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Nature and Revelation

Nature and Revelation: A History of Macalester College

Jeanne Halgren Kilde
FOREWORD BY James Brewer Stewart
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Nature and Revelation
    Book Description:

    Nature and Revelation is a history of Macalester College, from its origins as a Presbyterian secondary school to its current presence as a nationally prominent liberal arts college. Jeanne Halgren Kilde tells stories of the college’s influential leaders, its defining moments, and the sometimes controversial evolution of the school’s curriculum and reputation, exploring its transformation from a modest evangelical college into a progressive, secular institution.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7334-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    James Brewer Stewart

    AS THIS ABSORBING AND BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN STUDY makes clear, the history of Macalester College involves a highly instructive moral problem familiar to all of us: the paradoxical necessity to negotiate and, simultaneously, to resist. On one hand, ever since Macalester’s founding, the college has made a consistent and convincing case for its mission to prepare students for lives that stand against conventional wisdom, question prevailing norms, and act on moral convictions that empower lifetimes of service to the community, the nation, and the world. The college has insisted that its responsibilities extend far beyond providing a classroom education. Students’ horizons...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Part I. Protestant Roots on the Prairie, 1849-1915

    • 1 Identity and Change
      (pp. 3-12)

      AN IMAGE OF TWO WOMEN, classically symbolic in flowing drapery, graces the Macalester College seal. One holds a telescope; a compass lies at her feet. The other holds a Bible. In a peaceful outdoor setting, suggested by a nearby tree and grassy foreground, the two figures carry on a seemingly pleasant conversation. The motto that encircles the scene identifies the two figures: Nature and Revelation, the Twins of Heaven. Although this nineteenth-century image is now no doubt mystifying to many contemporary students and visitors, its message was quite clear when it was designed by the founder of the college: the...

    • 2 Christian Education and Institution Building in St. Paul
      (pp. 13-34)

      PIG’S EYE, WITH ITS HANDFUL OF RESIDENTS, mainly whiskey traders and a few French-Canadians, was one of only a few white settlements in the Minesota Territory in 1838. Yet it was less a settlement than a loose collection of people living within a few miles of one another at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The majority of the inhabitants in the region were Native Americans—Dakota, primarily, but some Ojibwa—who had long since established winter villages and ceremonial centers on the lakes and rivers of the area, and particularly here, where the two rivers met. But...

    • 3 The Idea of a Christian College
      (pp. 35-51)

      BY 1869, MINNESOTA AND THE NATION were recovering from the wounds of war. Industry began to expand, and completed projects such as the transatlantic cable and the transcontinental railroad were widely hailed. The country seemed to be entering a new era of prosperity. In the upper Midwest, the lumber industry was booming, attracting immigrants and others. International and East Coast investors looked to the region for moneymaking opportunities. The July 5, 1869, issue of theNew York Timesan carried an article on Minnesota by a correspondent traveling in the region that claimed that investors from Amsterdam were exploring railroad...

    • 4 Twin Cities Rivalry
      (pp. 52-74)

      THUS FAR, WE HAVE SEEN how the early development of Mascalester College grew out of a number of contexts: efforts to missionize the frontier, a belief in Christianity as the foundation for knowledge and democracy, and the desire to transplant the institutions of the East Coast in the newly developing trans-Mississippi Midwest. By the time Neill and the Macalester trustees had amassed sufficient capital to seriously embark on creating their college, they faced yet another set of contingent circumstances that would significantly influence their next steps, that is, the growth of St. Paul and its developing rivalry with its twin...

    • 5 College Life and Identity at the Turn of the Century
      (pp. 75-98)

      DURING THE NEXT TWO DECADES, the 1890s and 1900s, Macalester College would distance itself from the ideals of its early founders, establishing a distinct identity as a Presbyterian institution for higher education serving the upper Midwest. Although the college was not technically an institution of the Presbyterian Church—that is, it was not directly controlled by the national organization or the synod—it was “church related.” Two-thirds of the trustees were members of the Presbyterian Church, and the synod could, if it so chose, select their replacements when positions opened. All the college presidents, each selected by the synod, had...

  6. Part II. Engagement with the World, 1915-1960

    • 6 Evangelical Engagement with Modernism
      (pp. 101-134)

      WITH THIS DESCRIPTION, the 1915Macalester College Bulletincharacterized the mission of the Bible Training Department. Its central theme is the role of the church in the world; the time is ripe for Christianity. But how will this conquest be achieved? Not just through the work of clergy but, more important, through the work of laity. And here was where the Christian college, and Macalester in particular, found its central mission in the early decades of the twentieth century: the training of lay Christians who would become the advanced guard in this battle.

