Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
College History



John Edgar Park

The Reverend John Edgar Park (1879-1956), who became president in 1926, was educated at Queens College, Belfast; Royal University, Dublin; New College , Edinburgh; Leipzig and Oxford Universities; and Princeton. For 19 years he was the minister of the Second Church, West Newton. While there he published such books as The Man who Missed Christmas, Bad Results of Good Habits, and The Disadvantages of Being Good. Park was professor of Theory of Worship at Boston University School of Theology in 1920s, the chairman of the Board of Trustees at Andover-Newton Theological Seminary, and in 1936 the Lyman Beecher lecturer at Yale.

Park began his Wheaton tenure by modernizing the curriculum, introducing departmental honors and senior seminars, and instituting academic majors and minors. Wheaton's scholastic standing was recognized by the installation of the the Kappa chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1932.

Wheaton's growth and vitality during Park's presidency is particularly noteworthy: despite the Great Depression and World War II, student enrollment and the number of faculty increased steadily, and the building program begun by President Cole continued. Ten structures were built, and nine houses acquired during Park's tenure, including the Nursery School (1931), Kilham (1932), Metcalf (1933), Administration Building (1934, named for Park in 1954), SAB (1940) and additions to the library and science buildings (1941).

A member of the Board of Preachers at Harvard, Park was one of the most popular preachers in New England. He was known on campus for his witty "Chapel Talks,some of which were published in New Horizons. Dr. Park received honorary degrees from Tufts, Middlebury and Wesleyan, as well as from Wheaton.

The year 1935 brought Wheaton's centennial anniversary, which the college commemorated with a two-day celebration that included commencement, alumnae reunion, historical exhibits, and the performance of a pageant written by English department members Ellen Ballou and Lousie MacKenzie.

Numerous student traditions enjoyed their heyday from the 1920s to 1950s. Sister class traditions, and especially Senior Class Day and May Day Ceremonies were developed and elaborated upon during this period. Most of them, with the exception of the Senior Class Hoop Roll, died out in the 1960s.

J. Edgar Park. retired in 1944 at the age of 65, despite the protests of the Trustees, and was named President Emeritus.

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