Scraps of Humor in the Archives: Stories from 160 Years of Wheaton College Pranks

While many of the records in the College Archives relate to the work of the administration, staff, and faculty at Wheaton College, the collections also hold documents from generations of Wheaton students, including biographical files, personal scrapbooks, student group papers, oral history interviews and student publications. Through these records, the College Archives preserves students’ experiences and traditions, from the serious to the lighthearted. One of the most enduring of the student traditions documented by the Archives is that of the college prank.

In a 1931 prank, senior jackets were strung on a clothesline during chapel. (College Archive Photograph #B8772)

Tales of Wheaton students’ antics appear from the very early days of the college. In A Minority of One, Clyde Kilby recounts one prank on the first president of Wheaton College, Jonathan Blanchard: On April Fool’s Day, students placed a goose on the lectern prior to Blanchard’s arrival. Upon entering Blanchard assessed the situation and left the classroom after exclaiming, “Well, students, I see you have chosen a new leader. Since he must be more to your liking, I will take the only course open to me. I will withdraw.”

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A Workman for Souls: Remembering William R. McCarrell

College Archives Photograph A1922

The influence of professors, students and administrators is often felt long after they are gone. A ministry might be deeply influential publicly or privately, but after the passage of years, memory of that work diminishes. Fortunately, Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections offers an opportunity to revisit the particulars of hard-won contributions to the history of Wheaton College, local Chicago missions, and world evangelism. One such story is that of Dr. William R. McCarrell.

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In the Heart of the North Woods

Honey Rock Camp, ca. 1950 (Honey Rock Records, Box 1)

This month hundreds of new Wheaton College students will visit HoneyRock Center for Leadership Development in the northern woods of Wisconsin as a part of the start of their Wheaton journey. Envisioned as “a laboratory in counseling and leadership for students,” time at HoneyRock has become a touchstone for many students’ experiences at Wheaton, as well as for Wheaton College faculty, staff, and their families.

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E. J. Carnell and the Mad Race for Relevance

Because Wheaton College is frequently associated with C.S. Lewis, whose papers are archived on campus at the Marion E. Wade Center, the popular English author is often humorously invoked as its patron saint. But the appellation could just as aptly fit Dr. Edward John Carnell, whose academic objectives, directly or indirectly, color the mission statements of nearly all accredited American evangelical liberal arts institutions. As theologian, philosopher and professor, Carnell played a crucial role in the development of contemporary evangelicalism, believing that conservative Christians too often failed to intellectually engage with the challenges posed by modernism. Widely networked among prominent American evangelicals of the mid-twentieth century, the movements of his extraordinary career can be seen in the various collections, books and files maintained by Buswell Library Archives & Special Collections.  

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Constructed in the Clouds: The Unrealized Buildings of Wheaton College

Buildings, like people, mature and settle, acquiring unique histories and personalities through the passing seasons. Even when a beloved structure is lost to time as the result of demolition or decay, its influence burns a distinct impression into communal memory. At other times a form is planned but never built, perhaps due to lack of funding, changing needs, or diminished interest from its advocates.

The following structures, projected for the Wheaton College campus, remained stagnant on the drawing board but suggest fascinating, unrealized possibilities.   

The idealistic depiction on the left, conveying the ambitious “Greater Wheaton” project printed in the 1934 Tower, visualizes a series of modern buildings burgeoning upward from the solid basis provided by the old fashioned, neo-Romanesque Blanchard Hall. In this sketch, the drafts of a future Wheaton pile higher and higher into the clouds of the artist’s imagination, where it would remain.

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