International Relations, and Psychology. In 2011 it was ranked #1 for best cafeteria food in the nation according to the Princeton review.
In 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked Wheaton College at 56 out of 265 Best National Liberal Arts Colleges. Wheaton continued to achieve high rankings in several areas of the report:
- #15 in freshmen retention (95.0%) (2009 Report) 
- #21 in six-year graduation rate (86%) (2007 Report)
- #25 in SAT/ACT scores (1250–1440) (2007 Report)
- #39 in percentage of freshmen graduating in the top 10 percent of their high-school classes (54%) (2007 Report)
In recent years, Wheaton's overall ranking has been as high as 44. Wheaton asserts that its U.S. News & World Report ranking is lower than that of academically comparable counterparts because Wheaton is ranked lower in financial resources due to its lower tuition costs and smaller endowment.
Wheaton College ranked ninth in the nation in the total number of graduates (all fields) who went on to earn doctorates (during the period of 1986-1995) according to Franklin & Marshall College's latest survey, which included more than 900 private colleges and universities.
Forbes magazine ranks Wheaton College 75th in their annual list of 650 best undergraduate institutions and gave Wheaton a financial grade of ‘A.’ Forbes also lists Wheaton among the Top 100 ROI Colleges 2014. 
In 2013, the Fiske Guide to Colleges named Wheaton College to its list of 44 Best Buy colleges and universities, based on the institution's quality of academics in relation to the cost of attendance.
Kiplinger's rates Wheaton 17th for Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges 2010-2011. Kiplinger's rankings measure academic quality and affordability, with quality accounting for two-thirds of the total.
A leading ecumenical religion journal, First Things, ranked Wheaton the #1 school in America. The First Things rankings “measured” the academic, social, and religious dimensions of American institutions of higher education.
Conservatory of Music
Wheaton College is home to a Conservatory of Music, fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. The Conservatory offers two professional music degrees: the Bachelor of Music (with emphases in performance, suzuki pedagogy, composition, history and literature, conducting, collaborative piano, or elective studies) and the Bachelor of Music Education. 100% of the teaching faculty in the Conservatory hold doctorates. There are approximately 200 music majors in the Conservatory, with a student-faculty ratio of 7:1. Music majors and liberal arts majors alike perform in the Conservatory's six large ensembles: Concert Choir, Jazz Ensemble, Men's Glee Club, Symphonic Band, Symphony Orchestra, and Women's Chorale. Graduates include conductor John Nelson, Grammy Award winning American soprano Sylvia McNair, and Wendy White of the Metropolitan Opera.
The Artist Series at Wheaton College, operating under the umbrella of the Conservatory of Music, is a subscription concert series that brings world-class performers to the Wheaton College community. Previous Artist Series performers include the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Lorin Maazel and the Symphonica Toscanini, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, The Canadian Brass, and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards & Band of the Coldstream Guard. The Artist Series frequently partners with Wheaton College Conservatory graduates, including Sylvia McNair, soprano, and John Nelson, conductor.
Wheaton College Graduate school
The Wheaton College Graduate School was founded in 1937 to provide further theological training and ministry skills. Both the College and Graduate School are located on an eighty-acre campus in Wheaton, IL, a forty-five minute train ride straight west of downtown Chicago. There are approximately 550 graduate students enrolled, with a 14:1 student/faculty ratio.
The mission statement of Wheaton College Graduate School is: To form servant scholars and leaders through exceptional graduate programs for Christ and His Kingdom. The vision statement is: God transforming the world through scholars and practitioners rooted in Christ and equipped for global leadership.
The Graduate School is composed of six academic departments: Biblical and Theological Studies, Christian Formation & Ministry, Evangelism and Leadership, Intercultural Studies, Psychology, and Teaching. The Graduate School offers 14 M.A. programs: Biblical Archaeology, Biblical Exegesis, Biblical Studies, History of Christianity, Theology, Christian Formation & Ministry, Evangelism & Leadership, Intercultural Studies, TESOL and Intercultural Studies, Missional Church Movements, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Counseling Ministries, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Teaching (both Elementary and Secondary Ed.); and 2 doctoral programs: Ph.D. in Biblical & Theological Studies and Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology.
