prospect Features 18 Poverty in DuPage The College’s home county is the most a√uent in Illinois, and one of the most a√uent in the nation. Yet one in six residents struggles to cover the most basic needs. By Barbara Rose 26 The Poverty Project Elmhurst students, faculty and staΩ—and some visiting experts and scholars—spent the better part of a year studying poverty’s causes and eΩects. Here’s what they found.
46 The Lessons of the Masters Nine of Elmhurst’s most storied teachers are remembered by nine of their most accomplished students. Interviews by Andrew Santella; Illustrations by Mark Summers
58 What’s the Story? American journalism is in dire straits, except on college campuses, where life is tweet. A look at life at The Leader and beyond. By Andrew Santella 66 The One Who Endures In 1972, Bill Johnson ’68 made history when he became the ﬁrst openly gay man to gain ordination to the mainstream Christian ministry. That was just the beginning of the journey for the man and for the United Church of Christ. By Anne Moore
Departments 02 News Celebrating student diversity at Culture Fest, a prestigious award for the Buehler Library, a rich cultural season, a championship soccer team, green initiatives and more. 64 Campus Spotlight An inside look at WRSE-FM, our rockin’ radio station. 72 First Person Glenn Lid ’79, a chemistry teacher at Proviso East High School in Maywood for 31 years, has earned teaching awards from the Golden Apple Foundation and the Walt Disney Company, which named him High School Teacher of the Year in 2004. But the best prize of all, he says, is when his students come back to visit. 74 Editor’s Note
Editor Jim Winters Managing Editor Judith Crown Contributing Editor Andrew Santella Copy Editing and Research Margaret Currie, Linda Reiselt Art Direction Matthew Stone, Marcel Maas Design and Production Anilou Price, Sandbox Studio, Chicago
news student life
â€˜A Lot of Twisting Ankles Out Thereâ€™ Students learn Latin dance steps and munch on jerk chicken and egg rolls at the 10th annual Culture Fest.
Photos: Roark Johnson
The O≈ce of Intercultural Student AΩairs has a blog. Check it out: http://intculsa.blogs.elmhurst.edu/
hey practiced the steps for salsa dancing, listened to Gospel music and sampled catﬁsh, jerk chicken and collard greens. About 300 students celebrated cultural diversity at the annual Culture Fest celebration on April 22 at the Frick Center. Now in its 10th year, the fest is sponsored by a dozen campus organizations, including the Coalition for Multicultural Empowerment, the Foreign Language Club, hablamos, and the Muslim Student Association. The program was appropriately diverse. Highlights included a performance by the Elmhurst College Gospel Trio: Nicole Lascelles, Christa Dykes and Olivia Schultz. The Samara Dance Company, which got its start in Elmhurst, provided a lesson in belly dancing. Latin Street Dancing, a Chicago dance studio, provided a demonstration and lesson in salsa. “There were a lot of twisting ankles out there,” says Roger Moreano, director of intercultural student aΩairs. Restaurants in Elmhurst, Villa Park and Bellwood served up a sampling of exotic international specialties and old favorites. There was jerk chicken from Montego Bay Restaurant, soul food from Heavenly Sent Cuisine, fajitas and refried beans from Tierra Grill, and Mongolian beef from Red Dragon. The College’s food service, Chartwells, ﬁlled in with side dishes and desserts. The fest’s ﬁnal act was a showing of The People Speak, a documentary based on the books of Howard Zinn, the historian and social activist who wrote about American history from the perspective of individuals and groups historically underrepresented in American society.
Prospect/ Summer 2010
Highlights of Culture Fest included salsa dancing, a lesson in belly dancing, a performance by the Elmhurst College Gospel Trio, and a sampling of exotic national food specialties.
For Buehler Library, a National Tribute The most prestigious professional association for college libraries in the United States names Elmhurst’s library the winner of its 2010 award for excellence. 4
Photo: Roark Johnson
n a recent Monday morning, the ﬁrst ﬂoor of the A.C. Buehler Library was alive with a subdued buzz. By 10 o’clock most seats in the study area were occupied by students tapping away at keyboards, scanning computer screens and talking in small groups. Elmhurst’s library, even in the digital age, is “the destination of choice for students to study,” says Alzada Tipton, vice president for academic aΩairs and dean of the faculty. “Its seats are always ﬁlled and its computers always in use. Walking into the library, you feel a buzz of energy that’s so diΩerent from the stereotyped idea of a library as a place of quiet and inaction.” This spring, the action in Buehler Library received national recognition. The most prestigious professional association for college libraries in the United States named Buehler the winner of its 2010 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award. The award “is a national tribute to a library and its staΩ for the outstanding services, programs and leadership they provide,” says Mary Ellen K. Davis, executive director of the Association of College & Research Libraries (acrl), a division of the American Library Association. The acrl presents the award A glass-enclosed classroom on the library’s ﬁrst ﬂoor hosts more than 275 classes each year on information annually to a library in each of three institutional literacy. The classes prepare students to locate the information they need and critically evaluate it. categories: colleges, universities, and community Lori Goetsch, the acrl’s president, presented library initiatives with the Elmhurst College colleges. In the college category—the one the award at a ceremony on March 19 in the Strategic Plan 2009–2014, which the faculty in which Elmhurst was recognized—previous library. Goetsch says the selection committee and Board of Trustees voted to approve last year. winners include several of the strongest small noted the evolution of the instructional aspects colleges in the nation, including Mount Holyoke, “Buehler Library demonstrated an excellent program for outreach to classroom faculty and of Buehler’s program. Elmhurst had applied for Oberlin, Carleton and Wellesley. the award in 2007. The committee recognized articulated the link between library planning Elmhurst’s library impressed the acrl’s that by 2010 the institution had implemented the and activities to the institution’s strategic selection committee with its instructional plans it had outlined three years earlier, includplan,” says Julie Todaro, chair of the selection programming, its focus on student and faculty ing making information literacy an essential goal committee. engagement, and its successful integration of
Good company: Previous college recipients of the Excellence in Academic Libraries Award include Carleton, Augustana, Mount Holyoke, Oberlin, Earlham and Wellesley.
Even in the digital age, the library is the destination of choice for students to study. The energy is palpable.
of the College’s general education program. “One of the big selling points of Elmhurst’s application was the successful proposal to integrate information literacy, including research skills and critical thinking, into the undergraduate curriculum,” says Goetsch. “They actually did it. That was an achievement.” Buehler’s mission is focused around information literacy, a strategy that enables students to make full use of the library’s resources. Information literacy prepares students to identify and locate the information they need and then critically evaluate and use it. A pilot program at the College, now in its third year, integrates information literacy into the First-Year Seminar and freshman writing courses, and into at least one course required for a student’s major. A glass-enclosed classroom in the center of the ﬁrst ﬂoor hosts more than 275 classes each academic year on information literacy. Students call the classroom the Fishbowl. “The information literacy classroom is at the heart of the library,” says Susan Swords SteΩen, library director. “It symbolizes how the library is at the heart of our eΩorts to educate students to be critical analysts in an age of information overload.” In information literacy classes, librarians teach students not only how to access information but also how to evaluate and synthesize it. They also explore the ethics of information use and creation, discussing issues such as copyright, plagiarism and intellectual property. The classes include work in blogging, streaming audio and video, and electronic images. Though Elmhurst students are tech savvy, they soon learn that sophisticated research requires more than the ability to navigate a search engine. “Tech savvy doesn’t mean research savvy. Prospect/ Summer 2010
Photo: Deanna Mandarino
Librarians, standing from left: Jessica Weber, technical services assistant; Jennifer Paliatka, reference librarian; Ang Romano, media services assistant; Linda Harding, periodicals assistant; Susan Swords Steffen, director of the library; Kathy Willis, head of access services; Sue Weber, secretary; Elaine Page, head of technical services; Lorraine Norgle, access services assistant. Seated, from left: George Woolsey, technical services assistant; Donna Goodwyn, head of reference; Peg Cook, reference librarian; Jacob Hill, reference librarian.
Students Google everything, but Google is not databases on our computers—shows that we believe that arts and culture are ingredients appropriate for everything,” says Elaine Page, as important to a true education as information associate librarian and head of technical and knowledge.” services. “We help them learn to use a library For SteΩen, the recognition from a leading database that you know is going to use reliable sources. How to do research hasn’t changed in national organization is an “amazing” tribute the last 25 years. The technology has changed.” to a library staΩ of uncommon creativity and dedication. “We have been successful in creating SteΩen says the national award a≈rms an excellent library because everyone is comBuehler’s overarching mission: to be “central mitted to ﬂexibility, risk-taking, pitching in when to the life of the College. Libraries are about and where they are needed, and embracing connections,” she adds, “connecting people with new challenges and opportunities,” she says. information and with other people.” Long before the acrl award was announced, SteΩen says she and her staΩ work collabSteΩen had come to realize that the staΩ had oratively with student groups to explore new achieved its goal of making the library central roles the library can play in student life. For to student life. As she walked around campus, example, the library hosts computer gaming she would hear students saying to one another, nights several times each term, during which staΩ members move video game consoles onto “I’ll meet you in the library” and “See you at the library.” the ﬁrst ﬂoor, organize competitions and provide a welcoming environment for players. by Rick Popely Dean Tipton notes a unique, low-tech aspect of the Buehler experience: the presence on the library’s walls of the College’s collection of Chicago Imagist art. “The fact that we have an impressive art collection on the walls of our library—as well as books on our shelves and
news faculty & students
Street-Smart Scholars In Richard Greenleaf ’s Police and Society class, students learn from their professor’s life in blue. 6
Illustration: Christopher Neal
he students in Richard Greenleaf ’s Police and Society class want to hear about his past. Who can blame them? Before Greenleaf, an associate professor of sociology and director of Elmhurst’s criminal justice program, began teaching classes about policing, he worked the topic from another angle. He spent seven years in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, Police Department, ﬁrst as a patrol o≈cer and later as a sergeant. “They can’t wait to hear the war stories,” Greenleaf says of his students. “But when I tell a story, it’s usually to put some meat on the bones of some reading they’ve done. I want to integrate the academic and the real world. It’s my job to expose them to both.” In Police and Society, Greenleaf ’s lectures jump from the textbook to the street and back. On a Friday afternoon in a basement classroom in Hammerschmidt Chapel, the class considered some ways police departments fall into legal trouble. The discussion ranged from the technical (the diΩerence between malfeasance and nonfeasance) to the practical (how surveillance cameras change the behavior of the police and the public). The technical points had students busy taking notes, but it was the practical bits of street wisdom that got the discussion going. One student volunteered that the proliferation of cellphone cameras and other video recorders should make arresting police think twice about using excessive force. Another responded that what appears to be convincing video evidence doesn’t always lead to successful prosecution of police. And Greenleaf told the class that even before cameras became standard equipment in
Learn more about sociology and criminal justice at Elmhurst: www.elmhurst.edu/sociology
“You watch Cops on TV and think policing is 30 minutes of action,” says Greenleaf. “I say police work is hours of boredom relieved by moments of terror.”
‘I’ve Learned to Stand Up for Myself’ When state educational experts were planning a conference on opportunities in higher education for disabled students, they turned to the Elmhurst Life Skills Academy (ELSA).
Prospect/ Summer 2010
African Americans. Though they were once a rarity, Greenleaf says former police o≈cers are becoming more common in academia. “The ﬁeld is more accepting of former law enforcement o≈cers than it once was,” he says. “My experience serves me well. If we’re at a conference and we’re talking about the responsibility of supervisors in certain situations, I can say, ‘I was a supervisor, I know.’ In some ways, being a former o≈cer gives me added credibility.” His students, it seems, are not the only ones who value Greenleaf ’s war stories.
It was ELSA senior Kari Winter who represented the academy in a talk at the Governor’s Post-Secondary Education Summit on March 3 in Springﬁeld. At the Governor’s Mansion, Winter noted that she had few choices when she graduated in 2006 from Downers Grove South High School. Fortunately, ELSA—the ﬁrst four-year post-secondary program of its kind in Illinois— had just opened to offer vocational and life training to intellectually challenged young people. Winter received her certiﬁcate of completion from ELSA in May. Her biggest accomplishment? “Advocacy,” she says. “I’ve learned to stand up
by Andrew Santella
for myself.” The Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities hopes to have three post-secondary educational programs similar to ELSA’s in place by September 2011. The summit was convened to encourage other Illinois colleges and universities to consider these inclusion programs for their campuses and to take advantage of funds available through the 2008 Federal Higher Education Opportunity Act. In her speech to some 200 attendees involved in higher education, Winter stressed her desire, and that of her intellectually disabled peers, to have a campus experience, and the frustration of being “pigeonholed” by society’s low expectations. Photo: Roark Johnson
police cars, he carried a small audio recorder with him on tra≈c stops. If the interaction took a confrontational turn, out would come Greenleaf’s tape recorder. “I would ask the person if he would mind repeating what he just said into the recorder. That usually had an eΩect,” Greenleaf told the class. “Behavior changes when people know they are being recorded.” Most of the students enrolled in Police and Society are criminal justice majors, and Greenleaf says more than a few of his students plan to attend law school or pursue careers in law enforcement. Many of the topics covered in the class—community policing, the use of coercive force, police corruption, racial proﬁling—are familiar enough to anyone who reads a newspaper or watches tv cop dramas. That may help explain why students are so eager to jump into the fray with comments and questions, and Greenleaf likes it that way. He says he encourages the input and feeds oΩ his students’ interest and energy. But he adds that one of his challenges as a teacher is to counter the version of police life that students get from television. “Youw atch Cops on tv and think policing is 30 minutes of action,” he says. “I say police work is hours of boredom relieved by moments of terror.” Despite those moments of terror, Greenleaf says there are aspects of his former police life that he misses, most notably the camaraderie with other o≈cers. Certainly his experience on the streets has added an extra dimension to his work as a researcher and teacher. His research includes several recent papers on relationships between police and young Latinos and
A former policeman, Richard Greenleaf directs the sociology department’s criminal justice program. He says students “can’t wait to hear the war stories.”
She hopes to become a teacher’s aide after graduation. “Just because you have certain limitations,” she says, “doesn’t mean you can’t do something.”
A Cool Head and a Smile Denise Jones ’90 started at the College as a cashier. Today, she brings smarts and a ﬁrst-class temperament to her new responsibilities as senior vice president. 8
gingly calm and cool-headed,” he notes. “She is patient and always acts from the facts. She holds her positions when necessary and compromises when possible.” It’s been a remarkable rise for Jones. As a teenager, she aspired to a teaching career. Her plans were waylaid by marriage and her husband John’s Army service. When he returned from Vietnam, they settled into a house in Villa Park and began raising their two daughters, Robin and Tracy, and son Michael. Jones returned to work when the youngest was in the ﬁfth grade. A part-time job at a land surveyor involved bookkeeping and opened her eyes to the possibilities of accounting. “I like numbers and I like taking disorganized facts and organizing them,” she says. She was taking accounting classes at the College of DuPage and thinking about completing her undergraduate degree when she heard about the cashier’s opening at Elmhurst. The position was attractive in part because
Photo: Roark Johnson
enise Jones ﬁgures it was her smile that helped her land her ﬁrst job as a cashier at Elmhurst College 26 years ago. The business manager interviewing her was particularly interested in ﬁnding someone who would be friendly and easygoing in interactions with students and the rest of the campus community. “I’m convinced he hired me because I smiled,” she says. In November, President S. Alan Ray named Jones, still smiling, senior vice president for ﬁnance and administration. She will stand in for Ray—convening cabinet meetings and otherwise keeping the institutional machinery in gear—when the president is away on fundraising trips and other College business. Jones had served as vice president for ﬁnancial affairs since 1997. Ray says he has high regard for Jones’ judgment, competence and integrity. “In a world of people who shoot from the hip, she is unﬂag-
A part-time job at a land surveyor involved bookkeeping and opened Denise Jones to accounting. “I like numbers and I like taking disorganized facts and organizing them,” she says.
of the College’s tuition remission beneﬁt. It took three interviews, including a twohour grilling by Business Manager Trevor Pinch—unusual for an entry-level position. “He talked about analyzing general ledger accounts, and I didn’t have a clue,” she recalls, still shuddering at the memory. “But I was convinced that I could learn it when I got here.” Jones got the job and went on to hold other business ofﬁce positions. In 1990, a year after her older daughter Robin graduated from Elmhurst, Jones earned her undergraduate degree with a major in accounting. “When I graduated, the president, Ivan Frick, shook my hand and asked me, ‘Are you coming to work tomorrow?’” Jones recalls. “I assured him that was the case.” In 1992, Jones was promoted to controller. She joined the College’s most senior administration ﬁve years later. A highlight of her years as vice president for ﬁnance and administration was seeing the College’s endowment reach $100 million in 2007. “The Investment Committee [of the Board] broke out the champagne,” she recalls. Although the endowment took a hit in the 2008 market collapse, it has since rebounded to more than $83 million. These days, Jones focuses on growing revenue—a prerequisite to advancing the College’s goals as outlined in the 2009–2014 Strategic Plan. Her boss says Jones has moved seamlessly into her new role. “She has shown leadership in coordinating cabinet members in our work on the science center initiative, on our parking and sustainability projects, and on our ﬁne and performing arts facilities study,” says the president. “She does all this in addition to continuing to perform her day job.” by Judith Crown
Alumni in the News In a Special Classroom, Setting the Bar High
Anxious Overcoming Obstacles, to Return to Preparing to Give Back Robert J. Strzemp, an Elmhurst Haiti
Alumna Heather Madden recently was named a winner of the Kohl McCormick Early Childhood
When Patrick Bentrott
Teaching Award, an honor given to a select few
’02 was evacuated
Chicago-area educators who work with young
from Haiti in late
children up to age 8.
