As we begin building the next chapter of Wheaton Academy’s legacy, it is important to remember those who have gone before us and laid such a rich foundation of faith. The story begins with the parents who knelt on the grassy knoll more than 170 years ago and founded the Illinois Institute. This group of parents gathered in hopeful anticipation that God would allow them to build a school to anchor their children in their faith and to use them to shape the culture around them. That school held its first classes on December 14, 1853.
Where would we be today without the courage and vision of those parents?
“The Illinois Institute was organized for the children of abolitionists. The reformers desired to have a place that taught the principles they prized, and that did not smother out by repression or silence the working out of the ideals instilled into them by home training. The founders wanted a school where science and morals were taught from the standpoint of Christianity and the Bible, and which in turn would glorify God by bringing a consistent testimony to Him. These ideals began to be realized when the work was first started on the main building. The founders kneeled in the prairie grass on the summit of the gradually sloping hill now crowned by the stately edifice known as Blanchard Hall. They dedicated the knoll and all that should be upon it to that God with whom they had boldly gone into the thickest of the fight, not only for the freedom of human bodies, but for the freedom of human souls from the bondage and penalty of sin. This then was the foundation upon which the Academy was first established, upon which it still stands, and upon which by the grace of God, it will continue to stand.”Excerpt from History of Wheaton College Academy
In 1860, Jonathan Blanchard arrived in Wheaton to become the president of the floundering Illinois Institute. One of his first acts was the re-chartering of the school, allowing it to become Wheaton College and Wheaton College Academy. Jonathan, together with his son Charles, governed the Academy and College for nearly 65 years. The influence of the Blanchards began during the infancy of these institutions, continued through their formative years, and can still be felt today.
Where would we be without the courage and vision of Jonathan and Charles Blanchard?
Nearly 50 years ago, the Academy teetered on the brink of permanent closure. The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to keep the doors open, and they committed their own personal resources to pay teacher salaries, utility bills, and other expenses.
Where would we be without the courage and vision of these parents and donors?
Since 1945, when the Academy moved from the Wheaton College campus to its present-day campus in West Chicago, parents and donors have played an integral role in the legacy of the school.
Thanks to the generosity and support of the extended WA community, the Academy campus has seen significant enhancements over the years: an airplane hangar which was converted into our first gymnasium; a military chapel acquired from a downstate army base; a new academic building constructed in 1978; a second floor expansion to that building in 2000; a Fine Arts Center erected in 2004; a fieldhouse built in 2009; and the Science & Technology Center added in 2017. In each of these scenarios, a critical need was recognized, and donors stepped up to provide facilities that would set the stage for the next generation.
We find ourselves once again at a place where many of our facilities are in disrepair, pose safety threats, and have been restricted for use. Programs that are driving high levels of student engagement are without adequate space. Lack of specific equipment and space limitations hinder opportunities to grow as more and more families seek to enroll their students.
Simply put, we have hit a ceiling on opportunities for program growth and innovation.
These challenges led us to begin working on a campus master plan three years ago that will set the stage for generations to come at Wheaton Academy. This plan will create a unique space for media arts as well as engineering and technology programs, a business center, and a student union.
In addition to stimulating progress and equipping our students to be future leaders, our master plan calls for a plaza at the center of campus that features a large cross representing our school’s foundation and the message we will always proclaim—our salvation through Jesus Christ. We have been on an amazing journey over the past few years in preparation for this next chapter.
We have received the support of our local government officials, specifically Mayor Ruben Pineda. A campaign leadership team was formed, chaired by former WA dad Dave Ochs ’85, that includes Julie Litfin, Justin Peacock, Joe Selvaggio ’05, Joy Crowe, and Gene Frost ’71. This group has worked diligently over the past three years to engage and inspire others to participate in the campaign effort.
The response to our campaign vision has been overwhelming. In particular, we want to acknowledge the generosity of the Slawek family—Joe and Mary, Kirk ’08 and Mallory (Masterson ’07), Joy ’13 and Kyle Gerhart, and Luke—who gave the largest gift in the Academy’s history to spur the project forward. The Slawek family gift served as a catalyst and made the campaign a reality. Others subsequently followed their lead, giving generously and sacrificially to enable us to reach this point.
Only God could have navigated our course for the last few years. Many told us that a $30 million project was too ambitious and beyond what we could raise. And we said, “Exactly!” Only God could allow us to raise that amount of money—far beyond any amount we have raised in our school’s history. God is clearly at work here, and He has allowed each of us to join Him in that work. And that work continues today. We continue to strive toward our $30 million goal. We are close but we are not there… yet.
The renderings featured across this site represent the vision, planning, and prayers of the last few years. We are excited to share these images with you. As you learn more about our vision, we hope you will prayerfully consider partnering with us.
Pray for our students and parents. Pray that God would find us faithful in continuing to stand on the firm foundation of the cross For Generations to Come.