Five of the masters programs provide a flexible degree option. The Biblical Studies program is offered as a part-time, evening cohort model, Missional Church Movements and TESOL and Intercultural Studies are offered as a summers-only format, and Evangelism & Leadership the Christian Formation and Ministry - Outdoor and Adventure Ministry concentration are offered in a year-round modular format.
The Graduate School is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Dr. Nicholas Perrin is the current Dean of Wheaton College Graduate School.
Wheaton gives students a number of off-campus study opportunities.
The college sponsors study-abroad programs in Asia, England, France, Germany, the Holy Lands, Latin America, and Spain, as well as a summer program in Washington, D.C. Participants in Wheaton-in-England, one of the most popular annual programs, take 2–3 courses in literature while studying in London and St. Anne's College, Oxford.
Many students also participate in the Human Needs and Global Resources program. The HNGR program matches select students with six-month internships in the Third World, including opportunities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Wheaton also sponsors a semester-long, experiential, residential program in Chicago, called Wheaton in Chicago. In Chicago, students complete internships and take advanced interdisciplinary coursework. Founded in 1998, has enrolled students from more than 20 different majors.
In 1951, HoneyRock, the outdoor center for leadership development at Wheaton College, was established in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. HoneyRock is not only a year-round camp for young people but it offers a variety of leadership schools and courses for students. Nearly 3000 people utilize HoneyRock each year.
Due to Wheaton's membership in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, Wheaton students may also study at the University of Oxford, the Los Angeles Film Studies Center, Wesley Institute in Australia, and Xi'an Foreign Language University in China. The CCCU also sponsors programs in American studies, Latin American studies, Middle Eastern studies, Russian studies, and journalism.
Wheaton's most recognizable and oldest building is Blanchard Hall, a limestone building built as the main College building in 1853. At the time, the College building was one of only two on campus, the other (called the "boarding hall") being a frame building at the foot of the hill crowned by the two-story building. Jonathan Blanchard had a vision for the expansion of this structure into its present castle-like architecture. The architectural influence is, supposedly, patterned after buildings at the University of Oxford which Blanchard admired on a trip to England in 1843. After four additions (1871, 1873, 1890, 1927) the Main Building was completed in 1927. In this year, under college president J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., the Main Building was renamed Blanchard Hall, to honor Wheaton's first two presidents, Jonathan Blanchard and his son Charles Blanchard.
In 1900 the brick "Industrial Building" was built. From 1917–45 it housed the Wheaton Academy, and from 1945–60 the Graduate School. In 1960 it was renamed Buswell Hall, and in 1980 renamed Schell Hall in honor of Edward R. Schell.
The science departments were housed in Breyer (Chemistry) and Armerding (Biology, Geology, Math, and Physics) halls until the 2010-2011 school year when Wheaton's new Science Center was completed. Armerding Hall was also the home to the Wheaton College Observatory (a feature of the college since the presidency of Charles Blanchard in the late-nineteenth century).
The Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, housed in McAlister Hall and neighboring Pierce Memorial Chapel, is an internationally recognized music school and holds the distinction of being the only conservatory within an Evangelical school of higher education. The approximately 200 students within the conservatory focus on a range of fields within music including education, performance, composition, and history. Student recitals, required for graduation with a music degree, are generally held in Pierce Memorial Chapel.
Wheaton College teams participate as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division III. The Thunder are a member of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW). Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field and wrestling; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field and volleyball.
The school's college football team is coached by Mike Swider, who has taken the team to the NCAA Division III National Football Championship Playoffs a total of seven times: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2014.
The Gymnasium, later renamed Adams Hall, was built in 1898. Today it serves as home to the Art Department and was renovated in early 2010.
Alumni Gymnasium (renamed the Edward A. Coray Alumni Gymnasium in 1968, in honor of Coach Ed Coray's long service), was built during the Edman presidency and paid for by alumni. The cornerstone was laid at homecoming on October 11, 1941. A copper box placed in the cornerstone contained a copy of the Wheaton Record, the Wheaton Daily Journal, a college catalog, a student directory, and a copy of the Homecoming program.
