Wheaton as Preparation: Then & Now
Q: What are you most thankful for from your time at Wheaton College?
A: When I went to Wheaton College in the 1940s, it was nearly 100 years earlier that it was founded by Pastor Jonathan Blanchard as an anti-slavery school. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s nephew was in the first graduating class. So I received a much broader view of life at that point. There has always been at Wheaton the great redemptive gospel they believed in, but also a social emphasis.
At Wheaton, I made friends with black students, and I recall vividly one of them coming to my room one day and talking with deep conviction about America’s need for racial justice. That influenced me tremendously—to go to school with black people for the first time in my life.
Also, I studied anthropology at Wheaton, which was a strong department with great professors. At that time, I never dreamed I would be traveling all over the world or how much I could use cultural anthropology to understand how other people live. It would give me a tolerance for other backgrounds, which I believe God has used mightily as we proclaimed the gospel around the world.
In my time at Wheaton, I would listen to the missionary speakers as they came, and I was so inspired. I just thought, “My goodness, we can go out and win the world for Christ!”
I believe God worked all of these things together back then to prepare the way for our ministry in the years to come.
What characteristics set Wheaton students apart from students at other universities?
Back in the 1980s, I had the opportunity to come back to Wheaton for a Chapel service, and I was so moved as Dr. Chase led the students in prayer for our ministry on secular campuses. It was remarkable seeing students at Wheaton praying for fellow students elsewhere. Prayer is key to our effort to communicate the gospel and win men and women to Christ.
I talked one time to the president of Harvard University, and asked him what the greatest need was at Harvard. He said, “The students to be committed.” He didn’t say to what, but I believe that it’s true. Across college campuses, there’s a feeling among students that they don’t have a purpose; some of them don’t have meaning in their lives. Students are searching for something and they don’t know what it is. That something is God, and they won’t find the complete answer until they come to know God.
I know there are countless students at Wheaton being inspired, just as I was, to be used by God to bring hope to the hopeless, helping people around the world know what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
ALL ANSWERS COMPILED BY THE BGEA FROM EXCERPTS OF REV. BILLY GRAHAM’S PAST SPEECHES, PRESENTATIONS, AND WRITINGS. FOR MORE, SEE “A GATHERING OF SOULS: THE BILLY GRAHAM CRUSADES,” BY THE INSTITUTE FOR AMERICAN EVANGELICALS (VISION VIDEO, 2014).