“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”*

by chuckofish

Recently I was reading my Williams College alumni magazine and ran across an article about former President John Wesley Chandler who was head of the college when I attended.


Chandler is on the left

His standard CV includes the following facts: Chandler assumed the office of president on July 1, 1973, after serving as president of Hamilton College since 1968. He was born in Mars Hill, N.C. on Sept. 5,1923 and attended Wake Forest College, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and received his B.A. in 1945. He received a B.D. from Duke University in 1952 and earned his Ph.D., also from Duke, in 1954. Sixteen colleges and universities, including Williams, have awarded him honorary doctorates.

However, as I read further, I found out that his CV leaves out a lot. It seems he wrote an autobiography last year–there was a link in the article and I followed it. The son of a tobacco farmer, Chandler grew up in rural North Carolina.

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Chandler (far right) with two of his brothers in 1931

When his father died during the Great Depression he was sent with two of his brothers to the Mills Home, a Baptist orphanage. From the age of 10 when he entered the orphanage in 1934, it was his home as well as his school until he graduated and went to college.

Life was disciplined at the Mills House, but “there was considerable intellectual stimulation…and an informed awareness of what was going on in the larger world. The institutional ethos was that of a school.” The children studied, worked, went to chapel, and played sports–the classic boarding school agenda. Indeed, President Sawyer, Chandler’s predecessor at Williams, remarked to him that “[Mills House] sounds like Deerfield”! Well, maybe that was a stretch, but he was well prepared for college when he graduated.

You can download the PDF (see above) and read all about Chandler’s life at the orphanage. It is a fascinating read. I find it all amazing and absurdly impressive. It is the kind of story you don’t hear much any more. Hard work. Faith. Perseverance.

It is also a good reminder not to assume about people. How often do we really have no idea about who a person really is and what he/she has gone through!

*Romans 12: 2