Wyngarten Health Center was built in 1958, followed by Centennial Gymnasium in 1959-60, which was extensively renovated and expanded in 2000. It is now known as King Arena and is part of the Sports and Recreation Complex (SRC) and houses the majority of the college's athletic and fitness facilities.
Library and collections
Buswell Memorial Library's physical collections contain over one million items, making Buswell the largest library collection of liberal-arts colleges in the state of Illinois.
The Library, named after college trustee Robert E. Nicholas, opened in January 1952. In 1975 Buswell Memorial Library, named for the college's third president J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., was built adjacent to the Nicholas Library and an interior corridor linked the two, creating the college's main library. The building also contains the Peter Stam Music Library, located downstairs and named in honor of the Conservatory of Music's first head, Peter Stam.
The Marion E. Wade Center, formerly housed in Buswell Library, moved to its new purpose-built home in September 2001. The Marion E. Wade Center, established in 1965 by professor of English Clyde S. Kilby, is an extensive research library and museum of the books and papers of seven British writers: C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, Dorothy L. Sayers, George MacDonald, and Charles Williams. The Wade Center has memorabilia of the Inklings, including C. S. Lewis' writing desk and a wardrobe from his childhood home constructed by his grandfather widely thought to have inspired the Chronicles of Narnia series (although Westmont College also owns a wardrobe that once belonged to Lewis), Charles Williams's bookcases, J.R.R. Tolkien's writing desk where he wrote the entirety of The Hobbit and worked on The Lord of the Rings, and Pauline Baynes's original map of Narnia.
Buswell Library's special collections also include the archived correspondence, manuscripts, articles, photos, and other papers of Madeleine L'Engle, the Newbery Medal-winning author of A Wrinkle in Time. With items dating as early as 1919, the collection is composed largely of material sent to the college by L'Engle and has been supplemented by the college with books and other supporting materials. The collection is the most comprehensive research center for L'Engle's work.
List of campus buildings
(see below for residence halls)
- Adams Hall – former gymnasium, currently houses Art Department, renovated building reopened in January 2009
- Armerding Hall – former science building (Biology, Math/Computer Science, and Physics); annexed to Breyer Hall; named after the fifth president
- Beamer Center – student center (dining hall (Anderson Commons), post office, student activities facilities, etc.)
- Billy Graham Center – Advancement, evangelism programs, Billy Graham Center Archives, College Archives & Special Collections (division of the college library), Barrows Auditorium, media resources, graduate school admissions and student services, academic departments (Biblical and Theological Studies, Christian Education/Christian Formation and Ministry, Communications, Intercultural Studies, Psychology); named after the famous alumnus
- Blanchard Hall – President’s Office, Provost’s Office, Vice President of Finance, accounting, computing services, human resources, purchasing, academic departments (Education, English, History, Philosophy, Sociology/Anthropology); first College building; named after the first two presidents
- Breyer Hall – former science building (Chemistry and Geology); annexed to Armerding Hall
- Buswell Memorial Library – main stacks, music library, reference
- Central Heating and Cooling Plant
- Chase Service Center – public safety, physical plant (auto shop, lock shop, transportation center, etc.)
- Edman Memorial Chapel – chapel auditorium and support space, 2009 renovation includes instrumental rehearsal room and instructional space for Conservatory of Music; named after the fourth president
- Harbor House – executive retreat and conference center
- Jenks Hall – Arena Theater, ROTC/Military Science
- Marion E. Wade Center - Museum of CS Lewis and other Christian writers
- McAlister Hall – Conservatory of Music
- Memorial Student Center (MSC) – former student center, renovated and reopened in January 2008, houses Business/Economics and Political Science/International Relations; named in honor of students who fought in World War II
- Meyer Science Center – opened 2010, houses all academic departments formerly housed in Armerding, Breyer, and SRC
- Pierce Chapel – Conservatory of Music and Community School of the Arts, recital hall
- Schell Hall – HoneyRock office, foreign language offices, HNGR office
- Sports and Recreation Complex (SRC) – Athletics, field house, pool, climbing wall, fitness center, indoor track
- Student Services Building – bookstore, career services, financial aid, housing/residence life, registrar, student accounts, Student Development, undergraduate admissions
- Westgate – Alumni Association; formerly the President's Home
- Wyngarden – student health services, Foreign Language
- Fischer Hall, on the north side of campus, houses freshman and sophomore men and women.