January, he never imag-
Madden received a master’s degree in early
ined how difﬁcult it
childhood special education in 2001. Soon after, she began teaching in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), working in largely low-income communities. She is currently an inclusion specialist in two CPS preschool classrooms. Madden credits Elmhurst with giving her the preparation she needed to pursue the only career she has ever wanted: to teach young children in underserved urban communities. Dr. Therese Wehman, director of early childhood special education, said the graduate program, with its emphasis on families and relationship-based learning, prepares students like Madden “to really understand disability and difference, and to be able to work with a variety of levels of ability in young children.” Winners of the Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award “exemplify the best practices of quality early childhood teaching: dedication, innovation, leadership, respect for children and their families, and commitment to professional growth,” according to the Dolores Kohl Education Foundation and the McCormick
would be to return to continue his missionary work in the devastated island nation. He and his family landed in Florida more than a week after the January 12 earthquake that killed an estimated 230,000 people, injured 300,000 and left about 1 million people homeless. Complications with the immigration process for the two Haitian children the couple is adopting have left the family in limbo as they can’t go back until they all have U.S. passports. Patrick and his wife Kim, a doctor, had been working under the auspices of UCC Global Ministries. Bentrott visited the College on April 26 during his extended home stay. He spoke during a lunch with students at the Frick Center about the quake’s destruction and the grinding poverty that plagues the country. An astonishing 80 percent of the population is unemployed, he said, and 80 percent live on less than $2 a day. Bentrott earlier had described the horriﬁc scene in blog postings on the Global Ministries site. “We lost so many friends,” he wrote. “Our work place was ﬂattened with all my students inside.”
basketball player, was named a Lincoln Student Laureate—a top statewide honor for students who surmount obstacles to achieve success. Strzemp, an accounting major who graduated in February, earned the honor as a dean’s list student and all-conference basketball player. The Student Laureate Award is given by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois to exceptional students from each of the four-year colleges in the state. As a teenager, Strzemp lived with a series of different families. Eventually, he found a home playing basketball at Oak Park and River Forest High School. One of his coaches, Nick Sakellaris, became his legal guardian and took Strzemp into his home. At Elmhurst, Strzemp was hampered during his sophomore and junior years with double knee injuries, but he stayed on the team, and came back his senior year as starting forward. After graduating, he started work as an
assistant coach at his high school. He wants to
tell his story and perhaps use his music and rap
presents the award.
talent to reach young people. “Everything I’ve been through means nothing,” he says, “unless I give back and help others.”
Prospect/ Summer 2010
news campus speakers
The Journey of a Sovereign People Principal Chief Chadwick Smith tells an appreciative audience in Hammerschmidt Chapel what it means to be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation in the 21st century.
Photos: Emily Dewan
hadwick “Corntassel” Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, presented the 2010 Rudolf G. Schade Lecture to an audience of 500 at Hammerschmidt Chapel on March 25. Chief Smith said sovereignty is precious to the Cherokee Nation because of its tortured history—genocidal wars, broken treaties and centuries of persecution. Having adopted a new constitution in the 1970s, the Nation has been working ever since to emerge from a period of dormancy, Smith told an audience of nearly 500 at the chapel on March 25. Smith, who has led the Nation since 1999, is an attorney and expert on Indian rights who visited the College as an elected head of state. Native Americans are still parodied at sporting events and in cartoons, he pointed out. “We need to break down stereotypes.” Smith’s presentation was preceded by a processional of the Eagle Feather and United States ﬂags accompanied by ceremonial drumming. He was introduced by President S. Alan Ray, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who has worked with Smith on Native American rights issues.
“I kind of like the idea of guys going to school and being attracted to women because it looks like the women are going to make a lot of money when they graduate.” New York Times columnist Gail Collins, who in her lecture at the chapel on February 11 cited a recent study that found men are increasingly likely to marry women who earn more than they do. 11
“There’s no easy way out of this mess we’re in.” Former Illinois Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, who in a speech at the chapel on April 8, said the state needs to raise taxes and cut spending—but that the crucial repairs won’t get done this year because of the upcoming gubernatorial election.
Speaking of Faith If interfaith dialogue is taking place on a cam-
“We need, somehow, to provide these children a childhood from which they don’t feel the need to run.” Writer Alex Kotlowitz, speaking on the shared responsibility to break the cycle of urban violence, in a lecture at the chapel on April 8.
pus around Chicago, the campus is probably Elmhurst. During the coming academic year, the College will celebrate the centennial of the graduation of Reinhold Niebuhr with a yearlong series of public events that will bring persons from differing religious traditions together to talk about faith and its impact on public and private life.
“There’s a strong yearning for a diΩerent kind of spirituality among so many younger people, and you can hear it in the music.”
A less formal interfaith gathering took place last term at the president’s residence on Cottage Hill Avenue. On the evening of February 4, Alan and Angela Ray welcomed several of the
Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, giving
Chicago area’s prominent religious leaders
the Martin Luther King Jr. Guestship Lecture on February 16.
and thinkers for a small dinner. The guests were Bishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, President Alice Hunt
“Whether it’s a president or a man in a cave, when people believe they’ve been sanctioned by God, they can do the most misguided things.” Islamic scholar Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, delivering the al-Ghazali Lecture on February 19 to an overﬂow audience at the chapel.
of the Chicago Theological Seminary, Sister Patricia Mulkey of the Native American Interfaith Anawim Center, Brian Murphy of the Catholic Theological Union, and the Reverend Stanley L. Davis Jr., an interfaith leader. “It was great to bring these creative, committed people together to talk about common issues,” said President Ray, “like trends in church
“I never thought in my life that I’d be able to make that phone call.” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, in an October 29 lecture at the chapel describing how he called his ailing father on election night 2008 to tell him that Barack Obama had been elected president.
Prospect/ Summer 2010
membership, the future of seminaries, and the role Elmhurst College might play in facilitating conversations—like this one—during our upcoming year focused on interreligious dialogue.”
news sustainability at elmhurst
Free Ride Elmhurst’s innovative bike program not only reduces parking hassles but also builds strong bodies and clears the air, on campus and beyond.
Photo: Roark Johnson
Recipients of the free bikes give up parking privileges on campus in exchange for locks, helmets and even maps of local bike routes.
hen he graduated in May, Nick Ayala took with him two things that he believes will take him far: his Elmhurst degree and the new bike the College bought him at the start of his senior year. He got his bike as part of a new program designed to reduce campus parking hassles,
cut auto emissions, and otherwise promote environmentally sound practices. In the program’s pilot year, the College gave bikes to 180 students, faculty and staΩ in return for a pledge not to bring a car to campus. Ayala rode to the grocery store on food runs, pedaled to the train station for trips to downtown Chicago, and went on 20-mile
spins on the nearby Prairie Path bike trail. “I’ve never been that much into biking before, but it’s been a lot of fun,” he says. “It’s deﬁnitely spurred my interest in biking. I ride all over now. It’s easy to get around, and it’s just a great feeling to ride.” The bike program makes Elmhurst one of a handful of colleges nationwide to provide this particular kind of free ride to students. (Others include Ripon College in Wisconsin and the University of New England in Maine.) President S. Alan Ray, who helped design the bike program, pedals to campus from his residence when the weather and his schedule allow. “I enjoy swooping around the College Mall on a bike,” Ray says. “But this is really all about giving people an incentive to leave the car at home.” Students, faculty and staΩ who sign up for the program receive free bikes—either Specialized Crosstrail or Schwinn World S models— locks, helmets, maps of local bike routes and a copy of the Illinois biking rules of the road. In return, they give up parking privileges on campus. In a concession to the harsh reality of Midwestern winters, bikers who choose not to pedal through the coldest months receive temporary parking permits that allow them to bring a car to campus from December 1 to March 1. As it launched the program, the College took steps to make the campus more bike-friendly. It installed 15 new racks, enough to accommodate 285 additional bikes. To help prevent multi-bike pileups, crews trimmed campus trees and hedges to give riders better sight lines. Mark Wakely, services manager in the O≈ce of Facilities Management, runs the bike program. He thinks the desire to do the right thing for the environment attracted many students to the program. “This is a generation
Zipping Around that grew up with environmentalism,” he says. “It’s part of how they see the world.” Senior Mike Wydra says that actually seeing the bikes sold him on the program. “I wasn’t sure about the idea until they brought the bikes into the cafeteria one day last spring,” he says. “Now I ride to the store and I ride recreationally. I haven’t missed having a car at all.” Cheri Carrico, a professor of communication arts and sciences, says riding a bike to campus “is a great workout for those of us who don’t have time to work out.” She uses her bike to pedal her daughter from home to preschool, then heads to campus, where she keeps work clothes to change into. It’s clear that the program has allowed a larger bike culture to take hold on campus. “People stop me on campus and come out to me as bike riders,” says President Ray. “A faculty member told me he thought there was something heartening about seeing the campus brimming with bikes.” That’s a sentiment Nick Ayala understands, but he’s still looking forward to depriving the campus of at least one bike after graduation. “At ﬁrst I thought I’d have to return the bike at the end of the year,” he confesses. “But when I found it was free and mine to keep, I thought, that’s great.” by Andrew Santella
Prospect/ Summer 2010
Sometimes you just can’t do without a car. That’s one reason why the College began offering a Zipcar car-sharing service last fall. Elmhurst’s two Zipcars—a Toyota Matrix and a Honda Insight Hybrid—give students, faculty and staff the freedom to get around while still avoiding the hassle and expense of owning, maintaining and parking their own car. Like the College’s bike program, the Zipcars are part of an effort to reduce the demand for parking on campus in an environmentally sound way. The cars, which are available in the Facilities Management parking lot on Walter Street, can be driven for as little as $8 per hour or $66 per day, plus a $35 membership fee.
Greener Grounds From natural herbicides to more efﬁcient outdoor lighting, Facilities Management has adopted more environmentally sustainable practices for the College’s grounds. The department has depa de epa partme rtment rt me m ent nt h as sswitched as witche wi tched tc he ed th tthe he ch cchemical hem emic ical cal al ccontent ontent on te ent nt of pesticides and herbicides. plantings of iits ts p ts essti e ticciide des an a nd he h erb rbiiccid ide ess. In In p lan la lant nttiin ng gss around native arou ar arou ound nd ccampus, am a mpu puss,, iitt is is ttrying ryin ry ing to to iinclude nccllu n ude de n attiv a ive materials and drought-resistant plants ma m ate terriial als a an nd d dr rou oug gh ht-re tt--re ressiist stan tan ant p pl lants anttss tthat an hat ha require water. have req re qu uir ire le lless ess ss w atter a te err. Department Dep De pa art rtme ment ent nt ttractors racctto ra orrs rs h ha ave ve switched diesel ssw wit itch itch ched he ed d tto o low-sulphur llo ow oww--ssu ulp lph hu ur d di ie esssel el ffuel el uel fr ue ffrom ro om m conventional gasoline. And installed the cco onv nve en nttiion nti io on na all g asso a asol olli lin ine e.. A nd iitt in nd nsstta allle led tth led he ﬁrst permeable paved parking area rst pe rs p erm rme ea abl ab ble p pa av ve ed p pa ark rkin ing ar a re rea ea a tto o facilitate drainage reduce facciilliita fa tate te d rra aiin nag age and an a nd redu rre ed du ucce e tthe he sstress he ttrres ess o on n the city’s the cci th ity ty’s ’s sstorm torm to rm ssystem. ysste y tem m..
The College will soon launch a web site that will offer news about sustainability initiatives and offer tips and resources for living green. A centerpiece of the site will be the College’s sustainability plan, which aims to improve awareness of environmental issues, encourage faculty, staff and students to participate in sustainability efforts; improve College efforts to support sustainable practices; and educate students about their environmental responsibilities. The plan will outline completed and ongoing initiatives to reduce energy use, promote recycling and foster wise disposal of waste. For example, Facilities Management recently retroﬁtted heating and cooling systems to be more efﬁcient—computer controls now minimize energy use when rooms aren’t in use. To promote recycling, the College aims to make containers and bins more widely available. And Facilities Management is developing a trial composting program for food service waste. The guidelines are being developed by the Campus Sustainability Committee, which includes faculty, student and staff members and is headed by Denise Jones, senior vice president for ﬁnance and administration. “It’s imperative that we develop a campus culture that supports and enhances sustainable living,” Jones says.
news campus scene
An Elegant Evening for Scholarships A new event transforms the Frick Center for a night and underscores the College’s commitment to making the Elmhurst Experience ﬁnancially accessible.
Photos: Emily Dewan
More than 300 scholarship donors and recipients ﬁlled the lower level of the Frick Center, which was transformed for the event.
n March 20, more than 300 guests met and mingled in a transformed Frick Center for An Evening for Scholarships at Elmhurst College. The new event raised more than $200,000, and underscored the College’s commitment to making an Elmhurst education ﬁnancially accessible to students and their families. “Scholarship support does much more than alleviate ﬁnancial concerns,” said President S. Alan Ray. “It also sends an important message to our students. It says that someone believes in them, that they are part of a community.”
Last year, 97 percent of the student body received some form of ﬁnancial assistance. “In these economic times, I can’t think of anything more important than scholarships,” said Elmhurst Trustee Hugh McLean, who with his wife, Mary Beth, co-chaired the committee that planned the event. Guests heard ﬁrst-hand testimonies on the importance of scholarships from sophomore Danielle Dobies and senior Dan Zarlenga. The College presented its ﬁrst two Leadership Awards to Irene Siragusa Phelps, president of The Siragusa Foundation, and to the Northern
Illinois Food Bank. The Siragusa Foundation has granted more than $30 million to more than 500 nonproﬁt organizations, including $370,000 to support students at Elmhurst College. The food bank serves low-income people through a network of 500 member agencies.
You can support Elmhurst students by making a gift to scholarships online. Go to www.elmhurst.edu/giving
Clockwise from top: Hugh McLean and Mary Beth McLean, co-chairs of the Scholarship Dinner with President S. Alan Ray and Angela Ray; Peggy Sandgren, vice president for development and alumni relations; honorees Irene Siragusa Phelps, president of the Siragusa Foundation (left), and Elizabeth Donovan, director of agencies and programs for the Northern Illinois Food Bank; members of the Elmhurst College Jazz Combo; and Elmhurst senior Sarah King. Prospect/ Summer 2010
news bluejay athletics
A Team that Expects Championships The men’s soccer squad won a conference title and advanced to the ncaa tournament for the ﬁrst time in Elmhurst’s history, capping its most successful season yet.
Photo: Steve Woltmann
With only two seniors lost to graduation and 10 returning starters, the Bluejays should only build on this season’s success.
Virtual Bluejays. The College’s redesigned web site for sports tracks the latest news and results for the College’s 18 varsity athletic teams. The site includes news, schedules, cumulative statistics,
and player and coaching staΩ biographies. It’s easy to navigate. Don’t miss the action photos, video highlights, and live in-game statistics. Visit www. elmhurstbluejays.com to catch up on the action.
