Great Quarterly issue
I thoroughly enjoyed the spring/summer edition of the Quarterly—reading it from cover to cover. I particularly enjoyed the article about the 25th year of coeducation. Wheaton during my college years was all female. For this reason, I was initially against coeducation, but quickly realized that to exist as a quality institution, Wheaton needed to become coeducational. It was great when I was a student, and it is certainly great now.
I was especially interested in the article about Bojan Jennings. She is the reason I was a sophomore transfer to Wheaton in 1948 and graduated as a member of the Class of 1951.
I grew up in Mount Kisco, N.Y., and friends of my parents were Harold and Mabel Jennings and their two sons, Manson and Addison (Bojan’s husband), whom I knew as Llewelyn. Mabel Jennings was not only my piano teacher for seven years, but my mentor and dear friend. When Bojan began teaching at Wheaton in the 1940s, Mabel Jennings spoke to me about Wheaton College in such glowing terms that although it was long before I was really considering colleges, it quickly became my first choice.
Why not celebrate coeducation?
The Wheaton Quarterly showed up in my mailbox a couple of days after I returned from my 20th Wheaton class Reunion. Primed with reinvigorated Wheaton memories and fondness, I opened the magazine and read the cover article, “Noting 25 years of coeducation.”
The headline was ominous. The Quarterly was not “celebrating” or “honoring” 25 years of coeducation, just noting them as they wandered by. The reason for the foreshadowing seemed clear to me after I reread the cover story in search of two words — “differently coeducational”—and failed to find them.
I came to Wheaton in 1990 and, like many of my classmates, drank deeply of the “differently coeducational” Kool-Aid. The phrase might have been lip service to assuage alum dismay, but to many of us it was a mission. It was what we wanted. All colleges have classes. Most have lovely green spaces. Wheaton said it was trying to be something different—a college where men and women were equally empowered and equally respected by all parties.
So, we went to seminars discussing the differences in men and women’s leadership styles. We served on presidential search committees. We “took back the night” and protested Phyllis Schlafly. We joined the Men’s Group to talk about how to be a good man. I walked my way into pneumonia with Safe Walk and fretted night and day about the student voice.
But, now, “differently coeducational” doesn’t even make it into the birthday card. No matter. It was just a turn of phrase. However, and particularly in a world that includes Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in Santa Barbara in May before killing himself, and #YesAllWomen (a social media campaign raising awareness about violence against women), if Wheaton College is not a place with more respect, less sexual assault, more gender-proportional leadership, less overt misogyny, and more humanism than comparable schools, we failed.