- McManis-Evans Hall, overlooking the quad, houses sophomore, junior, and senior men and women
- Smith-Traber Hall, houses freshman and sophomore men (Traber) and women (Smith)
- Williston Hall, built in the nineteenth century as the first separate residence hall, houses sophomore men and women
Other college-owned housing
- College Avenue Apartments - Upper class housing located near the soccer and football fields
- College Court Apartments - Upper class housing located south of the Beamer Center and west of the French House
- Fellowship House - Upper class female housing west of Traber Hall
- French House - Upper class male housing south of the Beamer Center
- Graham House - Upper class male housing West of the Graham Center for 9 guys, has a history of getting a picture with President Ryken every year.
- Hearth House - Upper class female housing north of Buswell Library
- Kay House - Upper class male housing west of Traber Hall
- Kilby House - Upper class female housing northwest of Edman Chapel
- Mathetai House - Upper class housing west of Traber Hall
- Saint & Elliot Apartments - Upper class housing on the east of campus
- Terrace Apartments - Upper class housing on the far east of campus
The Memorial Student Center (MSC) was dedicated on June 11, 1951. It was built in memory of over 1,600 former students and graduates who served in World War II, and in honor of those 39 who gave their lives. It housed the Student Union Café, nicknamed "the Stupe" (which has since been moved to the Beamer Center). An early pamphlet described the new building and listed some of the rules for its use, such as No Rook Playing and No Playing of Boogie-Woogie, Jazz, or Otherwise Abusing the Piano. The MSC was remodeled during the Fall semester of 2007 for academic use, and is now home to the Business Economics department, the Political Science and International Relations department, and the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy.
The MSC was remodeled according to the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The MSC was the first building renovated according to these standards and sets higher standards than existing EPA standards. Many of the materials that were used were post-consumer and over 20% of the materials were manufactured within a 500-mile (800 km) radius of the College. The MSC remodeling is part of the current capital campaign, The Promise of Wheaton.
The Dining Hall (now the "Student Services Building") opened January 4, 1953. Today it houses Student Development, Undergraduate Admissions, and the College Bookstore.
Jenks Hall is home to the Arena Theater, which was established in the Fall of 1974 and has staged over 100 full length productions.
In the fall of 2004, the Todd M. Beamer Student Center was completed. Beamer, a Wheaton alumnus, was part of a small group of passengers who stormed hijackers on United Flight 93, bringing down the plane in rural Pennsylvania during the September 11, 2001, attacks, and preventing it from reaching its target. The building that bears his name was a $20+ million dollar project commissioned in order to meet the needs of the growing college community. Along with its spacious and sleek modern design, the Beamer Center features a convenience store known as the "C-Store", the "Stupe" (the name derives from students shortening the previous nickname for the campus Student Union, "Stupid Onion", which in turn is a jocular mispronunciation of Student Union), a bakery café named "Sam's" (named after the former Vice President of Student Development Sam Shellhammer, who retired following the 2007-08 school year after serving Wheaton's campus community for thirty years), several reading rooms and lounges, a recreation/game room, a prayer chapel, an expanded college post office, the offices for several organizations and departments, and several other event rooms. In the fall of 2006, strong rain storms created a flood that destroyed the lower level of the Beamer Center. Wheaton College has since restored the flood-damaged building.
The official student newspaper at Wheaton College is the Wheaton Record, a weekly publication with a circulation of 3400, in existence since 1876. The Record is produced by students, published by the college, and distributed each Friday after chapel free of charge. The Record was the recipient of the 2006 John David Reed General Excellence Award and has received 13 other awards from the Illinois College Press Association, of which it is a member. The Record is also a member of the Associated Collegiate Press.