Long on the Court Lyndsie Long closed out her collegiate basketball career by turning in one of the most memorable single-season performances in the 37-year history of women’s basketball at Elmhurst. The senior forward from Kaneland, Illinois, averaged 24.3 points and 7 rebounds
battled Dominican University to a 1-1 tie for ix years ago, men’s soccer was the over 100 minutes, before succumbing 2-1 in newest varsity sport at Elmhurst College. This past fall, the men’s soccer double overtime. “Making the ncaa Tournament is not an easy squad became the latest varsity team to hoist a College Conference of Illinois task,” said Di Tomasso. “It takes the utmost in preparation and dedication, and is an accomand Wisconsin (cciw) championship trophy. plishment that few players get to experience The Bluejays enjoyed their most successful season to date, capturing the cciw crown, in their collegiate careers. I’m extremely proud winning 13 games, and advancing to the ncaa to say that Elmhurst College played in the ncaa Tournament for the ﬁrst time in school history. Tournament this year.” In just six seasons of varsity competition, the Six Elmhurst players garnered post-season Bluejays have totaled a 66-40-13 record while accolades from the cciw. Sophomore Brian scoring 12 victories or more in ﬁve of the six McMahon, junior Jon Brehm, and senior Brandon seasons. Elmhurst has qualiﬁed for the conference Violette earned ﬁrst-team all-conference tournament four times. recognition, while juniors Sebastian Domczewski “From the ﬁrst day men’s soccer became a and Randy Warren, along with sophomore varsity sport, our goal was to win a cciw Matt Sterner were named to the all-conference Championship,” said Coach Dave Di Tomasso. second team. McMahon was also named the “To win a conference title this year is extremely conference’s Co-Player of the Year. special. I’m happy for our current players and With only two seniors lost to graduation, 10 also for the players that came before them, returning starters, and a solid start to the as they helped pave the way for this champirecruiting process, Di Tomasso believes that the onship season.” Bluejays should only build oΩ this season’s success. Elmhurst ﬁnished conference play with an “Our program is in a very solid stage,” he said. unblemished 5-0-2 record. The Bluejays secured “The support we’ve received from the College the conference trophy on October 23 with a has been tremendous. I expect our program to 1-1 tie of Wheaton College on a rain-soaked pitch move in a direction that expects success and at Berens Park. championships. Our players and coaching staΩ With the cciw title in hand, Elmhurst are committed to excellence both on and oΩ entered the conference tournament seeking its the ﬁeld. The future of men’s soccer at Elmhurst ﬁrst trip to the ncaa Tournament. The Bluejays is exciting, to say the least.” blanked Augustana College 2-0 in the semiﬁnals and squared oΩ against Wheaton in the champiby Kevin Juday onship contest. After 110 minutes and a 2-2 tie, Wheaton edged the Bluejays in a penalty kick shootout to earn the league’s automatic bid to the national tournament. Just one night after coming up short in the shootout, the Bluejays learned they were selected as one of 17 at-large teams to the ncaa Tournament. In its ncaa Tournament game, Elmhurst Prospect/ Summer 2010
per game while ranking third in the nation in scoring. A four-year starter, Long earned College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) Player of the Year honors, as well as a pair of ﬁrst-team All-America honors. She became the ﬁrst Bluejay to earn All-America distinction from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and by D3hoops.com, and was one of 12 ﬁnalists for the Jostens Trophy, an award recognizing outstanding contributions on the court, in the classroom and in the community. In her ﬁnal season, Long led an assault on the Elmhurst record book. In February she poured in 45 points against Carthage, setting a new single-game scoring record for Elmhurst and the CCIW. Her 16 ﬁeld goals against Carthage tied single-game Elmhurst and CCIW records, while her eight 3-pointers established a Bluejay record. Long closed her career as Elmhurst's all-time scoring leader with 1,866 points, surpassing the previous mark of 1,780 points. She also set Elmhurst career records in 3-pointers (170), 3-point percentage (.388), and free throw percentage (.842). “She was constantly double teamed by opponents and still found a way to score,” said Head Coach Tethnie Werner. Elmhurst ﬁnished the season with an 18-9 record and a 10-4 mark in the CCIW.
POVERTY IN DUPAGE The College’s home county is the most afﬂuent in Illinois, and one of the most afﬂuent in the nation. Yet one in six residents struggles to cover the most basic human needs. By Barbara Rose Photos by Roark Johnson
Prospect/ Summer 2010
The Poverty Project
tourism guide depicts DuPage County, eight miles west of Chicago, as “the magniﬁcent miles,” a playground of upscale hotels and shopping centers, manicured golf courses and pristine prairie paths. One of the nation’s wealthiest counties—with a median household income exceeding $77,000 a year—it’s a place where leafy older neighborhoods and historic downtowns alternate with new tracts of super-sized houses, landscaped corporate campuses and clusters of boxy industrial buildings. By all appearances, John Moore, a corporate ﬁnance and strategy professional, enjoys the good life in a new subdivision on the western edge of the county, where homes sold for $490,000 when his was built in 2006. But appearances are deceiving. Two years ago, Moore lost his six-ﬁgure job at an international software company. He has nearly exhausted his savings paying his mortgage. Unable to ﬁnd work or to sell his home in a market glutted with foreclosures, he visits food pantries to stock his fancy four-year-old kitchen. He gets medical care through a network that donates services to the low-income uninsured. The same network helps Francisca, who asked that her last name be withheld. Francisca lives with her husband Julio and their four teenage sons in a two-bedroom apartment less than a mile from Village Hall in Addison. Julio makes $8.50 per hour working seven days a week, sometimes two shifts a day, cleaning warehouses, a church and a movie theater. Francisca tried to supplement the family’s meager income by buying discounted goods in Chicago and selling them to her neighbors at a proﬁt. But lately, because of the bad economy, her customers can’t aΩord to pay for the winter coats they bought on installment. In Glen Ellyn, where the median household income is nearly $90,000, Laura Davidson gets home from an overnight shift at Target to her family’s ground-ﬂoor apartment in time to take a two-hour nap before getting her six-year-old oΩ to school. She will get another chance to sleep when her toddler naps at noon. Their middle-class life crumbled after her husband, a 31-year-old machinist, became disabled. Even with food stamps and help from charities, they aren’t making it. These are not the comfortable lifestyles that lure families to the suburbs. Yet venture into any corner of DuPage County’s 334 square miles and you discover people in need. They include the newly impoverished, hit by illness or unemployment or both, and the marginally employed, whose payday-to-payday struggle gets harder in bad times. The number of suburban poor is growing in metropolitan areas across the country. Their neighborhoods little resemble the gra≈ti-scarred pockets of hopelessness common to big cities; but their situation is no less debilitating. The suburban poor subsist, often all but invisible to the more-fortunate majority, in high-cost areas where their income doesn’t begin to cover basic needs. “DuPage County has changed,” says Rita Gonzalez, a member of the DuPage County Board. “The demographics have changed. People’s ﬁnancial situations have changed.” Today, nearly 6 percent of DuPage’s population of 930,000 lives below the federal poverty level of $22,050 for a family of four. A much larger segment struggles to make ends meet. These so-called “working poor” live at twice the poverty level, a common proxy for low income. Together with poverty-level residents,
Venture into any corner of DuPage and you discover people in need: the marginally employed, whose struggles get harder in bad times, and the newly impoverished, hit by illness, unemployment or both. they make up 15.8 percent of the county’s population, or about one in six residents. Their number grew steadily even during the boom years of the 1990s, more than doubling to about 145,000 by 2008. “It’s a challenge to leadership to take the demographic shift that’s been going on for decades and make sure it is a positive for our community,” says Candace King, executive director of DuPage Federation on Human Services Reform, an umbrella group that coordinates responses to families in need.
he changes in DuPage mirror powerful trends across the country, where poor families in search of jobs and aΩordable rents move farther from city centers, even as a√uent empty nesters and young professionals gravitate downtown. The United States marked a watershed in 2005 when the number of poor living in suburbs outnumbered those in cities for the ﬁrst time, according to a Brookings Institution study of 100 metropolitan areas. Urban poverty is more concentrated; but in absolute numbers, the suburban poor population is larger. “We are more of a suburban nation. Our suburbs are growing faster than the cities,” says Elizabeth Kneebone, a Brookings Institution senior analyst. “As that population has grown, it also has diversiﬁed.” The result is sharp contrasts. In central Wheaton, across the street from luxury condominiums, people wait in line at a nonproﬁt for free food and clothing. In Lisle during evening rush hour, men and women with backpacks and rolling suitcases cross a busy six-lane highway on foot, making their way from a bus stop to an overnight shelter in a church. A meat market in Addison features goat legs for $2.79 per pound within a short drive from a Lombard butcher selling boneless prime rib for $12.99 per pound. In a suburban land of plenty, the poor remain isolated and often overlooked. Immigrants such as Francisca, who came from Mexico 13 years ago to join her husband in Bensenville, increasingly bypass the city to settle in the suburbs, where they often ﬁnd little support to help them assimilate. Today, immigrants and low-income families displaced from gentrifying city neighborhoods crowd into older suburban apartments and tract homes. At the same time, many of the manufacturing jobs that once helped newcomers get a ﬁnancial foothold have disappeared, replaced by low-paying service work. More recently, the collapse of the real estate market eliminated hundreds of local construction jobs.
John Moore lost his six-ďŹ gure job at an international software company two years ago and has nearly exhausted his savings paying his mortgage. He visits food pantries to stock his fancy kitchen. Prospect/ Summer 2010
The Poverty Project
Estella Rodriguez and her husband receive medical services from Access DuPage, a health care network for the low-income uninsured. About 60 percent of the networkâ€™s members are Latino immigrants like Rodriguez, who lives in Addison.
Fernando Ibarra is feeling the impact. He stood shivering in line on a chilly evening last October, a clean-shaven 28-year-old in a gray sweatshirt, waiting for a food pantry to open at People’s Resource Center in downtown Wheaton. A bricklayer and union member, he and his brothers found good-paying jobs when they moved to West Chicago from Mexico six years ago, but the work dried up two years ago. Now he struggles to support his wife and two-year-old daughter on an $11 hourly wage assembling cabinetry. Of the construction market, he says simply, “It’s bad.” Poverty rates inevitably increase during downturns, but suburban areas paid a heavier toll during this recession than in previous ones. Among the hardest hit are communities on the metropolitan fringe, where the torrid building boom fueled a false prosperity. “Suburbs are feeling the brunt,” Kneebone says. “This downturn is only going to contribute to the suburbanization of poverty. Many areas are unprepared. There’s less of a safety net in these communities.” In DuPage, both public and private providers of social services are feeling the strain. “All of the agencies are feeling a little bit overwhelmed,” says Joan Rickard, human services manager at DuPage County Community Services.
t the nonproﬁt People’s Resource Center, a 35-year-old multiservice agency that operates one of the county’s largest food pantries, demand surged by nearly 30 percent in the second half of 2009 compared with the same period a year earlier. The pantry distributed nearly 21,000 grocery carts of food. Recipients are allowed one visit per month. “It’s the most dramatic increase in our history,” says Development Director Karen Hill. “We’re seeing a lot of families that have never had to use a food pantry before, people who never in a million years thought they’d use a food pantry.” “They’re desperately looking for any service,” says Food Services Director Melissa Travis. “We all have this image there’s this huge welfare state.” But many struggling people, she adds, “don’t qualify for any kind of government help. They can’t aΩord medical insurance, medicine for their kids, mortgage payments. They come in here much more stressed, much more afraid.” Many of the pantry’s patrons are unemployed. But 56 percent report at least one family member working. They were getting by until their hours got cut or, like Ibarra, they were forced to take lower-paying jobs. On the evening when Ibarra stood in line, the waiting area ﬁlled to standing room only with dozens of people, each with a diΩerent story. An Iraqi family had ﬂed Baghdad’s violence for Wheaton. A 62-year-old Wood Dale woman quit her job to care for her frail husband. A mother of three could no longer make ends meet on her factory wages. A shy Sudanese refugee from Carol Stream lost her job as a nursing assistant. Among the ﬁrst-time visitors was Paula Marcum, a single mom with four children who works as an assistant facilities manager for a local bank. “Things have gotten a little tight,” says the Warrenville resident, explaining that she fell behind in her rent when a roommate moved out without warning. Davidson, the Target employee, began visiting the pantry last year when she and her disabled husband, George, exhausted their savings. In better times, their combined household income had inched above
Prospect/ Summer 2010
The U.S. marked a watershed in 2005 when, for the ﬁrst time, the number of poor people living in suburbs outnumbered those living in cities. And suburbs have paid a heavier toll during this recession than in previous ones. The recession is accelerating the suburbanization of American poverty. $60,000. Then she was laid oΩ from her job as an administrative assistant and her husband’s health deteriorated. The Social Security Administration denied him permanent disability payments for a degenerative spine condition that has left him unable to work or even to care reliably for their youngest, an active curly-haired blond toddler, Zachary. Zachary played on the ﬂoor of their apartment’s small living room with a helicopter painted bright red—his favorite color—while his mother described how they’ve managed their more recent troubles. They experienced an eviction scare when their apartment building was foreclosed, but the bank allows them to make payments on their $750 monthly rent whenever she gets a paycheck from Target. When they fell behind on their utilities, she found a second part-time job at a daycare center for dogs. Even so, their electricity was turned oΩ for weeks last summer until an emergency program and a relative helped them settle their $1,500 balance. Government food programs and food pantry visits keep meals on their table. “Without the community’s help I don’t know where we would be,” says Laura Davidson, naming nearly a dozen churches, charities and agencies that have assisted her family. “We are very grateful. We don’t take anything for granted.” One of the best examples of DuPage’s eΩorts to marshal resources is Access DuPage, a health care network for the county’s low-income uninsured. Last year, the network of more than 225 physicians, hospitals and medical facilities provided more than $55 million in donated services and medicine while delivering beneﬁts at a lower cost than average for employer-sponsored insurance plans. The network’s membership grew by nearly 30 percent—to 10,600 patients—during the year ending in June 2009, a period of “unprecedented growth,” says Director Kara Murphy. About 60 percent of all members are Latino immigrants, but the network also is seeing an inﬂux of patients who emigrated as part of U.S. resettlement programs from countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “Historically they would have come and resettled in our community and not had di≈culty securing employment,” says Murphy. “It might
The Poverty Project
not have been highly paid but they would have been able to ﬁnd work to give them a foothold. The challenge of this economy is that there is ever more competition for ever fewer opportunities.”
ccess DuPage member Estella Rodriguez, 61, spends part of her days keeping the linoleum ﬂoors shining in the spotless basement apartment she shares with her husband in Glendale Heights. They pay rent to a family that owns the split-level house, where an American ﬂag decal decorates the front door. She also takes an English class at the College of DuPage and looks for work. Her husband, who is treated for cancer by Access DuPage, earns $7.75 per hour as a commercial mover. (The minimum wage in Illinois is $8.00 per hour.) A grandmother now, Rodriguez raised two sons alone while working in an airplane-parts factory after emigrating from Mexico to California in 1985. One son is a registered nurse; the other works in medical records. “I’m very happy about my sons; they have a good life,” she says. “I love America.” For Francisca’s four teenage sons, a similar upwardly mobile path seems less certain. Isolated from support that could help her improve her prospects, she encounters barriers even when she tries to access basic safety-net services at the food pantry near her apartment in Addison. On one visit to the pantry, Francisca brought one of her sons—a polite and ﬂuently bilingual high school senior—to help her communicate in English. The pantry’s paid coordinator sent the pair away to get copies of their birth certiﬁcates, a requirement to be placed on a list for holiday baskets. When they returned with the copies, he asked them for a letter proving the family’s need. When she returned with the
When Prosperity Ends Abruptly A casting director might place John Moore in a Starbucks line, a computer bag slung over his shoulder and a Blackberry in his upturned palm. So it’s no surprise he attracts stares in a line to register for charity medical care. “I’m kinda like the new face of what you never expected to see,” says the 43-year-old single professional. “The staΩ, they look at me as if, ‘That could be me.’ It freaks ’em out.” A corporate manager who lost his job two years ago in a restructuring, he is among those abruptly forced out of prosperity by an economic collapse that left him with
a home he can’t sell, a mortgage he can no longer aΩord and diminished prospects in the worst labor market in decades. A for-sale sign hangs in front of his impeccably maintained
Social service providers are feeling the recession’s strain. At a local food pantry, demand has surged by 30%. The new clients include people who never in a million years thought they would use a food pantry. letter, hoping to take home food, he allowed her to take some bread oΩ a front table, then motioned her to an exit. On a cold evening in Francisca’s small living room, an image of Mary Magdalene ﬂickered on a votive candle. Her family turned on the kitchen’s oven to warm the apartment. She recalled a time when both she and Julio were sick and unable to work, when the family ate for a week on $34 they had saved for emergencies. Then Julio spoke about his dream of a better future for his sons: good jobs, a home.What would it take to realize his dream? “At this point I need miracles,” he says. Barbara Rose is an independent journalist specializing in economics and workplace issues. She wrote a column about work and covered labor and employment issues for the Chicago Tribune.
