Creating history

Wheaton seniors gather for Opening Convocation in Cole Memorial Chapel in August. (Photo by Keith Nordstrom)

Attendance at this year’s Opening Convocation ceremony could not have been better. Students, faculty and staff filled Cole Memorial Chapel to mark the official start of Wheaton’s 185th academic year. It’s an amazing tradition that brings together the entire campus to celebrate the beginning of the new year and the promise that it holds.

The theme for this year’s Opening Convocation, “Never Stop Making History,” focused on legacies—those we inherit and those we create. The event itself serves as a vivid reminder of all the events and people who have shaped and been shaped by Wheaton through the years.

Our students shape this place in so many different ways—in the classroom, in the leadership roles that they fill, on our playing fields and in other venues, on the stage and in our performing arts spaces. They are the Wheaton College of today; their history has become part of the history of this institution.

Just as the students change Wheaton for the better, the college transforms them. Alumni regularly share the ways in which their four years at the college allowed them to discover a passion and a way of thinking about the world that has guided them in their personal and professional success. Entrepreneurs, scientists and researchers, teachers and business people, artists and writers—Wheaton alumni are changing the world and creating history in myriad ways.

At the same time, alumni continue to change and improve Wheaton, too. They contribute in ways large and small to enhance our community and make it a place that draws people from around the world to live and learn on our campus. Philanthropic support is, of course, essential to sustaining and enhancing Wheaton’s strength. The volunteers who nurture the bonds among classmates and friends ensure the vitality of our community. The generosity of alumni who extend themselves to serve as mentors and experts, as visitors to campus and as professionals in the field, provide critical insights for current students. It’s a legacy that keeps paying itself forward.

The roots of alumni involvement in the life of the college stretch back 150 years. Plans for the Wheaton College Alumni Association took shape in 1869; the group’s first meeting was held after graduation in 1870. The leaders of the association today are working on plans to celebrate this upcoming milestone, by encouraging more alumni to become active in the network as well as paying tribute to the many contributions that have been made over the decades. Wheaton’s vitality testifies to the impact that graduates have on the college.

In delivering the keynote address at this year’s Opening Convocation, Professor of History Alex Bloom reflected on his 40-year career at Wheaton and how he first came to teach at the college as a graduate student, temporarily filling the position of a faculty member on sabbatical.

“What I thought would be a four-month gig has led to 40 years,” he said. “In life, we walk through doors that only in retrospect we realize transform our lives.”

For many people, Wheaton has been a doorway to a life-changing experience. “It’s kind of amazing that such a small community can provide so much for so many,” he said.

Wheaton is, indeed, a wonder—a gift from which we benefit now and a treasure that we are collectively enriching for a new generation. In the process, we are creating history.