Celebrating 50 Years of the Wade Center: 1965-2015

The Seven Wade Authors

Happy New Year to all! This is an especially exciting year at the Marion E. Wade Center as we are celebrating our 50th Anniversary.

The story of the Wade began with Wheaton College English professor Clyde S. Kilby. Greatly impacted by the books of C.S. Lewis, Kilby began a correspondence with Lewis in the 1950s. Following Lewis’s death in 1963, Kilby was inspired to begin “The C.S. Lewis Collection,” a repository that eventually would include not only Lewis items, but also materials from six other like-minded British writers. Kilby’s proposal for the collection was accepted by the Wheaton College Library Committee in 1965, and thus began our now 50 years of history filled with wonderful relationships, life-changing literature, and pivotal acquisitions. All of these have helped form the world-class research collection—along with a museum and various educational endeavors such as publications and programming—that the Wade has become today.

Clyde S. Kilby, founder of the Wade Center

Clyde S. Kilby, founder of the Wade Center

Over 50 years, the Wade Center has moved house a number of times between Wheaton College’s Buswell Library, the English Department in Blanchard Hall, and then into our current facility in 2001. In 1974, friends and family members of Christian businessman and C.S. Lewis enthusiast Marion E. Wade began an endowment following Mr. Wade’s death in 1973. The Lewis Collection was then renamed “The Marion E. Wade Collection,” and the name changed officially to “The Marion E. Wade Center” in 1987 to reflect our broader purpose.

Wade Center Reading Room in Buswell Library. You can see the Lewis Family Wardrobe, and off to the right, C.S. Lewis's dining room table.

Wade Center Reading Room in Buswell Library, ca. 1975. You can see the Lewis Family Wardrobe, and off to the right, C.S. Lewis’s dining room table — then serving as a as a table for researchers (it can now be viewed in the Wade Center’s museum).

Our annual journal, VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review, started in 1980 under the guidance of Barbara Reynolds of Cambridge, England, Clyde S. Kilby, founder of the Wade Center, and Beatrice Batson, at that time Chair of the Wheaton College English Department. The journal has just released its 31st volume, and continues to produce in-depth and lively discussion on the seven Wade authors through peer reviewed articles, news and events, and book reviews.

To date, the Wade Center has had three Directors: Clyde S. Kilby, Lyle W. Dorsett, and Christopher W. Mitchell. Associate Director Marjorie Lamp Mead has been here supporting all three directors, and continues to serve at the Wade Center today along with the rest of the Wade’s dedicated staff members. We look forward to continuing the legacy of helping others to enjoy and benefit from the writings and thoughts of our seven authors by building relationships, offering programming and educational opportunities featuring the lives and works of our authors, and supporting research and scholarship on these seven significant writers.

Anniversary Year Items of Note:

  • Construction on the Wade’s 100-seat auditorium has begun! Work started on December 15th, and the Bakke Auditorium is expected to be complete by the fall of 2015. Construction photos available on our Facebook page.
  • Watch for a display commemorating the 50 years of the Marion E. Wade Center in the Wade’s Museum.
  • A special issue of Christian History magazine to be published in 2015 on the seven Wade authors.
  • We have some exciting events planned as well. Stay tuned to this blog, and the Wade’s website and Facebook page for upcoming notifications of these events! Please contact us if you would like to be added to our email list.
Dr. Jill Peláez Baumgaertner

Dr. Jill Peláez Baumgaertner

We leave our readers with a poem by Dr. Jill Peláez Baumgaertner, Professor of English and Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College. The poem was commissioned by the Wade Center in celebration of the opening of its new building in 2001, and was written while Dr. Baumgaertner was at Oxford with the Wheaton in England program in the summer of 2001. She reflects on the poem’s composition:

The poem begins with one of my earliest memories: my grandmother teaching me to read at age 3. I was asked to write a poem about a building holding the collections of the Inklings, but the poem was about much more than a building or the Inklings. It was about the experience of reading through the years—eventually tied intimately to the Wade Center in its early sites and later in the elegant home of its current housing. Then I reached forward, Whitmanesque, imagining the Wade Center in the future—maybe one hundred years from now. All of this because literature is timeless, and we are made custodians of all that is precious in written language.

The poem appeared in Dr. Baugaertner’s recently published book: What Cannot Be Fixed (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014), and she has graciously allowed it to appear here as a wonderful reflection back on the Wade’s history and legacy, and as an appropriate look ahead to our 50th anniversary year and beyond.

Where Words Regain Their Meaning

 I.