Black Belt, a quality management 3,200 square-foot house in a West credential. He volunteers at several Chicago subdivision. He’s nearly charities, including the Northern exhausted his savings paying the Illinois Food Bank in St. Charles $1,994 monthly mortgage. Moore’s income plunged from and DuPage PADS, which helps more than $200,000 a year to the homeless. poverty level after his layoΩ in A regular at three food pantries, January 2008 from a senior director’s he recalls his ﬁrst visit in late 2008. job at a global software company. “You kind of stumble through the His ongoing job hunt netted him ﬁrst time. I was a nervous wreck,” he six interviews and short stints of says. “It was an admission to myself work, including a holiday job of where things had gotten to.” stocking shelves at a Sears store, For a while he stopped recycling but nothing like the job he lost. because he didn’t want his neighbors He visited a U.S. Army recruitto see his empty cans stamped ment o≈ce last fall, prepared to “Not for Resale,” but he’s gotten enlist on the spot, but recruiters over his embarrassment. “At two told him he was too old. years [without a steady job], this is While hunting for work, he me now,” he says. “It’s changed me.” keeps his professional skills sharp by working toward his Six Sigma
The middle-class lifestyle of Glen Ellynâ€™s Davidson family evaporated when George, a machinist, became disabled. Laura works two jobs, but even with food stamps and help from charities, the couple is struggling to support themselves and their three sons, Ethan, Jake and Zack. Prospect/ Summer 2010
The Poverty Project
THE POVERTY 26
Elmhurst students, faculty and staff—plus visiting experts and scholars—spent the better part of a year studying poverty’s causes and effects. Here’s what they learned.
Prospect/ Summer 2010
The Poverty Project
uring the academic year just ended, the campus
and alleviate poverty. The Project included lectures, articles,
community examined the everyday scandal
photo exhibits, a forum, a ﬁlm series, and a journalism class
of material poverty at home and abroad. The
project on poverty in the surrounding area. A new student
Poverty Project was inspired by the work of
organization, the Global Poverty Club, identiﬁed small
Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Roman Catholic theologian
but signiﬁcant ways for anyone to help the poor around the
and lifelong champion for the rights of the poorest of
world. Students, professors and staΩ at the College raised
the poor. In September, Elmhurst College awarded Father
money and awareness to assist earthquake victims in Haiti.
Gutiérrez its highest honor, the Niebuhr Medal, for his
The campus’s well-established work with the less fortu-
long life of service to humanity.
nate—nursing students serving the poor through clinical
“Poverty is not a misfortune. It is an injustice,” Father
rotations, education majors teaching in schools with a
Gutiérrez told the audience that ﬁlled Hammerschmidt
large number of underprivileged students, and many other
Memorial Chapel for the Niebuhr award ceremony.
initiatives—gained new visibility.
“Immediate help for the poor is not enough. It is a question
The College’s core values state, “We will act on our
of addressing poverty’s human causes and changing social
social responsibilities and call on others to do the same.”
structures to ﬁght this inhuman situation.”
The Poverty Project proceeded in that spirit. These pages
In an eΩort to extend the meaning of Father Gutiérrez’s
contain a partial record of its many-faceted initiatives.
message, The Poverty Project oΩered a variety of oppor-
It is a gross understatement to say that its work is unﬁnished,
tunities for students, faculty and staΩ to confront, explore
at Elmhurst and around the world.
Voices of the Poverty Project “talking about poverty, thinking about poverty, acting on poverty is falling out of favor in america,” journalist alex kotlowitz told a campus audience. at elmhurst, it’s just begun. 29
The campus conversation on poverty began in Hammerschidt Chapel, at a convocation called to honor Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, the poor’s prophetic voice. It continued in student lounges, at lectures and forums, after photo exhibits and ﬁlm screenings, in classrooms and online. It even made it onto the pages of The NewYork Times. Gustavo Gutiérrez is among the most thoughtful and eΩective advocates for the poor in today’s world. He bases his advocacy on his deep understanding of biblical traditions and its demands on the conscience of believers. He holds society responsible for the well-being of the least of its members. He challenges the notion that religion has nothing to do with “secular” things like economic and legal systems and the common good. He has helped a
generation understand what the Christian gospels say about our obligation to stand with the poor and to understand and alleviate the causes of poverty… Because his witness embodies the core values of Elmhurst College, awarding the Niebuhr Medal to this humble servant of faith will serve as a powerful symbol of the College’s commitment to personal dignity and social justice. President S. Alan Ray, announcing the awarding of the seventh Niebuhr Medal to Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, Roman Catholic theologian and the “father of liberation theology,” August 21, 2009
“Poverty is not a misfortune. It is an injustice. It is a scandal to have, on a Christian continent, so many poor. ” Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, recipient of the Niebuhr Medal
Prospect/ Summer 2010
Poverty is not a misfortune. It is an injustice. It is a scandal to have, on a Christian continent, so many poor. We say we are Christians, but we are so accustomed to this scandal. To be Christian is to follow justice, to do what is indicated in the Gospel. It is in this sense that the presence of so many persons—Christians also— living in such terrible conditions of poverty is a scandal…In the ultimate analysis, poverty means death—unjust and early death. The missionaries of
The Poverty Project
the 16th century, some years after their arrival on this continent, said, “The Indians are dying before their time.” It was true then, and it is true today also. The poor are dying before their time.
Lisa van Eps, founder of Divine Commerce, a not-for-proﬁt consulting ﬁrm, in the keynote lecture of Poverty Week, October 25, 2009
We lost so many friends. Our work Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, upon accepting place was ﬂattened the Niebuhr Medal in Hammerschmidt with all my students Memorial Chapel, September 20, 2009 inside. I had just The Lord hears the given them a class cry of the poor. and told them “see Blessed be the Lord! you next week.” I Psalm 34, sung at the Niebuhr Medal pulled some of their convocation bodies out of the rubble yesterday. How do we say to the poor,
“God loves you”? How do we say that seriously, in the face of their suffering? This is a question that liberation theology tries to answer…We’re called to an encounter with God through concrete actions toward others, especially the poor. An active concern for the poor is an obligation for all Christians. All Christians must take seriously the Gospel message of justice and equality. Father Gutiérrez
Education breaks the cycle of poverty. It is the most sustainable way to alleviate poverty. It is also the best way to leverage charitable dollars. You can see the impact of education on poverty multiplying in the world.
Patrick Bentrott ’02, a missionary in Haiti, writing on the web site of the United Church of Christ, January 14, 2010
If there is something to be learned about the Haitian people in the aftermath of the earthquake, it is that they have shown the rest of the world how to live with courage, strength and love. All of us…have an opportunity to enter into a new relationship with the people of Haiti at this moment in history. Bentrott, writing on January 22, 2010
Professor Grimes and her students have truly given life to this community. Maurice Clarke, a music teacher at Montego Bay High School, on the participants in the January Term course Educational Experiences in Jamaica, January 21, 2010
Poverty is woven into our society. We need losers to make us feel like winners. Taking on poverty is daunting: it brings us into conﬂict with the underpinnings of American life. Gerald Kellman, a community organizer and past mentor of Barack Obama, at the Poverty Project opening lecture, February 25, 2010
He believes in people, especially in the common people. He believes that there’s a sense of decency in everyone and all you have to do is call upon it. He’s a very good man. Father Leo Mahon, pastor emeritus of St. Mary of the Woods Church, on Kellman
People are surprised to hear that poverty in DuPage exists. And if you don’t know it exists, you’re excused from doing anything about it. The county is just now developing an infrastructure to help the poor. But the pace of poverty is picking up faster than the county can respond. Candace King, executive director of the DuPage Federation on Human Services Reform, at an Elmhurst College forum, Poverty in DuPage: An Inquiry, March 18, 2010
Talking about poverty, thinking about poverty, acting on poverty is falling out of favor in America, or at least in much of America. We’ve dismantled the traditional safety
Freshman orientation is now a ﬁveday immersion in “Big Questions: What Will You Stand For?” with treks to food banks and discussions of moral complexities. Seeking to produce “creative thinkers” akin to the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, a 1910 Elmhurst graduate, there are lectures, forums, photo exhibits and other information about the needy. The New York Times on the Poverty Project, March 10, 2010
nets. Public housing has been razed, and the replacement housing is still a far-oΩ dream. Welfare has been virtually eliminated. Many heatedly oppose providing adequate health care to those without…And yet we are a country that likes to imagine itself as one that is fair and just, that is ﬁlled with compassion, that reaches out to those less fortunate. We like to think in this country that a rising tide lifts all boats. But all you need to do is take a stroll through Chicago’s West Side, or through Los Angeles’ South Central, or through the South Bronx or though Benton Harbor to recognize that this is not the case. The state of our poor children is one of the most urgent domestic issues facing us today. They are our future. You can walk through the streets of our central cities and it does not take great psychic powers to see what the future holds. It is not good. Prospect/ Summer 2010
Alex Kotlowitz, writer and teacher, at the Poverty Project’s closing lecture, “The Things They Carry: Growing Up Poor in the World’s Wealthiest Nation,” April 8, 2010
The eΩort raises fundamental questions about our relationship to poverty, especially via institutional initiatives. As Colin Greer, president of the New World Foundation in New York said, even well-intentioned projects often deal with the poverty of an individual person, not with poverty in general. We assume systemic poverty and try to help a few escape it. As Mr. Ray knows well, good intentions must translate into more than “one-way transfers” for a few individuals. Those you help aren’t desperate curiosities; they should be treated as neighbors down on their luck…It’s too early to assess Elmhurst College and Mr. Ray, who may prove a soft-spoken revolutionary in, of all places, DuPage County. But, at a minimum, give him full credit for challenging himself and his school in a simple and profound way. James Warren, columnist for The New York Times, on the Poverty Project
Our service to the poor begins with the recognition that we at the College are part of a global family, whose choices—economic, environmental and social—have an impact on the lives of everyone around us. Especially in this time of recession, we are mindful of those struggling to live and labor with dignity. As a college, we will provide education around poverty as well as direct service to those in need. In so doing, we will realize our core value, to act on our social responsibilities and call on others to do the same. President Ray
To know God is to do justice. Father Gutiérrez
The Poverty Project
Creating Ways to Help a new student organization, the global poverty club explores both innovative and traditional methods to address an age-old problem.
n his junior year at Elmhurst, Dan Zarlenga attended a lecture on poverty at Northwestern University by the economist JeΩrey Sachs. It got Zarlenga wondering what he could do to help. His answer: the Global Poverty Club. The student organization just completed a remarkable ﬁrst year under Zarlenga’s leadership. In the fall, it sponsored Poverty Week, a week-long program to educate the campus community on creative ways it might address poverty at home and abroad. Throughout the year, Zarlenga and his cohorts were a constant presence at Poverty Project lectures, forums and ﬁlms. In May, the club held a ﬁve-kilometer fund-raising walk through downtown Elmhurst, followed by educational programming on campus. Poverty Week was the product of months of research by the club’s 20 members into the work of nonproﬁt organizations in the ﬁelds of economics, health and education. It kicked oΩ on October 25, when 25 Elmhurst students spent the day at a facility in Aurora run by the charity Feed My Starving Children. The students helped package 270,000 specially formulated meals for malnourished children in Haiti. The work was enough to feed 47 children for a year. The events of Poverty Week also included an introduction to the micro-lending web site Kiva.org, which connects individual lenders who make small loans (as little as $25) to poor people in 49 countries. In a session at the Frick Center, Kiva’s Ginny Kalish explained the organization’s lending practices. “This is not a hand-out. It’s a hand up,” she said. The recipients “are people who wouldn’t be eligible for ordinary loans,” who use the money to help support themselves by ﬁnancing small enterprises. Kalish said more than 98 percent of Kiva’s loans are repaid. By the time of Kalish’s presentation, the
Photo courtesy of Elmhurst Poverty Club
The Global Poverty Club’s efforts ranged from the high tech to the highly traditional, such as the ﬁve-kilometer fund-raising walk through downtown Elmhurst that the club sponsored in May.
Global Poverty Club already had raised $1,000 through rummage sales, ra√es and donations from local businesses. Zarlenga invited students to help the club select recipients for 40 Kiva loans of $25 each. “I know the two things college students do best is browse the Internet and spend money,” Zarlenga said. “We’re not even asking for your money. We’re asking for your ideas.” The students browsed the Kiva site on laptops and read the stories of entrepreneurs seeking loans. One by one, students took a turn at a micro-
phone to talk about the entrepreneurs they had chosen to support: a farmer in Costa Rica looking to improve the pasture for his livestock, a cereals merchant in Ghana seeking to increase her inventory, a Mongolian taxi driver hoping to buy parts for his aging vehicle. Within 30 minutes, the group had settled on the recipients for a total of $1,000 in Kiva loans. The club also raised money to ﬁght poverty through health and education initiatives. It supported Nothing but Nets, a United Nations
personal view dan zarlenga ’10
Just One Person The students learned that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results, that individuals can make a real difference. Foundation campaign that distributes antimosquito bed nets for families in Africa. (The agency says that use of insecticide-treated bed nets can reduce the transmission of malaria by 90 percent.) It also backed Pennies for Peace, a service-learning program of the Central Asia Institute that raises money to buy school supplies for children in Afghanistan and other poor nations. Zarlenga graduated in May and plans to pursue a career in microﬁnance, funding small businesses in developing countries. He recalled that after hearing Sachs’ lecture at Northwestern, he overheard two students say that they felt helpless to be of service in the face of global poverty. “They wondered what they could possibly do as college students in Chicago.” His experiences at Elmhurst, he said, taught him many lessons, including these: “Ordinary people can achieve something extraordinary. Individuals can help wherever they live.”
was in my usual Monday night spot—working at the information desk in the student union at Elmhurst College. I was staring blankly at a money collection container made by the College’s Global Poverty Club, of which I am the founder. Part of the club’s mission is to teach students that they, as individuals, can make a diΩerence in the lives of the poor, even if those in need live halfway around the world. The container shows that while living in a world with poverty is costly, solutions can be cheap. We made the collection container for Poverty Week—a series of events and activities our club hosted last fall to raise awareness and money. Next to the container was a board on which I’d written that more than a billion people live on less than a dollar a day. The board asked students and staΩ to kindly spare a dollar for the poor each day during Poverty Week. But as I sat there on the ﬁrst night of Poverty Week, I was in a pretty dark mood. All I could think about was the kickoΩ celebration earlier that day, and that it could’ve gone a lot better. Fewer technical glitches. More people. Would’ve been nice if the band had showed up. But especially, more people. In the days leading up to the kickoΩ, I had run through everything in my head countless times, and it always went ﬂawlessly. I imagined the student lounge packed with people eager to enjoy some live music, to learn about the Global Poverty Club and to hear about all the ways they could help those in need. But in reality, the band had gotten the time wrong and never showed up. And the students who had bothered to come to the lounge were too busy eating lunch and checking Facebook to notice us. The mediocre kickoΩ shook my conﬁdence about how successful we would be with the other events we had coming that week. As I stewed in my disappointment, a student and his noisy friends walked in the front door. I remembered the student from the kickoΩ event. I also remembered the level of attention he gave us—somewhere between none and zero; maybe an occasional glance upward to see if we were still there. His presence was an awful reminder of my frustrations that day. But he was preoccupied with his friends, so I ﬁgured that at least he’d move on soon. He didn’t. As his friends walked away, he stopped at our collection box. He took an unusual amount of time reading our sign. I expected him to walk away. Instead, he pulled out his wallet and dropped in a single. He did this every day for the rest of the week. At the start of the school year, I spoke at a ceremony in which Elmhurst College awarded its highest honor, the Niebuhr Medal, to a theologian named Gustavo Gutiérrez, a man who has spent his life advocating for the world’s poorest of the poor. “If you inspire just one person to do good for others,” I said, “then in time you will have changed the world.” I didn’t fully realize the signiﬁcance of those words until that ﬁrst frustrating day of Poverty Week, and how beautifully that day ended. The Global Poverty Club cannot eradicate poverty or save millions of lives. But we can empower those who want to help but don’t know how. Our message made an impact with at least one student. I wonder if that student realizes how profound an eΩect he had on me. A native of Niles, Illinois, Dan Zarlenga is the founder and immediate past president of the Global Poverty Club, and one of the 2010 winners of the College’s Founders Award.
Prospect/ Summer 2010
The Poverty Project
A Course That Changes Lives an elmhurst class brings a music festival to a school in western jamaica, where there aren’t enough pencils (let alone drumsticks) to go around. 34
n western Jamaica, where nothing comes easy, more than 150 schoolchildren came from far and wide—some taking hourlong taxi rides, some walking for miles, all clutching heavy instruments but sporting smiles—to take part in a music festival organized by an Elmhurst College professor and 27 students. The West Jamaica International Music Festival took place on January 16 at the Verney House Hotel in Montego Bay. It featured private lessons, concerts and performances involving the children, their teachers, the Elmhurst students and Judith Grimes, a professor of music and director of the concert band. Hours of intensive lessons and workshops culminated in a concert featuring songs from Jamaica and the United States, ranging from
“Jamaican Farewell” to “Meet the Flintstones.” “We could just see the excitement on the kids’ faces,” says Professor Grimes. “To hear how well they play—all while having so little training—is amazing.” The festival is a highlight of Educational Experiences in Jamaica, a January Term course taught for decades by Grimes, who was making her 67th teaching trip to Jamaica. OΩered jointly by the music and education departments, the course is open to students in all majors. Grimes says some students might be attracted by the prospect of an extended midwinter respite in the Jamaican sunshine, but it is the exposure to the elementary students and system of a much diΩerent country that most impresses them.