In addition, Wheaton College has many organizations on campus that range from helping the poor and needy in Chicago to the arts and improvisation.
Juniors and seniors are also eligible to live in one of thirteen campus houses, apartments (five complexes), or off-campus.
The chapel, on the corner of Washington and Franklin streets, was dedicated on November 15, 1925. The building was also used by the college for commencements and other important assemblies. In 1936–37, it was renamed the Orlinda Childs Pierce Memorial Chapel. Neighboring McAlister Hall is home to the Conservatory of Music and houses conservatory faculty offices, several music classrooms, and the practice rooms used daily by conservatory students.
The college's regular chapel services are held in Edman Memorial Chapel, which seats 2,400. It is named for V. Raymond Edman, fourth president of the college. Edman died in 1967 while speaking in chapel. He was preaching on being in the presence of the King, and the recording is available in the Wheaton chapel archives. This chapel/auditorium is also used for many events of Wheaton's performing arts programs. In 2000, an entirely handcrafted organ made by Kai Libby of Ireland was installed.
The building housing the Billy Graham Center (BGC), named after one of the college's most well-known graduates, opened in September 1980. The Billy Graham Center itself, as the repository of the evangelist's corporate records, had existed since 1974. The BGC houses several evangelism institutes, a museum of the history of evangelism, the college's Archives and Special Collections, as well as the Wheaton College Graduate School and the school radio station, WETN 88.1 FM.
The Women's Building, renamed Williston Hall in 1930–31 (in honor of longtime Blanchard friend and donor J. P. Williston), was built in 1895. Its construction required the college to borrow $6,000. After seventy-eight years of housing only women, Williston Hall is now a coed dormitory for sophomore students. It opened to men starting in the fall semester of 2009 with the dream that it would become a creative hotspot on campus.
The President's House, or Westgate, formerly owned by college trustee John M. Oury, was presented to President Buswell on the tenth anniversary of his inauguration, April 23, 1936. This served as the home of three of Wheaton's subsequent presidents. It now houses the Office of Alumni Relations.
In 1951, HoneyRock, the outdoor center for leadership development at Wheaton College, was established in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. HoneyRock is not only a year-round camp for young people, but it offers a variety of leadership schools and courses for students. Nearly 3000 people utilize HoneyRock each year. Through HoneyRock the college owns nearly 800 acres (323.7 ha) in Northern Wisconsin.
The Senior Bench at Wheaton College is one of the oldest and most legendary rivalries in the school’s 150 year history. According to dusty archives files and whispers of oral tradition, the graduating class of 1912 is believed to have bequeathed a hefty concrete monument to solidify its place in the annals of her alma mater.
Anchored in front of Blanchard Hall and first photographed for the 1934 Tower yearbook, it was intended for seniors only, but through the decades envious undergraduates soon coveted its prized status. A great rivalry began in 1949 when juniors from the class of 1950 stole the top two foot by seven foot section while the seniors were away on their annual retreat.
Many ingenious, inventive, and sometimes illegal methods have been employed by rival classes in their passionate pursuit of securing this nearly 800-pound stone slab. During the 1950s an exact replica was cast by the class of 1957 in a foolhardy attempt to trick the other classes, yet to no avail. The class of 1959 is heralded for one of the most amazing bench showings as it suspended the bench from a helicopter and flew it over the Homecoming football game.
Another infamous bench caper was hatched when seniors from the class of 1963 traveled by train to Colorado for their yearly retreat. As the train stopped at Mendota, Illinois the bench was shown by the juniors who had arrived by car to taunt the seniors. A melee ensued and a scheduled thirty second stop erupted into a two-hour delay as railroad agents, local police and the Interstate Commerce Commission were all summoned to sort out this violation of federal law.