Florida: 1951

The child you once were
sits on the porch swing in the heat
weighted with summer rain.
Grandmother points to each word.
You repeat, “Good morning, Baby.
Good morning, Baby Ray.”
And the longing is unlatched,
the hunger for words that transcend
the world locked into the safety
of Mother’s lunches,
of Father’s Saturday mornings,
of Grandmother’s books stacked
beneath her bed or behind glass doors.

Behind the barriers of ciphers
marching across a page the mysteries
are revealed with your first mouthing
of consonants crisped by unfamiliarity
and vowels forcing the syllables
into language which becomes more than speech.
This is your first transcendence.

 II.

Buswell Library: 1995

Books from the Wade's collections.

Books from the Wade’s collections.

The pleasant mustiness of old books,
the stiffened bindings of the new
and the smell of ink, paper, glue,
and you have found your way again.
The college stacks, the secluded
carrels, the whisper-squeak
of the librarian’s cart.

Up the back stairs into the room
called Kilby, quiet with the hush
of study, the scratch of pen, the click
of laptop keys, a muffled rattle of ideas.

This is the place where words regain
their meaning, the books —Tolkien,
Chesterton — packed in like bricks —
Sayers, Lewis, MacDonald —
and parked on tabletops — Barfield,
Williams. Occasionally, a spray
of dust-moted sun
and through the windows a glimpse
of the unwritten world outside these words.

You have missed entire seasons
inside such spaces (the ripening of summer,
the blazing of fall), besotted with words,
breaking print into patterns,
tracing images, wrestling language
amidst the undiscipline of marginalia
in rooms like this filled with the whisperings
of words, not words that fall back inside
themselves like ice on a thawing pond,
but words that disperse to fill a space,
like breath that weaves the pliant silence
into the warp and woof of music.

 III.

The Wade Center: 2001-2101

The Marion E. Wade Center, September 2001

The Marion E. Wade Center, September 2001

After the months of cement-pouring,
the raising of walls, the bracing
of floors with book-supporting trusses.
After the roofers carefully treading
the sloped surfaces. After the sawdust,
the construction trailers parked behind Edman
in the snow, the temporary front door,
the chimney pots on order, the blueprints
spread on saw-horsed plywood,
the staircases without railings.
After the packing and unpacking of files,
the book boxes stacked six feet high,
the paths between them like a garden maze,
we wander new spaces, pristine,
not yet redolent of concentrated reading,
not yet filled with the rustled silence
of scholars, the children’s corner a mere outline,
Aslan’s portrait leaning against a wall,
Lewis’s bust stashed in a safe corner.

You who follow, you yet unborn,
you will know these spaces for the first time,
too. You will grow familiar, as will we,
with the patterns formed by sunlight
through this glass, with the heft
of the door, with books now older,
their pages brittled by the years.

Think back on us, the new millennium
handed to us like an unproofed book.
You will supply it with words as yet unfleshed,
correcting what we discerned
as mere glimmers and flashes.

Yet you, too, will have your blindnesses.
That “chaos of stark bewilderment” Sayers
saw one Ash Wednesday in the middle
of a century of bones, you will know, too.

Wade Center garden, July 2008.

Wade Center garden, July 2008.

Direct your gaze to the garden,
which to us is no more than the promise soil holds.
There in the nodding daffodils of early spring,
the sweet pea, the day lily, the delphinium
of summer, the phlox and cleome,
the sudden arbor, the rose, the boxwood hedge
precisely trimmed, there you will find
a partial answer to disorder,
the rupture in the stem opening to blossom.

Tum back now to the books before you.
Find there in the uncharted
middle of your life the deep woods
of the Word. You must not hesitate.
Step inside.

– Dr. Jill Peláez Baumgaertner, Professor of English and Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College, September 8, 2001 for the Dedication of The Marion E. Wade Center

3 thoughts on “Celebrating 50 Years of the Wade Center: 1965-2015

  1. Jill, what a splendid way to celebrate the Wade! Your poem captures it so vividly. And now to realize its growing significance for Wheaton and the world. My memories go back to 1952 when The Wardrobe first arrived in the English Department in Blanchard, and we gasped with excitement, trolling the deep pockets of the great-coat that survived behind the wooden wardrobe door. Only a paper clip and some dark lint, but you could detect pipe smoke if you buried your nose in the of old tweed. And then the manuscripts and first editions began to arrive and a collection grew behind glass bookcase doors. Clyde commissioned Bob Bartel to collect the other Kiln artifacts and bring them back from Oxford. After C. S. Lewis’s death I was offered his cat, but the six months of quarantine sounded too cruel and we let him stay home. And now, fifty years later, the Wade thrives. Alleluia!

  2. Pingback: The Marion E. Wade Center (50th Anniversary) | Essential C.S. Lewis

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