The West Jamaica International Music Festival featured private lessons, concerts and performances involving Jamaican schoolchildren, their teachers, Elmhurst students and Judith Grimes, professor of music and director of the concert band, who was making her 67th teaching trip to Jamaica.
“We visit the schools, but I don’t say we teach there,” says Grimes. “I say we share and we exchange and we learn.” One of the ﬁrst things Elmhurst students notice, the professor says, is the poverty in the Jamaican schools. It is not unusual to see youngsters break their pencils in two to share with a classmate when they don’t have enough to go around. The vast majority of the instruments played by students in Montego Bay’s school bands were brought to the island through the eΩorts of Elmhurst students. Grimes says that Elmhurst students and their friends have given the children of Montego Bay more than 1,000 musical instruments, along with sheet music, music stands, school supplies and other equipment. The professor tells of one student who, on a return trip, used almost all of her allotment of two suitcases to ferry donated school supplies to Jamaica. “It’s a life-changing course,” she says. “We bring back better kids than we take.”
Through the Eyes of Children an elmhurst professor of art teaches a course in digital photography to children in india. the result is a unique record of the consequences of history’s worst industrial accident.
On March 18, an exhibit featuring the photography of young children opened in the Barbara A. Kieft Accelerator ArtSpace. The children all are second-generation victims of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal. The exhibit—“Visual Voices Project: Bhopal, India”—featured digital photographs of daily life in Bhopal. Each photograph was taken by one of the children who took a course taught in July 2009 by Lynn Hill, an associate professor of art at the College. The course was funded by the College and its Niebuhr Center. The images on this page are among the results of the children’s class work.
Prospect/ Summer 2010
The Poverty Project
The Facts of Life in DuPage County many assume the county is monolithically white, wealthy and republican. it isn’t.
On March 18, the College hosted “Poverty in DuPage: an Inquiry,” a panel discussion in the Frick Center. The panelists were Connie Mixon of Elmhurst’s urban studies program, Candace King of the DuPage Federation on Human Services Reform, and Robert Gleeson of the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University. The moderator was Barbara Rose, journalist and author of the cover story in this issue of Prospect. The presentations were ﬁlled with facts about recent, signiﬁcant shifts in the county’s demographics, economics and politics. “These aren’t your parents’ suburbs,” Professor Gleeson said. Today, city and suburbs together constitute “something new, a whole interwoven fabric that we don’t even have a language for.”
DEMOGRAPHICS 930,528 people live in DuPage County,
according to a 2008 estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s a 3% increase since the 2000 census.
largest municipalities are Naperville, Wheaton and Downers Grove.
A tiny part of Chicago is located in DuPage. Primarily commercial and related to O’Hare Airport, it has 230 residents.
Elmhurst Wheaton Downer’s Grove Naperville 37
38,742 persons emigrated to DuPage County from other nations between 2000 and 2008. Without these international immigrants, DuPage would have lost population during this period.
DuPage’s population is growing more diverse. 2.8% 2.6% 1.2%
Asian Hispanic African American
11.8% 9.6% 4.2%
Prospect/ Summer 2010
Hispanic Asian African American
The Poverty Project
More people in DuPage are using public beneﬁts. In 2009, 104,422 residents received Medicaid, up from 40,000 in 1996.
DuPage is the wealthiest county in the state, and the 23rd wealthiest in the nation—19 municipalities in the county have an average household income of over $100,000.
The median household income was $77,033 in 2008. Since 2000, it has declined by $10,690. 38
The for a home was $329,000 in 2008, the highest of any county in Illinois.
Homelessness is a serious issue in the county. In 2009, 65,844 persons in DuPage received homeless prevention services. In 2001, the ﬁgure was 22,266. That’s an eight-year increase of 196%. The poverty rate in DuPage increased by 63.3% between 1980 and 2006. That’s the highest increase among the six counties in the metro area. In the same period, the poverty rate in McHenry County increased by 38.1%, in Kane by 36.1%, in Cook by 12.5%, and in Lake by 5.7%. In Will County, the poverty rate decreased by 9.4%.
In 2008, the county saw 4,470 housing foreclosures. In 2009, it saw 5,552.
Between 1970 and 2000,
Among the six counties in the metro area,
the number of people commuting into DuPage County for work increased by 478%.
DuPage has the lowest percentage of affordable housing units: 19.18%. In Cook County, the ﬁgure is 47.11%; in Will County, 44.5%.
Among DuPage commuters, 80% drive to work alone.
52,131 DuPage residents live below the poverty line, deﬁned as a household income of $22,050 for a family of four. That’s 6% of the county’s population. If you add in the low-income working poor, the number climbs to 145,060, or 16% of the population. In 1990, the ﬁgure was 9%.
A growing percentage of households in the county is using food stamps.
In 2010, the ofﬁce is serving about 12,000 applicants each month. In 2000, it served about 4,800 a month. Unemployment in DuPage reached 9.5% in 2010. In 1990 it was 4%.
10% 8 6 4 2 0
POLITICS Barack Obama
carried DuPage County with 54% of the vote in 2008. He was the ﬁrst Democratic presidential candidate to win the county since Franklin Pierce in 1852. (The Republican Party ﬁelded its ﬁrst presidential nominee in 1856.)
Despite dramatic Democratic inroads, some things in DuPage never change: in the February primary, GOP ballots outnumbered Democratic ballots by more than 2 to 1.
Between 1984 and 2008, the percentage of DuPage voters backing the Republican presidential candidate fell by 32%.
Supporting the Republican Candidate in Presidential Elections, 1960–2008
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100%
44% Prospect/ Summer 2010
The Poverty Project
The Faces of Need for the poor themselves, poverty is no abstraction. it’s the daily reality of life on the street, in cramped apartments and storage sheds converted into “living spaces.”
In March and April, the Barbara A. Kieft Accelerator ArtSpace presented “The Faces of Need,” a retrospective featuring nearly 80 years of award-winning photojournalism from the Chicago Tribune. The exhibit captured the poignant human dimensions of poverty in the Chicago area. It began with photos of the jobless and homeless taken during the Great Depression and carried through to today’s recession-wracked city and suburban neighborhoods. The subjects are young and old, living alone and with their families in cramped apartments, storage sheds and dirty alleys. When the exhibit closed, the photos were oΩered for sale, with proceeds beneﬁting the People’s Resource Center in Wheaton.
Prospect/ Summer 2010
The Poverty Project
Poverty Hollywood Style five portrayals of the poor that actually lit up the silver screen. by andrea gronvall
Whatever genre narrative ﬁlmmakers tap—from love stories to murder mysteries to epic adventures— poor people usually appear as secondary characters, rarely as the narrative’s main focus. As part of the Poverty Project, the College programmed ﬁve ﬁlms that tackle the problem of poverty head on. Andrea Gronvall, ﬁlm reviewer for the Chicago Reader, introduced the series on March 8 in Illinois Hall. Here she analyzes how each of the ﬁve ﬁlms dramatizes the plight of the poor.
The Grapes of Wrath Toning Down the Despair During the Great Depression, audiences wanted to forget their woes. Poverty usually was addressed obliquely on screen, as in gangster pictures where protagonists went from rags to riches by ﬂouting the law, or in inspirational biographies where a man from humble origins could better himself, even rise, as Abraham Lincoln did, to the highest o≈ce in the land. In 1939 Henry Fonda had just starred for John Ford in two pictures, Young Mr. Lincoln and Drums Along the Mohawk, when the director chose him to play Tom Joad, the short-fused Okie ex-con who turns labor activist in The Grapes of Wrath (1940). The decision by 20th Century-Fox production head Darryl F. Zanuck to adapt John Steinbeck’s best-selling novel came not without risks. The book—about Dust Bowl sharecroppers driven oΩ their land who head to California seeking work—had been banned and burned by right-leaning communities outraged over its corrosive portraits of bankers, corporate farmers and corrupt lawmen. Hollywood studios were frequently at loggerheads with craftsmen who wished to unionize, while the Hays Code, the industry’s censorship guideline, didn’t just police images of sex and violence; it also discouraged treatments of any social or political issues that might lead to public unrest. Zanuck also had to convince Steinbeck that
the movie wouldn’t eviscerate the novel’s populist message. The producer’s fears of trouble among his board of directors were allayed when the president of Chase Bank disclosed that his wife loved the book. Still, Zanuck so feared backlash that the second unit crew assigned to location shoots had to call the project Highway 66. Screenwriter Nunnally Johnson toned down the despair in the book by rearranging some events—for instance, moving the Joads’ arrival at the government aid camp (modeled on those run by the New Deal’s Farm Security Administration) to late in the story in order to end it on some uplift. And even though Ford maintained he was “apolitical,” his stark evocation of the migrants’ loss—of income, home, food, family, respect—makes The Grapes of Wrath a searing indictment of a society in moral as well as economic crisis. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded it the best picture Oscar, voted Ford best director, and Jane Darwell best supporting actress for her role as Ma Joad.
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? A Little Misery Out There Thirty years after The Grapes of Wrath, America had undergone phenomenal change. The once-despised Okies were among the millions who had found employment during the manufacturing expansion that buttressed the U.S. entry into World War ii, and the postwar years brought unparalled a√uence to many. But the
new wealth threw into greater contrast the disparity between the haves and the have-nots, and a new generation of Baby Boomers fueled a far-reaching protest movement. Hollywood, ever quick to spot trends that could translate into box o≈ce returns, responded with a number of socially conscious pictures. Cinerama’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) was director Sydney Pollack’s second feature (after This Property Is Condemned) to have a Depression-era setting, and was adapted from the 1935 Horace McCoy novel that had once been optioned by Charlie Chaplin. The casting of Jane Fonda was inspired. She brought intelligence and stamina to the grueling lead role of Gloria, the cynical drifter who ferociously competes in a months-long dance marathon for prize money that turns out to be illusory. With her chiseled, stubborn jaw and ﬂashing eyes, Fonda also summons memories of her father Henry’s Tom Joad. Equally felicitous was Pollack’s decision to cast romantic comedy star Gig Young against type as Rocky, the devious master of ceremonies. On stage resplendent in a white tux, backstage Rocky is seedy and louche, manipulating the dancers because, as he explains to Fonda’s partner (Michael Sarrazin), the ticket buyers “just want to see a little misery out there, so they can feel a little better.” To capture that misery close up, Pollack donned roller skates for the brutal elimination
During the Great Depression, movie audiences wanted to forget about their woes. John Ford’s classic ﬁlm The Grapes of Wrath, adapted from the Steinbeck novel, brought the story of Dust Bowl sharecroppers to the screen. Nearly 30 years later, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? portrayed Depression desperation from another angle. Other ﬁlms in the series spanned eras and continents. Prospect/ Summer 2010
The Poverty Project
derby sequence, ﬁlming the actors with a handheld camera in real time to catch their every grimace and bead of sweat. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? was the second highestgrossing ﬁlm of 1969, and garnered Young an Oscar for best supporting actor.
Gangs of New York The Loathsome and Decayed
The long gestation period between 1977, when Martin Scorsese ﬁrst announced preparations for his sprawling Civil War–era epic, and the post-9/11 world in which Miramax released the ﬁlm makes Gangs of New York (2004) somewhat less of an indicator as to how Hollywood viewed the destitute in any given decade. Rather, it’s Scorsese’s take on poverty’s explosive sociopolitical eΩects, consistent with his familiar preoccupations with ethnicity, violence and religion. The movie details the vicious turf wars between the Natives, thugs whose roots go back several generations to English Protestant settlers, and gangs drawn from the waves of Catholic immigrants escaping the famine in Ireland. The struggle eventually comes down to a grisly mano a mano between the Natives’ leader Bill Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), and Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), the Irish lad whose father Cutting killed years earlier; but the huge cast adds verisimilitude to the story’s crowded slum milieu, the Five Points. In the mid-19th century Five Points was New York’s worst neighborhood. After visiting in 1841, Charles Dickens reported, “all that is loathsome, drooping and decayed is here.” The indigent were valued only as voter blocks for corrupt politicians like Tammany Hall’s “Boss” Tweed (played with panache by Jim Broadbent), or as recruits for the Union Army. One haunting scene shows Irish youths fresh oΩ the boat being herded down the pier to sign up, suit up and ship out to battle. Then as now, the ﬁlm suggests, wars are fought by those too disadvantaged to stay out of the line of ﬁre.
Wendy and Lucy A Casualty from Muncie The aftershocks of America’s late 20th century shift from a manufacturing-based economy to one driven by technology and service industries reverberate throughout Kelly Reichardt’s intimate character study Wendy and Lucy (2008). This Oscilloscope release stars Michelle Williams as Wendy, a Rust Belt casualty from Muncie, Indiana, who hits the road for Alaska to work in a cannery. When her car breaks down in a small Oregon town the young loner nears rock bottom, then sinks further after her dog Lucy disappears. Reichardt prefers to work with skeletal crews to make low-budget independent ﬁlms like her previous feature, the acclaimed Old Joy. Now on the faculty of Bard College, she knows life on the edge ﬁrst-hand, having once braved New York for ﬁve years without an apartment (she slept on friends’ sofas). Like many Americans, her heroine makes do without a safety net or the moral support of family or any other nuclear unit, even one as loose as the gutter punks Wendy encounters around a woodland campﬁre. Modern-day versions of the Depression hobos who rode the rails, they’re played mostly by young real-life vagrants. As a study in homelessness, Wendy and Lucy starkly diΩers from the inspirational 2006 Will Smith vehicle, The Pursuit of Happyness. Reichardt’s ﬁlm oΩers no big narrative arcs, no epiphanies, and by the end, no certainty that Wendy will be okay.
Slumdog Millionaire Breathtaking Dickensian Sweep In Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire (2008), we see the eΩects of globalization on the other side of the world. Hero Jamal (Dev Patel), a lowly tea server in a Mumbai phone call center used by a western telecommunications company to outsource jobs, becomes a contestant on India’s version of the tv series Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? As a product of one of the city’s most wretched slums, Jamal has little education, but his life experiences (shown in ﬂashbacks) help him correctly answer the questions posed by the show’s increasingly resentful host (Anil Kapoor). The tale that British director Danny Boyle and his Indian co-director Loveleen Tandan
Many scenes are harrowing in their depiction of penury, ﬁlth and bloodshed. But the tension in the stories keeps viewers from averting their eyes. unfold has a breathtaking Dickensian sweep, tracing Jamal and his older brother Salim from a tender age, when they lose their mother to anti-Islam rioters, through to the boys’ escape from tra≈ckers in child labor, on to teenage careers scamming tourists at the Taj Mahal, and then into adulthood, when Salim (Madhur Mittal) has become a gangster’s enforcer and good natured Jamal wants nothing more than to ﬁnd Latika (Freida Pinto), his long-lost love. Many scenes are harrowing in their depiction of penury, ﬁlth and bloodshed, but the tension generated by the quiz show competition, plus our desire that the lovers reunite, keep viewers from averting their eyes. Couching valuable lessons within popular entertainment is what movies do best, something screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (who here adapted Vikas Swarup’s novel Q&A) demonstrated earlier in The Full Monty (1997), another picture about the downtrodden. Slumdog Millionaire won eight Oscars and was a hit with moviegoers, many of whom will never be millionaires, but exited theaters feeling nonetheless richer.
personal view s. alan ray
Who Will Feed the Drifters? elmhurst’s president recalls lessons learned in his native oklahoma, where poverty cast a long shadow. this essay aired on february 15 on wbez-fm, chicago’s public radio station.
am a Native American and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and while some indigenous peoples’ communities are among the poorest in the United States, I was raised by well-educated, white parents. My roots are middle class. I am not a poor person. But I come from Oklahoma, where poverty casts a long shadow, a shadow thrown over an uneven historical terrain of racial segregation, a boomand-bust economy based in agriculture and oil, and a public faith that education married to hard work is the way out of the shadow, once and for all. When I was growing up in the 1960s, in a small country town called Guthrie, every now and again during the summer, men without homes passed through my neighborhood. I remember those men. They were solitary ﬁgures of indeterminate years, not especially peculiar but looking pretty beat, and always white—in Oklahoma towns of the early ’60s even homelessness seemed subject to Jim Crow, and my parents lived in an all-white neighborhood. My mother, being kind, occasionally let in these strangers to the house to eat a simple lunch—a sandwich, a glass of water, maybe an apple. My father, when he learned of this, became irate, and told my mother never to do this again, to let in “drifters,” as he called them, since they could hurt or rob us. Lunch for the drifters stopped. I suppose my father was right. Yet what I remember most is how detached from everyone and everything they were, these men, how without community, how alone. Without my mother, I thought in my child’s way, who would feed them? If no one interacted with them, they were invisible. My dad wanted to protect his family from a perceived threat, but he also wanted the drifters gone, invisible, not part of our lives. The philosopher Pierre Bourdieu says that every society takes for granted certain things in order to operate, and what is assumed to be normal “goes without saying because it comes without saying.” Kinds of people can be taken for granted, and will be, if it helps things run smoothly. Today, as I sit in my comfortable president’s o≈ce, after a good lunch, and anticipating a pleasant evening at home with my family, I am reminded that around me, in DuPage County and places like it all over the country, things are not running smoothly. The breadwinners of families like mine are losing their jobs in record numbers, and with those jobs, potentially losing their futures and those of their dependents. Like the drifters, they are becoming increasingly detached from communities that would care for them, and are at risk of becoming loners— whole families, whole neighborhoods of loners. But before they drop out of our statistical and emotional sight, before they become taken for granted as “just the way things are,” I think
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it’s important for students at my College to get to know some of these individuals and families, to listen to their stories, to spread the word. This year, Elmhurst students reﬂected on their obligations to those struggling with poverty and, to the extent they were able, helped those on the edge to remain in communities and ﬂourish. In so doing, they helped us all stay connected. For the poor are connected with us already— we just fear inviting them into our literal and ﬁgurative homes. What might they do to us? What might they ask of us? What this recession has shown us, of course, is that there is no “they.” When you or I at any time could join the ranks of the unemployed, the evicted, those without health care, it becomes clear that the poor are “we.” After this realization, what we do depends on how we answer my childhood question about the drifters—who will feed them?