The current rules surrounding possession of the bench were enacted after seniors from the class of 1966 showed the bench in chapel and were greeted by slashed tires and cut ignition wires in the parking lot. The bench was confiscated by the Dean of Students and mysteriously destroyed while under lock and key. A replica soon surfaced and the tradition was resurrected. Henceforth all bench activity has been limited to the junior and senior classes, the bench must remain within a one-mile (1.6 km) radius of Blanchard Hall, half of the bench must be visible at all times, and the bench must be shown twice a year and never in chapel. In subsequent decades the passionate rivalry has ebbed and flowed as soil analysis kits, airplanes, wiretaps, high-speed car chases, Billy Graham, wishing wells, and even eBay, have all been employed in pursuit of this elusive prize for all Wheaton students.
Wheaton College competes in many NCAA Division III sports in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin. The men's basketball team won the first NCAA Small College National Championship in 1958, defeating Kentucky Wesleyan in the finals, 89-65. The Wheaton men's soccer team captured the NCAA Division III Men's Soccer Championship in 1984 and 1997, to go with runner-up finishes in 1999, 2006 and 2014. The women's soccer team won the NCAA Division III Women's Soccer Championship in 2004, 2006 and 2007. Wheaton athletics also competed in basketball at the 1904 Summer Olympics. The 1967-68 women's basketball team finished their season undefeated in 11 games, including a victory over the University of Iowa. Wheaton College was a member of the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference from 1919 to 1937.
Gil Dodds (MA '48), one-time world record holder for the indoor mile, NCAA cross country champion, and three time Wanamaker Mile champion, was the men's track & field coach at Wheaton in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Activism and controversy
Wheaton College has received criticism in recent years from both conservative and liberal alumni. Wheaton's acceptance of evolutionary biology in the science departments has proved controversial to some. Wheaton College was prominently featured in the 2001 PBS documentary Evolution, which showcased Wheaton professors' acceptance of theistic evolution. On issues of religion and science, the college holds the view that religious teachings about God and modern science are not at odds.
The school's mascot was changed from the Crusaders to the Thunder in 2000, as the image of a mounted Crusader was deemed potentially offensive and reminiscent of a controversial period in Christian history. The change was noted in the national press, and some alumni objected to the change. Other suggestions for a new mascot name that were rejected included the Mastodons — a reference to Perry Mastodon, which is a mastodon skeleton that was dug up nearby and is now on display on the college campus in the brand new science building. While still known as the "Thunder", in 2010 the mascot was officially changed to a mastodon named "Tor Thunder" to integrate the official and unofficial mascots.
Wheaton again appeared in the news when Joshua Hochschild, assistant professor of philosophy, was dismissed in 2004 for becoming Roman Catholic. Wheaton's president said his "personal desire" to retain Hochschild, "a gifted brother in Christ", was outweighed by his duty to employ "faculty who embody the institution's Protestant convictions". In 2008, English professor Kent Gramm resigned after declining to give the college administration details of his pending divorce from his wife of 30 years.
In 2011, a group of Wheaton alumni established OneWheaton, with the stated purpose of providing support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and similarly situated students and alumni at Wheaton and other colleges.
In July 2012, Wheaton College filed a lawsuit alongside The Catholic University of America in the Washington, D.C. District Court, opposing the Health and Human Services Preventative Services mandate. The mandate, which is a regulation under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, would force both institutions to provide access to emergency contraceptive drugs or pay severe fines.
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- Jonathan Blanchard (1860–1882)
- Charles A. Blanchard (1882–1925)
- J. Oliver Buswell (1926–1940)
- V. Raymond Edman (1941–1965)
- Hudson Armerding (1965–1982)
- J. Richard Chase (1982–1993)
- A. Duane Litfin (1993—2010)
- Philip G. Ryken (2010–present)
Wheaton alumni include Reverend Billy Graham (1943), film director Wes Craven (1963), former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (1964), former chief presidential speechwriter Michael Gerson (1986), United States Senator Dan Coats (1965), Wake Forest University President Nathan O. Hatch (1968), theologian John Piper (1968), missionary Jim Elliot (1949), President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) head Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer (1968), former John Deere CEO Robert W. Lane (1972), United Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer (1991), author Rob Bell (1992), and twin harpists Camille and Kennerly Kitt.
Wheaton is also notable for graduating Illinois' first African-American college graduate, Edward Breathitte Sellers, in 1866. 
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