Wheaton’s life-giving relationship with the City of Chicago goes all the way back to the beginning of the College.
When Jonathan Blanchard stated his reasons for accepting Wheaton’s presidency, he said that the College “is near Chicago, the gate city between the Atlantic and the Pacific, between Western Europe and Eastern Asia.”
Blanchard’s words have proven to be prophetic. Today Chicago stands among the world’s most influential cities in culture, commerce, and creative innovation—along with global cities like Singapore, Seoul, and Shanghai.
Connect with Chicago, connect with the world.
During the days of Jonathan Blanchard, Wheaton students provided assistance during and after the Great Chicago Fire. Jonathan’s son Charles was a regular visitor to Chicago, traveling downtown to preach at the Moody Church and helping to found the Moody Bible Institute.
In 1919, Wheaton entered a new era of civic engagement. That year the College began organizing weekly outreach to Chicago, especially through Sunday school services in black communities.
Wheaton’s ministry to Chicago has continued for the last century. In the 1980s, I was one of hundreds of students who traveled into the city every week in a fleet of blue vans to lead worship, tutor kids, and share the gospel.
In recent decades, Wheaton engages Chicago not merely as outreach visitors, but as ministry partners who work and worship in the city alongside the neighbors we live with and learn from. Wheaton in Chicago started back in 1992 as a residential academic experience for students with internships in business, government, education, and the arts. The program is thriving under Dr. Noah Toly ’99, M.A. ’12, who also leads Aequitas, Wheaton’s scholarship program for students committed to urban engagement.
Last summer, Wheaton’s trustees saw this work firsthand through a three-day retreat in Chicago. We visited with educational and ministry partners in Woodlawn, where Wheaton in Chicago has a cooperative lease arrangement with Sunshine Gospel Ministries. The trustees were also inspired by their visit with leaders from Lawndale Community Church, where over the last 40 years, Wheaton students, alumni, and faculty have witnessed dramatic community development under the leadership of Coach Wayne Gordon ’75.
Our prayer is that God will do in Woodlawn what he has done in Lawndale: use Wheaton College to bless a city he loves. This will take more than people who care. It will take a new generation of graduates who know what to do because they have lived alongside the Chicagoans who can show them how.