OF THE MASTERS
Nine of Elmhurstâ€™s most storied teachers are remembered by nine of their most accomplished students. Prospect/ Summer 2010
paradox lies at the heart of a teacher’s work. Many of the best teachers have the knack for arresting attention, for making a vivid, immediate impression. But what makes their work most valuable is its durability. The lessons they teach their students stick; the examples they set endure. The critic Jacques Barzun observed that the fruit of a teacher’s work often is not immediately apparent. It reveals itself over time. Elmhurst’s history has been enriched by professors whose work lives on in the lives and achievements of their students. We asked nine prominent alumni to share their memories of teachers who made a diΩerence in their lives. Their responses remind us that the truly memorable professors never stop teaching us.
INTERVIEWS BY ANDREW SANTELLA ILLUSTRATIONS BY MARK SUMMERS
A Sense of Decency Paul Crusius Paul Crusius (below) taught history and other subjects at Elmhurst for 44 years. He died in 1959. The recollection is from William J. Bauer’49 (left), a judge on the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit. There are, if you are lucky, two or three teachers who inﬂuence your whole way of thinking. Paul Crusius was one who did that for me. After studying with him, you thought backwards and forwards. You thought internationally. You came to a personal vision of history. All history majors took Paul’s course, Civilization Past and Present. It started roughly with the beginning of written history and worked its way to the threshold of World War ii, which when I took the course was going full tilt. It was an interesting time to take a course with a name like that, because civilization seemed to be in peril. What you took away from Paul was a sense of decency and intellectual honesty and the need to keep reading more and more to arrive at a conclusion about a subject. I would go talk to him in his o≈ce in Kranz Hall. He had one quality of a great professor and, if you’ll forgive me, of a great judge. He listened well. When he talked, he was interested in your reaction. He wasn’t just talking to impress you with his knowledge, although God knows that came through. He was interested in what you said. Now he wasn’t a buddy. He wasn’t the kind of guy you chummed around with. He was always the professor. He was kind, warm, helpful; but he was intellectually up here. He was trying to raise you up to his standards; he would not lower himself to yours. He was one of the most learned men I have ever encountered, and I was lucky to have studied under him.
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The Wonder and the Amazement Rudolf G. Schade Rudolf Schade (below) taught Greek, philosophy, logic and history at Elmhurst from 1946 to 1974. He died in 2000. The recollection is from Walter Brueggemann ’55 (left), professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary.
Students like me who were going on to seminary were required to take Greek with Dr. Schade for two years. The joke was that his German accent must be very important to him since he had managed to keep it after all these years. We all learned Greek with a German accent. He was teaching Greek to a lot of students who didn’t want to learn Greek. We would do everything we could do to distract him from the day’s lesson. We would ask him questions to take him far aﬁeld. But he knew what he was doing, and he was always ready to respond and engage students. He was wise and large-hearted and a genuine intellectual. He kept working with the big picture and didn’t get caught up in small matters. In those days, the style was straight Aristotelian logic. You reason from a major premise to a minor one and then to a conclusion. But Dr. Schade was intuitive about how he reached conclusions, and he was open and adventuresome in the classroom. He allowed his students a lot of freedom. He was interested in the wonder and the amazement of learning. He was encouraging in trying to urge us on in positive ways to move us out from our parochialism. He was a very important ﬁgure in my life because he modeled enormous freedom in the classroom. My own growth as an academic was very much in his direction of trying to focus on the big picture and to ask philosophical questions.
“She gently brought me out of my cluelessness and taught me that literature was not distant, not about other people. It was about me.”
The Irony and the Wit Barbara Swords Barbara Swords (above) joined the English department in 1960 and retired from the College in 1980. She lives in Elmhurst. Her teaching is remembered by David Rasche ’66 (left), an accomplished stage, ﬁlm and television actor. Barbara Swords was my freshman English teacher. In my protected, conservative, small-town life, I had never met anyone like her. I can still see her perched on the corner of her desk, trying to penetrate the thick heads of her earnest students. An incident that stands out in my memory concerns the William Faulker story, “The Bear.” Barbara asked us what we thought of “The Bear.” We thought it was ﬁne. Did we like it? Well, yes, we guessed we did. Did anyone think it was funny? No response. There’s a character named Flem Snopes. Anyone think that’s a funny name? We didn’t at ﬁrst. We didn’t think we were allowed to have fun in class. It never occurred to us that literature could be anything but dry and inscrutable. Barbara changed that. She walked us through “The Bear,” pointing out not just the imagery, plot and character, but also the irony and the wit. And she began to thaw our frozen brains. She was witty, she was pretty, she was patient and bright, and she gently brought me out of my cluelessness and taught me that literature was not distant, not about other people. It was about me. Or, rather, it was the product of writers who, as they told us how they viewed the world and what was going on inside of them, illuminated what was going on inside each of us.
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“Bob Swords created me. I reinvented myself in his image, became the ﬁnest student I could, and eventually got a job teaching English.”
The Presence of a Scholar Robert Swords Robert Swords (above) began teaching at Elmhurst in 1952 and retired from the College in 1989. He was married to Barbara Swords. He died in 2006. The recollection is from Douglas Mayﬁeld ’73 (left), who teaches English at a high school and a community college in Minnesota. I drifted onto the Elmhurst campus in 1971, after a year at the University of Iowa, where the closest I got to a professor was a seat in the balcony of a lecture hall. On the ﬁrst day of class at Elmhurst—a class with 16 students—it took me 10 minutes to realize I was in the presence of a brilliant scholar, Robert Swords. I took every class Bob oΩered. When no course was available, we did independent study—sometimes in his o≈ce, sometimes in his home, where he and Barbara always made me feel welcome. Bob Swords created me. I reinvented myself in his image, became the ﬁnest student I could, dedicated my master’s thesis to him, and got a job teaching English. One morning, Bob and I were trying to determine what area we should explore next. “Where do you feel weak?” he asked. I thought for a few seconds and said, “I don’t like poetry.” Bob looked around as if to see if anyone had heard me. “You’re an English major who will probably be a teacher some day. I suggest you never repeat that comment outside this o≈ce. We need to ﬁx it right away.” We did. I soon loved poetry.
History Has Its Own Integrity Ronald Goetz Ronald Goetz (below) began teaching at Elmhurst in 1963 and was appointed to the Niebuhr Distinguished Chair in Christian Theology and Ethics in 1986. He died in 2006. He is remembered by John C. Helt ’73 (left), pastor of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Erin, Wisconsin. I was a freshman at Elmhurst in 1970, when students were very engaged in the issues of the moment. There was a lot of emphasis on relating everything we studied to the present. But Ron Goetz was teaching History of Christian Thought, and much of what he was teaching about was 1,500 years old. For him, that stuΩ was as important as anything going on in the world at that moment. From his perspective, history had its own integrity and value and that was what we were there to learn. Not everything had to be viewed through a contemporary lens. To me, that was just mindboggling stuΩ. It wasn’t always popular with students who wanted contemporary relevance. But Goetz was always diΩerent, always refreshing. He had a larger-than-life reputation among us few theology majors. He made me see that there was an intellectual integrity to the Christian faith that was almost independent of whether you had faith yourself. His view was that the theology department had an important role, through the required theology courses, in giving the Christian faith an intellectual hearing with people who either took it for granted or didn’t know anything about it or assumed that it was an anti-intellectual enterprise. He helped me to see that there were rational arguments for the faith that made a great deal of sense, whether or not you were emotionally prepared to accept them. It added another dimension to faith. It wasn’t all about emotion or an evangelical conversion experience. It was also about using your head and not having to check your brains at the church door. He brought me my ﬁrst serious exposure to that notion, and it made a big diΩerence in my life.
“Sandy put a stamp on the direction my life has taken. She convinced me that there was real worth in making a career in the arts.”
What Mattered to Her Sandra Jorgensen Sandra Jorgensen (above) began teaching art at Elmhurst in 1966 and was chair of the Department of Art from 1975 to 1986. She died in 1999. The recollection is from Paul Madalinski ’71 (left), an artist in Vermont. I didn’t come from the kind of background where a career in ﬁne art was considered a valuable thing. I wasn’t one of those people who had been drawing since I was ﬁve years old. So I wasn’t at all decided on a ﬁne art career when I started at Elmhurst. I didn’t even feel a particular aptitude in that direction. But the College required you to take a course in the arts. I decided for some reason to take a course in drawing and painting with Sandy Jorgensen. Sandy was so encouraging that she convinced me that there was real worth in making a career in the arts. I wouldn’t have gone into the arts without her encouragement. She put a stamp on the direction my life has taken. Sandy had a lot of energy. She was trying to develop the art department, which had been a very sleepy environment; she wanted to bring it up a notch or more. She took what she was doing seriously and didn’t have a lot of patience with people who didn’t take their work seriously. This was her life. This was what mattered to her. That kind of professional attitude impressed me. She made me see that art was something I could get involved in for a lifetime.
A Solid Rock Oliver Langhorst Oliver “Pete” Langhorst (below) came to Elmhurst in 1933 and taught physical education for decades. He also coached football, basketball, baseball, track and cross country, and served as athletic director. He retired in 1969 and died in 2000. The recollection is from the Reverend Richard Kroll ’65 (right), a retired minister in the United Church of Christ. Pete Langhorst was a legend to us. He had coached the fathers of some of the players on our team. He had coached my father, Frank, in the 1930s. We knew he had come back to coach at Elmhurst because he cared so much about the College and about the students that he wasn’t about to let the program die. It was in big trouble at the time. When I arrived at Elmhurst in 1962, the football team hadn’t won a game in four years. But Pete stuck with us. We lost some very close games my freshman season. After North Park beat us 7-6, we could hear their coach in their locker room yelling, “You guys just beat the worst team in the nation by only one point!” Well, the next week, we ﬁnally got a win, 48-0 over Rose Polytechnic. There was a big celebration out by the Commons when we got back, everyone was cheering, and the president of the College declared Monday a day oΩ. We kept trying to get Pete to call the coach at North Park and tell him he was wrong—they’d beaten the second-worst team in the nation. Pete wouldn’t do it, but he had a great sense of humor. We loved the game as a result of it. With football coaches, if you don’t dislike ’em, you love ’em. That’s the way it was with Pete. We knew he cared about us. He was always willing to listen to us, help us get out of a little funk. And because Pete stuck with us, we stuck together as a unit. That team was very close. We got that from Pete. He was a solid rock.
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He Became a Part of Your Life Andrew Prinz Andrew Prinz (below) was the founder of Elmhurst’s urban studies program, which he directed for 36 years. He died in 2009. He is remembered by Gloria Simo ’88 (left), a faculty member in the College of Public AΩairs and Administration at the University of Illinois at Springﬁeld.
As soon as I ﬁnished my undergraduate degree Andy told me I should go on to graduate school. That ultimately became my goal, but I was struggling as a single mom and sometimes it was difﬁcult. Still, I would just about ﬁnish with one goal and be ready to celebrate, and he’d set the bar higher; for example, when I ﬁnished my master’s of public administration, he told me I should get my doctorate and teach. He was persuasive that way. He became a part of your life, because he cared about you. Andy also wanted you to volunteer, and he was adamant that you had to participate in the political process. On Election Day, he would give you extra credit if you brought evidence to class that you had voted. I remember one assignment for his class in metropolitan government, where we had to ﬁnd and analyze our local government’s budget. I went to my local library and asked where I could ﬁnd that information. I was asked why I wanted it and told that I couldn’t have access to make copies of it as required. I went back to class and related to Andy what I’d been told. He told me that I was to go right back there and tell them that I was a taxpayer and had a right to know. That’s what I did and I got the information, but the librarian was not happy about it. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if not for him. I don’t think any of his students will ever forget him. So many of us have this bond with one another because of him.
“In Dr. Thoma’s hands, economics, the ‘dismal science,’ became a vibrant subject, something you needed to know in a complex world.”
The Best Teacher I Ever Had George Thoma George Thoma (above right) retired as professor of economics in 2009 after teaching at Elmhurst for 39 years. He still teaches a course now and then. The recollection is from Alan Bush ’73 (above left), senior ﬁnancial futures analyst at Archer Financial Service in Chicago. When I started at Elmhurst, I was taking general education courses and trying to decide what my major would be. It was after talking to Dr. Thoma that I settled on economics. It is sometimes called the dismal science, but he proved that it could be a very vibrant subject. In his hands, it became something you needed to know in a complex world. He was the best teacher I ever had. He knew his material inside and out, and he always explained concepts several diΩerent ways so that everyone in class had an understanding of what he was trying to get across. He had a way of applying economics to practical purposes. It wasn’t just esoteric theory, even though a lot of theory was involved. He had a way of making it applicable to everyday experiences and to what was going on in the economy at the time. I have two sons. One graduated from Elmhurst and one is now a senior. Like me, when they came to Elmhurst they were not sure what they wanted to study, but after talking to Dr. Thoma and studying with him, they both became economics majors. As pleased as I was with these decisions, I didn’t steer them in that direction. It was getting to know Dr. Thoma that sold them. Prospect/ Summer 2010
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ast February, right around the time the Elmhurst College Leader was winning the third in a string of Illinois College Press Association awards as the best small-college newspaper in the state, some other newspapers were making their own, decidedly grimmer news. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, launched in 1863, stopped publishing. The Rocky Mountain News, launched in 1859, shut down in Denver. Closer to home, the owners of the Chicago Tribune, founded in 1847, and the Chicago Sun-Times, with roots that go back to 1844, operated in bankruptcy. Even Editor & Publisher, the bible of the newspaper industry, suspended publication after 125 years. That litany is troubling but it is hardly complete. At least 120 newspapers, large and small, shut down in the last two years, as both advertisers and consumers gravitated to online sources. At the same time, the American Journalism Review estimated that 15 percent of the nation’s newsroom jobs disappeared. In a single quarter last year, newspaper advertising revenue dropped 29 percent. The metropolitan daily, the emblem of journalistic enterprise in America, is an endangered species. Yet one of the most remarkable things about this transforming moment in American journalism is that it coincides with a surge of interest among American college students in studying journalism. Last year, enrollment at Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism increased by 44 percent. At the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School, it was up 20 percent. Over the last decade, undergraduate enrollments in journalism programs have grown by an average annual rate of 4 percent, according to a University of Georgia survey. At Elmhurst—where the journalism curriculum consists of two courses oΩered by the English department—some 60 writers, editors, photographers and graphic artists contributed last year to the College’s best-in-the-state paper.
