Wheaton magazine

Volume 20 // Issue 2
Wheaton magazine // Spring 2017

30 Years of Radical Gratitude


Few things in life are worth more than they cost: a Wheaton education is one of them. Wheaton College is committed to keeping Wheaton affordable for every student and continuing our tradition of excellence by investing in Christ-centered faculty and programming.

When Beverly Liefeld Hancock ’84 was in high school, a biology teacher told her that being a Christian and going into science were incompatible. She remembers thinking, “No, these two can coexist—not just for science but for all academic thinking.” 

And at Wheaton, they did. The daughter of Olive Fleming Liefeld—who was the wife and widow of missionary to Ecuador and martyr Pete Fleming—and New Testament scholar Walter Liefeld, Beverly made academics her top priority. She often mused that she might end up on the mission field, serving where the needs were greatest. 

“I grew up in a household where missions is what you did,” Beverly says. “Dad worked with a ton of international students. They flowed through our house.” 

Jonathan Hancock ’83 was different. It’s not that he didn’t care about his studies at Wheaton. It’s just that he made relationships and ministry a big priority. 

Jonathan and Beverly met at a hockey game while a sophomore and a freshman, respectively. They didn’t cross paths again for almost three years.

Then, when she was a junior, “four or five” of Beverly’s male friends and lab partners excitedly told her about a “best friend” who was returning after a semester off campus. It dawned on her that they were talking about the same person—Jonathan Hancock, the Christian education and biblical studies major. The one she had met at the hockey game long ago. 

Who was this guy who had made such a powerful relational connection with so many? She looked him up in the yearbook and, unexpectedly, was interested. 

Today, after 30 years of marriage, Beverly and Jonathan have taken a few unexpected paths. While overseas missions didn’t quite happen, they both felt called to urban ministry and urban living in Chicago. After Wheaton, Beverly earned three degrees from Rush University College of Nursing. Currently she serves as director of educational programs for the American Organization of Nurse Executives. 

Among other positions, Jonathan served as executive director with Emmaus Ministries, which seeks to rescue men caught in survival prostitution on the streets of Chicago. After 27 years in urban ministry, he is now a pastor in Glen Ellyn. 

Along the way came their two daughters—Elizabeth ’17 and Abigail ’19—who both followed in their parents’ footsteps to Wheaton. Elizabeth has participated in the Global Urban Perspectives and Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) programs. Abigail is on the softball team. 

Despite all of life’s twists and turns, the Hancocks have sought to be radically consistent in their care for the whole person—and in their charitable contributions. For each of the last 30 years, Beverly and Jonathan have given to the Wheaton Fund to help others get the kind of education they received. About 78 percent of Wheaton’s undergraduates receive some form of scholarship or grant, and the fund is a huge component for many. 

Beverly says the values, character development, and critical thinking available at Wheaton set the school apart—and people notice. She said one local employer told her that he hires Wheaton graduates because they have values he can’t teach. 

The Hancocks say part of Wheaton’s importance as an academic institution, beyond its role impacting students, is the influence its faculty have outside of Wheaton, both in Christian thought and in academic circles. 

“The institution is such a necessary voice,” Beverly says. “What would happen if Wheaton went away?” 

One of Jonathan’s life mottos is “think radically and give generously,” and he’s happy to apply that philosophy to the College. 

“We both had wonderful experiences at Wheaton,” he says. “It’s our way of expressing gratitude.”