Dr. Art Holmes ’50, M.A. ’52, Dr. Beatrice Batson M.A. ’47, Dr. Mark Noll ’68, Dr. Sharon Coolidge ’72, Dr. Roger Lundin ’71, and Ruth Berg Leedy ’32 all have one thing in common: they are recipients of the Distinguished Service to Alma Mater Award at Wheaton College. Another thing they have in common is that Marjorie Lamp Mead ’74, M.A. ’06 values their friendship.
“When you look at the list of names of those who have received this award, it is certainly an honor to be in this company,” Marj says.
As associate director of the Wade Center and executive editor of VII: Journal of the Marion E. Wade Center, Marj describes her journey to becoming a staff member at the Wade as “a unique path.” Keeping company with evangelical influencers and artful creators began as early as Marj’s freshman year on Wheaton’s campus, when she began to take English courses with literary scholars including Dr. Beatrice Batson, who was also her academic adviser; and Dr. Clyde Kilby, who taught Romantic Literature and Modern Myth. During her time in Dr.Kilby’s classes, Marj was able to hear firsthand updates from him about his various trips to England while he was beginning to gather papers and writings of what would eventually become the Wade Center.
“The Wade exists because of Dr. Kilby’s vision, but it was shaped by his great capacity for friendship, love for life, sense of humor, and creative passion for the Wade authors,” Marj says.
After graduation, Marj held various jobs including editorial work, bookstore management, and a public library reference position. In her spare time, Marj volunteered at the Wade Center, where she helped to organize the Charles Williams Manuscripts. One day, Dr. Don Mitchell, vice president of academic affairs, approached Marj and thanked her for her time spent volunteering at the Wade. He went on to extend a providential full-time job offer on behalf of Dr. Kilby.
Today, 41 years later, Marj is as confident in her decision as ever.
In addition to her service as associate director, Marj served as interim director in the years between Dr. Kilby and Lyle Dorsett’s leadership; between Dr. Dorsett and Dr. Christopher Mitchell; and from 2013 until July 2018, when Drs. David and Crystal Downing became Wade’s co-directors and co-holders of the Marion E. Wade Chair of Christian Thought.
Marj is grateful for her work with gifted directors over the years that has helped to shape her understanding of scholarship and service. In addition to Dr. Kilby, Marj says the Wade was expanded by Lyle Dorsett, who “brought his pastoral heart, training as a historian, research skills, and ability to communicate compellingly to strengthen the Wade.” As Wade’s third director, Dr. Chris Mitchell “became a gifted connector and built strong relationships with a number of societies and individuals that benefit the Wade even today.”
And what has been Marj’s favorite part of working at the Wade?
“There’s no doubt it’s the Wade authors themselves—their thought and writings,” Marj says. “The authors understood the wonder of nature and the wonder of story; they had great ability to use the imagination to bring theological truth alive. In reading the Wade authors, you learn in countless ways (as C. S. Lewis encourages) ‘to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own.’”
Marj says the relationships she’s built with people at the Wade are an equallyimportant part of her work. From relationships with researchers and visitors—some of whom knew the Wade authors personally—to friendships with Wade Center donors, affectionately called “Friends of the Wade,” to the Wade Center Board and Wade Center staff , Marj counts many as close friends.
“The Wade Center has flourished under her leadership,” Stan ’61 and Jeannette Anderson Bakke ’61 say. “The Wade staff is an excellent team of people working together with a variety of gifts.”
Beyond her role at the Wade, Marj’s College roommate, Dawn Schut Johnson ’74, attests to Marj’s compassionate heart.
“Throughout our friendship of 48 years, I have never not known, or seen, or felt her genuine compassion for others,” Dawn says. “Certainly Marj’s friends, colleagues, and the Wheaton community have been the beneficiaries of her 41 years of dedication to and love for the Wade Center.”
Major highlights of Marj’s 41-year tenure include the establishment of VII: Journal of the Marion E. Wade Center in 1980, for which she currently serves as executive editor; the construction of the Wade Center’s building on campus in 2001; celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wade in October 2015 in conjunction with the unveiling of the Bakke Auditorium, which has enabled the Wade to expand its event offerings; the Hansen Faculty Lectureship, now in its fourth year, which has been “a wonderful way to connect more deeply with Wheaton’s campus and the nearby community”; and in September 2018, the Wade Center’s launch of the Muriel Fuller Endowment for the Imagination and the Arts.
Marj has also conducted influential research of her own, completing her master’s thesis “Making Sense of the Universe: Dorothy L. Sayers and the Way of the Intellect,” at Wheaton College Graduate School. Dr. Mark Noll ’68, professor of history emeritus, calls Marj’s master’s thesis “one of the absolute best” of the 50 or so he directed during his time at Wheaton.
As Marj looks to the future, she sees abundant opportunities for the Wade to expand and continue to influence scholarship at large.
“Apart from increased programming, I hope we will be able to raise funds for research fellowships to aid scholars in coming to work in Wade’s collections. We also have a number of exciting publishing projects that I hope will come to fulfillment. There is no end of wonderful opportunities that come our way because of the writings and thought of our seven authors,” Marj says. “The Wade Center specializes in literary arts, but veers into other arts in many ways—drama, music, and so on. We’re doing more with that all the time, and I’m excited about this. Dr. Kilby would be too.”