“There is supposed to be this generation curve, with people under 40 reading online and people over 40 reading print, but I prefer print and a lot of people I know prefer print. We may read online because it’s accessible and convenient. But I read more when I’m reading in print and I tend to read less and skim when I’m reading online.” —Sara Marchmont ’09
With daily newspapers disappearing, why are so many students working so hard to master the craft of the journalist? All of which prompts a few questions: With daily newspapers disappearing and a new generation getting their news from online sources such as Facebook and Twitter, why are so many students working so hard to master the journalist’s craft? How should journalism education change to respond to the new realities of the industry? In a wired world where anyone can get abundant information from a multitude of media, what exactly is the journalist’s role, anyway? Like most journalist’s questions, these are more easily asked than answered.
ric Lutz was barely into his ﬁrst year at Elmhurst when he began learning one of journalism’s hard lessons. Lutz had written for his high school newspaper at York Community High School, where he specialized in what he calls “longwinded, pretentious essays.” It was a niche he hoped to ﬁll at The Leader as well. “That idea got knocked out of me pretty quickly,” he says. “I’d go to pick up The Leader on Tuesday and look for the piece I’d turned in, and it wouldn’t be there. I learned that The Leader wasn’t so interested in printing 1,000 words of drivel about my favorite band.” Lutz, who was The Leader’s editor-in-chief during the 2009–2010 schoolyear, was ready to quit the paper until the faculty advisor, Ron Wiginton, intervened. “Ron told me that I was a good writer, but my writing was all about me,” Lutz says. “I kept bringing my ego into it. Journalism is not really about that. Journalism is about creating something for the common good. It was a life lesson, really.” Journalism demands that its practitioners learn lessons like these early on, which is one reason why so many pros can tell you stories about their own humbling rookie blunders. It’s part of reporters’ lore that you learn your job by doing it—and sometimes by failing at it. On the Elmhurst campus, that education happens largely on The Leader. The paper has been on an impressive run. In all, The Leader picked up 14 awards for writing, photography and graphics in last year’s Illinois College Press Association competition. In 2008, the paper took fourth place nationally among colleges with fewer than 4,000 students in the national newspaper competition of the Associated Collegiate Press. On a Tuesday afternoon last fall, not long after the latest edition of The Leader had appeared in neat piles around campus, Wiginton was attacking the paper with a black pen. Each paragraph he circled, every story he decorated with Xs, represented another job his students could
enough to have a chance like that.” The eΩort is all the more remarkable given that journalism at the moment might seem like a less-than-promising career path. Wiginton has helped organize Illinois College Press Assocation job fairs, which as recently as ﬁve years ago regularly attracted three dozen newspapers looking for talent. At the last such fair, about 120 students lined up for two jobs in the ﬁeld. The next such event, Wiginton says, will likely be cancelled. Then again, journalism education isn’t best thought of narrowly as vocational training. Journalism educators like to point out that students who learn to think critically, write clearly, research quickly, and meet deadlines will ﬁnd themselves well prepared for any number of careers. Law schools, Wiginton says, love journalism majors for their ability to make succinct written arguEric Lutz served as editor-in-chief of The Leader during the 2009–2010 academic year. Alternately serious and sassy, the ments. Moreover, for a generation paper has won a string of Illinois College Press Association awards as the best small-college newspaper in the state. raised on instant messaging, the idea that communication is the key to the future is not a hard sell. Some journalism school deans have have done better. On days like these, The Leader staΩers ﬁle into Wigintaken to pitching their ﬁeld as a kind of Liberal Arts 2.0. ton’s o≈ce to ask him what was wrong with their stories. For some, As Lutz found out early, learning to be a journalist teaches you lessons these one-on-one sessions make up the bulk of their undergraduate that transcend journalism. Echoing Wiginton, Leader staΩers like to journalism education. refer to the ﬁeld as a kind of public service, driving societal debate and “Half of these students never take a class with me,” Wiginton says. discourse. Promoting what Lutz calls “the common good” has long “They’re not journalism majors. They’re speech pathology majors and been part of journalism’s appeal for idealistic young people. It’s a function special ed majors and business majors. But they put a lot of eΩort and that appeals to the urge to service that is considered a distinguishing time into the paper. It amazes me that they do it.” feature of the rising generation. “For my students, this isn’t about hanging out,” says Wiginton. “A lot or Lutz, putting out The Leader means 40-hour work weeks of them are smart and savvy. They want to make a diΩerence. They see and marathon weekend sessions fueled by junk food and this as a way to have an impact. This is a culture of expression, and such catnaps on the ﬂoor of the paper’s o≈ce in the Frick Center. a culture demands the skills that a journalist brings.” The staΩ works under an ostensible Sunday midnight deadline, Students who grew up in a world where everyone can be a blogger but it’s not unusual for last-minute rewriting and editing to drag on may see mass communication as a broader enterprise that transcends the into the small hours of Monday. Lutz recalls working overnight on one troubles of print. But even students who are willing to roll the dice on a of last fall’s issues before ﬁnally sending the last ﬁles to the printer at journalism career recognize that the ﬁeld is changing so fast—with ever 7:30 a.m. Monday. That gave him a little time to prepare for his 9:15 a.m. more investment in online editions and greater emphasis on new class in medieval history. media—that it’s hard to know how to prepare for it. “I’m not sure they “People think it’s great to have this on your résume, but that’s not even know how to teach journalism anymore in graduate schools,” says really a good reason to stay awake for 24 straight hours,” Lutz says. Leader writer Jake Scott. “It’s almost like a history class.” “There has to be something else. For me, it’s about having the chance It’s not just that traditional revenue streams have dried up as advertisers to talk to 3,000 people through the paper. Not many people are lucky
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“I get a daily news feed by email, but I don’t regularly read a daily newspaper. It’s a bit of an inconvenience, really, with all the books I carry around. ” —John Garcia
and consumers discovered sources like Craigslist and Google search ads. Nor is it simply that the old, daily oΩering of print news has been challenged by a constantly updated, 24-hour digital stream of updates, tweets, and rumors. It’s that the journalist’s job description is up for grabs. What is more highly valued: an Olympian objectivity or a blogger’s brashness? Is journalism about communicating to an audience or interacting with a vast social network? Christopher Callahan, dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, told The New York Times last year that journalism deans themselves are trying to ﬁgure out where their ﬁeld is headed. Most have reformed their curricula to prepare students to be multi-platform professionals, able to shoot a video, build a web site and crank out blog posts. DePaul University went so far as to introduce a class on Twitter in its journalism program.
arlin Romano, a lecturer in philosophy and media theory at the University of Pennsylvania, outlined a diΩerent approach last fall in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Romano urged colleges to adopt a “more classical, full-bloodedly philosophical approach to journalism” that teaches a “respectful skepticism” rather than focusing on “the bells and whistles of new technology, as if tweets shall save us all.” It’s clear that the same questions that vex industry executives— questions about innovation and sustainable business models and new kinds of relationships with audiences—also generate debate in journalism schools. The answers, Dean Callahan said, won’t come from his generation of educators but from their students. That’s not just because today’s students are tomorrow’s editors and publishers, but also because the industry is bent on courting young consumers—consumers who are said to prefer online to print, and alternative news sources to the mainstream media. According to the conventional wisdom, a technological generation gap has opened, with students much more plugged into social and new media than are their professors. (Wiginton says he ﬁrst heard of Twitter a few years ago, when a student asked him if he liked to tweet.) After all, who would want to bother with inky newsprint when you can ﬁnd news for free on your iPhone or Blackberry? Even some of the Leader staΩers said they are more likely to get their news online than in print. Senior John Garcia, the paper’s former opinion
In news writing classes, Elmhurst students learn that the words they choose matter, which is another way of saying that the role of the professional journalist still matters. editor and new editor-in-chief, said he gets a daily news feed from Yahoo by email, but doesn’t regularly read a daily newspaper. “It’s a bit of an inconvenience, really,” he said, “with all the books I carry around.” That’s the kind of attitudinal shift that has been covered extensively lately (ironically enough) in newspapers. For at least a decade now, The New York Times has been noting the phenomenon of smart, engaged young people who get their news not from publications but from The Daily Show. But do young viewers really go looking for their news ﬁx on Comedy Central? Or is it more that they happen to get informed on their way to a few laughs? “When I watch Stewart or Colbert, there’s a part of me that wants to fact-check everything,” Jake Scott said. “I want to know why I’m learning about any particular topic from a comedy show and not from the mainstream media.” Even among students, you can still ﬁnd some willing to make a fullthroated defense of print. Sarah Marchmont ’09, a former Leader editor, is now a student in the magazine journalism program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where ﬁrst-year students take classes like Multimedia Storytelling and Introduction to 21st Century Media. Marchmont is proud to be a partisan of print. “There is supposed to be this generation curve, with people under 40 reading online and people over 40 reading print,” she said, “but I prefer print and a lot of people I know prefer print. We may read online because it’s accessible and convenient, but I read more when I’m reading in print. I tend to skim when I’m reading online.” Despite the grim prognoses for the future of journalism in general and print in particular, Marchmont said she’s determined to follow what she sees as a calling. “It’s a calling to write, but most importantly, it’s a desire to use this gift of writing to help other people,” she said. The Leader staΩ remains squarely focused on the print edition. The paper’s web site is mainly an electronic version of the newspaper, though in recent years editors have added some web-only content, including photo slide shows and audio reports. Lutz and other editors have talked about producing podcasts and video reports and selling online classiﬁed ads, but haven’t moved ahead, partly because of a lack of expertise and personnel.
“We’d like to make the online thing a bigger focus. That’s the direction the industry is moving,” Lutz said. “But we have to know what our priority is. We could put more content on the site and do a shorter print edition. That would be great for our site, but it would be at the expense of the print edition.” In a classroom in Daniels Hall last fall, Wiginton led students in his News Writing class through an exercise in fundamentals. He supplied the class with a set of notes to a hypothetical news story about a boy killed in a sledding accident, then gave the students ten minutes to write a traditional lead paragraph for the story. The students worked from notes that included a statement from police about how the boy had “suΩered fatal injuries.” When the students handed in their work, Wiginton was dismayed that so many of his students had parroted the wording of the police statement exactly. “I don’t want to see any more of this,” he warned the class. “‘SuΩered fatal injuries’ is police talk. People don’t suΩer fatal injuries. They die.”
“When I watch Stewart or Colbert, there’s a part of me that wants to fact-check everything. I want to know why I’m learning about a particular topic from a comedy show and not from the mainstream media.” —Jake Scott
good news during these most troubled of times for journalists, it’s that, at places like The Leader, there are still smart young journalists willing to learn this lesson, and act on it. “This is still all about telling a story,” Wiginton said. “It doesn’t matter how fancy or pretty the story is, just tell me a story. That aspect hasn’t changed. The vehicle has changed, and it will change some more. I want to see where it’s all going. But wherever it goes, journalists will still be telling me a story.”
or Wiginton, the students had neglected a basic journalistic responsibility when they let the wording of the police statement creep into their own writing. “What diΩerence does it make what words we choose?” he asked the class. “It makes a big diΩerence. Words matter. They matter because we’re deciding what the story is.” Andrew Santella writes for GQ, Commonweal, The New York Times The class is introductory and the exercise is basic, but the exchange Magazine and other publications. got at something important about what journalists do. Journalism, Wiginton was saying, is about choices: word selection, story placement, the gravity communicated by the size of a headline. This is how the news is shaped. But who needs a journalist to make choices when our news feeds—through some mysterious computer calculus—send us everything we want to know, from Fox News or Ha’aretz or the Straits Times of Singapore? Who needs a gatekeeper in the age of user-generated content, when everybody’s a blogger or a tweeter or proliﬁc Facebook status updater? During last year’s uprising in Iran, when government crackdowns halted the ﬂow of news, information continued to pour out of Tehran thanks to blog posts and tweets and YouTube videos. Does the trained journalist have a role in this new world? Pros like to talk about the unique values that journalists bring to the new media mix—standards of veriﬁcation and objectivity, and the ability to synthesize fragments of information into a coherent and compelling narrative. In other words, they bring to their jobs some of the lessons that Wiginton’s class was learning last fall. Wiginton was trying to get his students to understand that the words they choose matter— which is another way of telling them that the Jake Scott remains serious about a career in journalism, despite the turmoil roiling the profession. “I’m not sure journalist’s role matters. If there is one bit of they even know how to teach journalism anymore in graduate schools,” he says. “It’s almost like a history class.” Prospect/ Summer 2010
This Radio Station Rocks
t would be easy to overlook the equipment tucked away in one corner of the wrse studios in the lower level of the Frick Center. The state-of-the-art mixing consoles and automated music systems and cd players occupy center stage, but there is still a place— even if it is oΩ in the corner—for a pair of old-school turntables. For a visitor old enough to remember what the letters lp stand for, it’s a welcoming sight. “We actually use the turntables a fair amount,” says Ray McCormick, a junior business major who hosts the Wednesday morning slot at the station, “for psychedelic rock from the ’60s and stuΩ like that.” McCormick’s own tastes run toward more of-the-moment genres like symphonic metal. (“Have you heard of Rhapsody? Or Nightwish?” he asks hopefully. “It’s kind of like Metallica with a symphony orchestra added in.”) But those turntables serve as a kind of link to the station’s long history. wrse has been broadcasting since 1947, and its list of alumni includes Chicago radio legend Terri Hemmert ’70, of wxrt. When Hemmert
hosted the 11 p.m. to midnight shift at the station, deejays were still regularly cueing up vinyl by hand. You can ﬁnd some of those old lps in the station’s impressive music library—there are about 3,200 in all, says station advisor John Valenta—alongside more current cds. Both the library and the studios are located behind double locked doors and dark glass just oΩ the Roost, but the station’s 320-watt signal carries clear across DuPage County about as far as Geneva. And some of the station’s most loyal listeners can be found just steps from the studio, on the patio and mall behind the Frick Center, where the station provides the background music for lunchtime conversations, coΩee breaks and games of touch football. For some of the 50 or so students who staΩ the station, Valenta says, working at wrse is a chance to learn about the business of broadcasting. For others, it’s all about having some fun playing their favorite music. They need only consider those turntables in the corner to realize that they’re all part of a proud history. by Andrew Santella
Photos: Tom Lindfors
Prospect/ Summer 2010
THE ONE WHO ENDURES
In 1972, Bill Johnson â€™68 made history when he became the ďŹ rst openly gay man in modern history to gain ordination to the mainstream Christian ministry. That was just the beginning of the journey for
Photo: Roark Johnson
the man and his church. By Anne Moore
Prospect/ Summer 2010
n 1971, while he was working as a youth pastor in Northern California, William R. Johnson asked an association of the United Church of Christ to do what had never been done before in modern Christianity: ordain an openly gay man. In 2010, the Episcopal Church has an openly gay bishop, the House of Representatives has openly gay members, and network tv has openly gay characters galore. In 1971, however, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder by the American Medical Association, and homosexuals were subject to criminal prosecution in 48 states. Johnson’s request made the national news, and Johnson became a person of interest to the police in Los Angeles, where he was living at the time. A number of church leaders vehemently opposed Johnson’s ordination, using arguments that at the time were highly conventional. The Reverend David Held of the Congregation Church of San Mateo said Johnson’s “abnormal sexual adjustment” would contaminate children. Another church leader suggested Johnson might be an acceptable candidate if the 26-year-old seminarian gave up sex. His homosexuality didn’t seem to bother some people as much as the fact that he acknowledged it. Still, nearly all agreed, Johnson was in most respects an ideal candidate for ordination: smart, educated, compassionate, a leader, a man through whom the love of Christ shined. In April 1971, during a contentious hearing to determine if he were ﬁt for ordination, Johnson sat alone in a chapel. Opening a Bible at random, he came upon this passage from the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Mark: As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils… and you will stand before governors and kings because of me… When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit… You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Today, the Reverend William R. Johnson serves as vice president for member relations of the Council for Health and Human Services Ministries of the United Church of Christ. His job at ucc headquarters in Cleveland requires him to do what he has done for decades now: bring people together, exchange meaningful information, and help believers to ﬁnd ways to bring their faith into their work. At 63, he seems to be nowhere near the end, but he has endured. Bill Johnson knew he was gay by age six. The youngest (by 10 minutes) of three boys, Johnson, a fraternal twin, was raised in a working-class home in Houston. Aside from the Bible, the family home had no books, and the Johnson children had little
expectation of a college education. Money was scarce. “Christmas baskets?” Bill recalls. “We were the family that received them.” In high school, Bill was teased, bullied and beaten up. He found a respite at Slumber Falls, a ucc camp in New Braunfels, Texas. The camp brought together youths of diΩerent denominations and races, and gave Johnson a picture of life beyond his Houston neighborhood. He was treated kindly, for a change, by his peers. He became a youth leader in the church. The camp director, the Reverend Bill Royster, was a graduate of Elmhurst College, and Johnson’s closest friends at camp were Elmhurst students. Elmhurst College came to seem like a ticket to a better world. Johnson arrived on the Elmhurst campus in 1964. He had never been on an airplane before and had never seen snow. But he sensed that he’d ﬁnd the same kind and accepting people that he’d known in New Braunfels. For the ﬁrst time, he also found a place that valued the intellect; and to his great relief, he ﬁt in academically. To pay his tuition, Johnson cobbled together grants, loans, and income from a job in the campus kitchen. Elmhurst became Johnson’s arcadia. He made friends easily, was elected president of his freshman class, played the lead in The Fantasticks, and joined a fraternity. He lived all four years in Niebuhr Hall. An English major with a minor in philosophy, he carries “an undying love” for Shakespeare, thanks to the inspired teaching of Dr. Gordon Couchman, who chaired the English department. For all the joy he found in campus life, Johnson carried a heavy secret. Like nearly every gay college student in the 1960s, Johnson hid his sexual orientation. Gay students at Elmhurst and elsewhere were so closeted that they didn’t even speak to one another, he recalls. They had no role models. Many were depressed, isolated, and socially inhibited. Some committed suicide. Within a society that was almost uniformly intolerant of sexual diΩerence, the consequences of coming out seemed enormous. If he told his friends he was gay, would he lose them? Would he alienate their families, who had taken him in on weekends and over holidays? “I was in agony,” Johnson recalls. He found a measure of consolation during long talks with friends and fraternity brothers. Like Johnson, many of his friends had their eyes set on the ministry. In time, a handful came to know he was gay. Those talks saved his life, he says. “The love and acceptance I got from my friends was huge.” After graduating from Elmhurst, Johnson headed west to study for the ministry at the Paciﬁc School of Religion in Berkeley, California. While at the seminary, he worked for the ucc in a special ministry for una≈liated individuals, canvassing areas on the West Coast with the aim of starting “house” churches—bare-boned congregations without money or a building. He reported to the Reverend John M. Rogers. “The point of the job was to give students a ﬁrst-hand look at how the church forms from the inside out,” says Rogers, now 74. “Bill was
Johnson saw that it takes an enormous emotional toll to present a self that is not authentic. like the others, young and energetic and idealistic—interested in music, obviously very bright.” Rogers sensed that Johnson was gay and teased out the truth. He then sent the young seminarian to a psychiatrist “to get straightened out.” “That’s what we did back then!” Rogers says, laughing heartily. After a year of counseling, Johnson reported back to Rogers. “Now I’m certain I’m gay,” he said. In the ucc (as in all denominations, then and now), closeted gays were ordained routinely. But Johnson wondered if he could minister with integrity, and thus be of genuine service to others, while trying to sustain a secret life of inner turmoil. “Could I do it? Could I live a lie?” he asked himself. “It takes an enormous emotional and psychological toll to present a self that is not authentic.” On November 11, 1970, Johnson attended a forum in Berkeley on “Homosexuality and the Church.” A participant presented a negative view of including gay people in Christianity’s embrace. Johnson got angry. He stood up and announced to the crowd of more than 400 people that he was gay, and would seek ordination in the United Church of Christ. That day, Johnson became what at the time was almost an oxymoron: an openly gay seminarian. He got mixed messages about his informal new role in the church. He immediately lost his job teaching Sunday school. But his local parish in San Carlos loaned him money to pay for seminary. He received a call to develop house churches, a so-called “tentmaker” ministry. But it appeared that, even if he were ordained, parish ministry would be closed to him.
Prospect/ Summer 2010
Photo: Bill Porter
n ﬁlm footage from the time, Johnson is a ﬁt, handsome, fair-haired young man. He looks golden, and at peace. He wasn’t. The ﬁrst time he was turned down for ordination, he wept the whole drive home. Later, he fumed as the church forced him to jump through hoops that other seminarians were spared. In meetings with church leaders, he was astonished to ﬁnd himself prepared to talk about theology but asked instead to discuss homosexuality. The moment of truth ﬁnally came on April 30, 1971, at the council hearing during which Johnson discovered the passage from Mark’s gospel (“For they will hand you over to councils…”). The council on this day heard a letter from Minnie Johnson, Bill’s mother. “It hasn’t been easy to accept the fact that I have a son who is a homosexual,” she acknowledged. Then she added: “I ask you to judge his qualities as a dedicated Christian, and not his sexuality.” As the council voted, Johnson stood outside the church. A man bolted from the building, yelled “You’re destroying the church!” and spat on him. Johnson kept his cool. In the end, the association voted in his favor, 62 to 34. On June 25, 1972, William R. Johnson was ordained a minister of the United Church of Christ. It was a historic breakthrough, marked by
Bill Johnson’s ordination broke a barrier for gay people. From top: with the Elmhurst College Brotherhood of Squires in 1968 (Johnson is top row, right); the Ecclesiastical Council hearing that considered Johnson’s application for ordination; Johnson greets a parishioner at his historic ordination to the United Church of Christ ministry in 1972.
enduring signs of the church’s ambivalence. Johnson was not allowed to serve communion at his own ordination.
Johnson has lived in New York and Cleveland but has stayed connected to Elmhurst College. From top: With President Donald Kleckner at Commencement; at the United Church of Christ General Synod in 1987, at which the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns was celebrating its 25th anniversary; at Elmhurst College Homecoming Weekend in 2009.
early 20 years would pass before Bill Johnson would work full time within the denomination that ordained him. He never led a parish. “No congregation would have him,” John Rogers recalls. “No church was interested in a gay minister.” Johnson holds a deep sorrow, and some bitterness, for the pastoral life he was denied. “I paid an awful price,” he says. But he found other ways to serve the church. Working multiple jobs to support himself—as a temp, a typist, a bookkeeper and a waiter—he fashioned an informal, unpaid ministry to gay youth, gay seminarians, and clergy seeking to help gay parishioners, many of whom feared they had no place in the church or in the world. In 1972 he founded the ucc Gay Caucus, began to edit its newsletter, and co-authored Loving Women/Loving Men: Gay Liberation in the Church. He became widely known as an activist and speaker. It was in this role that he met Vito Russo, a ﬁlm historian and prominent gay-rights advocate in Manhattan. Russo became the love of his life. In 1977, Johnson moved to New York to live with him in Chelsea. Johnson joined Riverside Church and waited tables to pay his share of the rent. Russo wrote The Celluloid Closet, a landmark history of gay characters in cinema, published in 1981. In time their romance faded but they remained close friends, living in the same building, one ﬂoor apart. The late 1970s was a boisterous, bracing time in gay New York. Johnson spent so much time dancing to loud music in clubs that he suffered signiﬁcant hearing loss. In quieter moments, he worked to start Maranatha, an lgbt group at Riverside Church. “Bill was a breath of fresh air and sunlight,” says Nancy Chew, who worked with Johnson on Maranatha. “He stood up to the homophobes. He had the strength to change minds and hearts, person by person.” In June 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported ﬁnding a cluster of Pneumocystis carnii pneumonia among ﬁve gay men in Los Angeles. It was another year before the cdc started using the term aids. By that time, the epidemic already was starting to devastate Bill Johnson’s wide circle of friends. “Three to four deaths per week. Six or seven new diagnoses. There was no treatment then,” he recalls. Over time, Johnson cared for and ministered to 385 friends with the disease. “Friends,” he says pointedly. “Not acquaintances.” His best friend and roommate, Douglas Tuthill, died. Johnson attended, and often led, countless funerals, and wrote hundreds of eulogies. In 1986, JeΩrey Sevick, Vito Russo’s companion, died of aids. In his memory, Vito made a panel for the aids quilt—one of four panels whose creation was chronicled in the ﬁlm Common Threads, which won an Academy Award in 1989 for best documentary. By that time, Vito himself was dying. He and Johnson had an arrangement. “If Vito needed
Nearly 20 years would pass before Johnson would work full time for the church that ordained him. the nation and in ministries overseas. The Episcopal Church and the something during the night, and couldn’t get to his desk to call, he would Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have opened their own ministries bang on the steam pipe next to his bed to summon me.” to gay and lesbian persons. In July 2005, the 25th General Synod of the Vito’s death, among so many other deaths, nearly broke Bill. “I was ucc took another historic risk of its own, voting to “a≈rm equal marriage exhausted,” he says. “When do I get to mourn? When do I grieve?” Around this time, a friend from Elmhurst College, Tom Mattern ’68, rites for couples regardless of gender.” Johnson’s role as a ucc pioneer was formally acknowledged in 1999, asked Bill to travel to Denver to o≈ciate at his wedding. Afterwards, when the United Church Board Homeland Ministries established the Tom and his bride insisted that Johnson stay for a while in Colorado’s William R. Johnson Scholarship with an initial investment of $500,000. clear air and bright sunshine. The new locale—along with evolving attitudes within the United Church of Christ—enabled Johnson to envision The scholarship supports the studies of openly lgbt seminarians who plan to become parish ministers. About 90 seminarians have received a new future for himself. He would try to continue his ministry inside Johnson Scholarships. For them, “the path is easier,” Johnson says quietly. the church. The General Synod had passed a resolution encouraging all “Their vocational dreams seem possible.” ucc churches to become “open and a≈rming” to gay parishioners. When At 63, Johnson is a big man with a soft shape, like a giant Teddy bear. the church decided to hire a part-time consultant for its aids ministry, Quick witted, he still speaks with a slight twang that marks his Texas Johnson told o≈cials, “I’m your man.” roots. He has the smooth skin of a man who avoids the sun and eyes so Two years later, Bill Johnson was called full time to the national staΩ of the United Church of Christ. He had been an ordained minister for bright a blue you can spot them from across a room. He has a gentle, fun-loving manner and ﬁerce convictions. At any given moment, you might 18 years. ﬁnd him crooning Sixties Motown or pondering the meaning of grace. He lives in a tidy Arts and Crafts two-ﬂat in a historic district of hese days, warm hugs and kind greetings envelop Johnson when Cleveland. Leafy and suburban on the outside, it’s a riot of color on the he steps into the ucc’s headquarters in Cleveland. Johnson inside, with a coal blue study and a guest room lacquered in Chinese works mostly from a home o≈ce, but he’s tethered to the Council for Health and Human Services Ministries at the down- red. He frets that he’s put too much money into the place, and pines for what he most wants and doesn’t have, a partner to share his home and town o≈ce on Prospect Avenue. his life. The ucc operation includes Pilgrim Press—founded in 1640, the At 99, his mother, Minnie, a widow since 1968, still lives in the Houston oldest publishing house in the United States—and the church’s abundant house where she raised her three children. “When are you coming home?” literature as well as print and electronic media are everywhere on she asks Bill. “Home is wherever I am,” he answers kindly. display. Johnson’s hand is evident in a number of signiﬁcant works, includHe wrote the charter for his parish, Liberation United Church of Christ ing Preach Out!, a two-volume set of gay-a≈rming sermons by ucc pastors, in Lakewood, Ohio. He’s raising money for a new sanctuary and sings in and Call Me Malcolm, a feature-length documentary about a transgender the choir. seminarian. He is most proud of an aids prevention curriculum that He will speak to groups when asked, but prefers not to preach. he coauthored two decades ago; it was the ﬁrst of its kind and remains He thinks the ﬁght for gay rights is nearly over—the next generation, in steady use. he believes, will not allow their gay friends, neighbors and siblings to Johnson also spends a lot of time serving as a mentor to the church’s be treated less than equally. But he worries that gay men still seem to hide openly gay seminarians, a role he has ﬁlled for decades now. William D. themselves on college campuses. Women, he says, are more comfortable Ingraham was among Johnson’s protégés. Two decades ago in Kansas with homosexuality. City, Ingraham was openly gay and studying to become a Methodist Today, when prospective applicants call the number for information minister. The church was willing to ordain him only as a celibate. “I saw on the William R. Johnson Scholarship, some are shocked when William it as a test of faith,” Ingraham recalls. “If God made me gay, and God R. Johnson himself answers the phone. They’d assumed he was dead. made me a minister, God could accept me as a gay minister.” Friends led After all, Bill Johnson is not just a name on a scholarship. He’s a ﬁgure Ingraham to the ucc, and from there to Johnson, who ﬂew to Kansas in history. City to meet with him. Today, Ingraham is a 47-year-old openly gay pastor serving his third ucc parish, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Johnson, Anne Moore is a journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared in he says, “made me brave enough to make this move, to take a risk as a Business Week, Outside, Salon and other publications. person of faith, to step out on a limb.” The limb is not as lonesome as it used to be. The ucc now has openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender clergy working in parishes across
Prospect/ Summer 2010
alumni ďŹ rst person
The Right Chemistry
Glenn Lid â€™79, a chemistry teacher at Proviso East High School in Maywood for 31 years, has earned teaching awards from the Golden Apple Foundation and the Walt Disney Company, which named him High School Teacher of the Year in 2004. But the best prize of all is when his students come back to visit. In his own words...
Photo: Roark Johnson
Prospect/ Summer 2010
ne thing I’ve learned in my years of teaching is that you can’t keep doing the same thing in class for 45 minutes. The attention spans just aren’t there. You have to shift gears to keep the kids’ attention. We do multiple activities. You might see them working in teams at lab tables. Or you might see them standing in a big group, vibrating and rotating and moving around—they’re modeling liquid changing into gas. It’s a matter of changing the style of presentation to keep them engaged. I got into teaching because I had so many teachers who really seemed to like their work. I’ve always tried to learn from successful teachers, the ones who had a passion for it. You do have to learn right along with the kids, keep going to workshops, stay open to new ideas all the time and bring them into the classroom. And then it’s important to take the time to prepare and try them out before you do them in front of the class. Kids love it when you mess up, but it’s always better when it works right the ﬁrst time. You also have to have the conﬁdence to lay yourself out there. I do chemistry raps. I dress up like a rapper and call myself Shorty L. The students get a kick out of it because I’m so bad it’s funny. But I want them to know that I’m not very good at some of the things they can do well. They appreciate that I’m trying to understand their world a little and make things memorable for them. The environment in this area isn’t the most conducive to learning—or to the safety of the kids, for that matter. It can be violent. One year we had 23 homicides in Maywood. There’s a lot of gang activity. You have to deal with behavioral issues in positive, creative ways. I like to give students options: stop this now or here’s the alternative. Kicking kids out is never the answer. You don’t want them back out on the street. Too often you hear only the negative things about a school. Some schools just don’t get the accolades they deserve. This school has so many good teachers. One of the good things about some of the awards that I’ve won is that they shine a light not just on me but on the students and other teachers, too. They’re a beacon on the whole school. When I won the Disney award, I used the prize money to establish a book fund for students who graduated from Proviso and went on to Elmhurst College. I’ve had several students go to Elmhurst and to Professor Evans Afenya’s Summer Math and Science Academy. I’ve also had students go to M.I.T.’s summer program for minority students. One of them is now attending M.I.T. on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. My favorite part of teaching is when former students come back to visit. It’s wonderful to hear that you’ve made a diΩerence. One day I got a call during my lunch hour telling me that some of my students were gathered in the school’s social room. They had a cake for me and a little plaque that said, “Thanks for all your hard work. Lid’s Kids.” It really touched my heart. A mentor once told me that kids have the biggest B.S. detectors in the world. They have a sixth sense for phony baloney and they have a sixth sense for sincerity. They know whether or not you care about them. It’s nice to know that they think what I’m doing is a life-changer for them.
prospect (pros’ pekt), noun. 1. an apparent probability of advancement or success. 2. anticipation, expectation or outlook for the future. 3. something in view. 4. a view over a region or in a particular direction. 5. a mental survey, as of a subject or situation. 6. an avenue in Elmhurst, Illinois, site of Elmhurst College.
Editor’s Note With this issue, Prospect enters its second decade of publication, introduces a new design and assumes some new responsibilities. The magazine now includes material that looks beyond the campus and engages larger social issues—such as the cover story in this issue on the counterintuitive problem of poverty in our own DuPage County, the wealthiest county in the State of Illinois and the 23rd wealthiest in the nation. The magazine’s readiness to take on issues vital to the larger society reﬂects an ongoing expansion of aspirations, not just for Prospect but for Elmhurst as a whole. The goals of the Elmhurst College Strategic Plan 2009–2014 are predicated on a recognition that the College has grown dramatically in strength and reputation, and thus is well positioned to achieve a higher level of service, on campus and beyond. The evolution of the College’s ﬂagship publication is part of the institution’s eΩorts to become a more vital source for good—for our students, our society and the world. We will continue to fulﬁll the traditional functions of a college publication: by portraying the life of the campus, and by celebrating the achievements, exploring the challenges and presenting the variegated views of the Elmhurst College community. We also hope to stimulate thought, to make this magazine a rewarding experience for all who take the time to read it, and to provide our alumni and friends with a taste of the challenging Elmhurst Experience, wherever they may roam. Most of all, we aim to produce a publication that reﬂects the institution it serves: stimulating, aspiring, deeply engaged, down to earth and true to life. Our goal, in short, is to create a magazine in the spirit of Elmhurst College. Jim Winters Editor