      Simultaneously invoking metaphors of colonizing militancy and...

    • 7 The Collapse of the Evangelical Consensus
      (pp. 135-160)

      BY THE 1920S, the evangelical hegemony that had inspired the founding of many colleges like Macalester was disintegrating. Liberal and conservative Protestants differed not only over theological questions but also increasingly over political and social issues. These differences inevitably came to inform differing views of education as well. During his tenure as president of Macalester College between 1924 and his untimely death in 1937, John Carey Acheson was able to maintain cooperation among individuals ascribing to a spectrum of religious and political beliefs. Nevertheless, as we will see, despite the delicacy of this negotiation, the college moved away from conservative...

    • 8 Liberal Arts in Service to the Nation and the World
      (pp. 161-186)

      THE FRONT PAGE of the September 21, 1939,MacWeeklyheralded an extraordinary turning point in the life of Macalester College. On the left side of the page, a headline announced the upcoming memorial service for the recently deceased James Wallace; on the right, another announced the new presidency of Charles J. Turck. One of these men was the aged patriarch of the institution and champion of evangelical Protestantism, the other was a forty-nine-year-old liberal Protestant eager to move the college in new directions. Here was the institutional equivalent of regime change, a literal out with the old and in with...

    • 9 DeWitt Wallace’s Ambition
      (pp. 187-210)

      THE POSTWAR PERIOD saw not just an influx of new GI Bill students into the educational system but also an extraordinary transformation of the higher education. The role of education in the new “superpower” nation was in flux. Education questions were on the front burner, debated in localities across the nation. Liberal arts colleges, for instance, were called on to add education curricula to their offerings. Macalester, in response, entered negotiations to merge with the long-standing experimental kindergarten founded in Minneapolis by education innovator Stella Louise Wood. In 1949, Miss Wood’s School relocated to the Macalester campus, becoming the college’s...

  7. Part III. Revolution and Redirection, 1960-2000

    • 10 The Religion-Education Intersection Transformed
      (pp. 211-233)

      THE DECADE OF THE 1960S significantly transformed the role of religion at Macalester. Two events, one at the beginning of the decade, the other at the end, serve as bookends of this transformation. The first came in 1960, when the Macalester Board of Trustees voted to eliminate the requirement that two-thirds of their members be practicing Presbyterians. The second came in 1969, when the college dedicated a new chapel, the first building on campus devoted fully to religious work. While the first raises questions about whether the college was moving away from the church and becoming more secular, the second...

    • 11 New Approaches to Academics, Internationalism, and Service
      (pp. 234-258)

      IN SEPTEMBER 1967, Lucius Garvin, Macalester’s vice president for academic affairs, opened the academic year with a stirring convocation lecture highlighting the great strides made by the college. Using the metaphor “steeples of strength,” borrowed from Frederick E. Terman, recent provost of Stanford University and a national leader in scientific and engineering education, Garvin science out the science program as among the college’s most impressive “steeples.” Not only was it run by first-rate scientists, many of whom Garvin himself had recruited, but it also boasted such advanced equipment as an electron microscope, a high-energy particle accelerator, and a computer. Garvin...

    • 12 Challenges and Dashed Hopes
      (pp. 259-277)

      THROUGHOUT THE 1960S, as we have seen, Macalester was renegotiating its role in a world that was rapidly changing but doing so in a way that retained a semantic framework consistent with previous articulations of the college’s mission. The newly articulated goal of academic excellence in the liberal arts built on the earlier conceptions of the role of the liberal arts that had engaged such themes as vocation and democracy. The dedication to service, now articulated in distinctively political contexts, similarly carried on the vocabulary, if not the same meaning, of earlier times, and the new discussion of internationalism, now...

    • 13 Countercultural Campus
      (pp. 278-291)

      IN THE EARLY 1960S, all freshmen entering Macalester College were required to read a preselected book during the first few weeks of the fall term. Discussions of the text, both formally arranged and informal, ensued. In 1962, the book selected for the freshmen was B. F. Skinner’sWalden Two; a year later, freshmen read Albert Camus’sThe Plague; and in 1964, the selection was William Goldering’sThe Inheritors. These books—the first portraying an experimental communitarian society attempting to develop a way of life outside of the consumer-oriented, capitalist context of modern life; the second a reflection on free will,...

    • 14 Negotiating Institutional Democracy
      (pp. 292-312)

      MANY OF THE STRUGGLES this book has covered can be traced to questions of power, authority, and influence. Who owns a college? Who gets to make the important decisions? Whose authority, whose say, counts? Should institutional governance be top down? Bottom up? Centralized somewhere in the middle?

      We have seen the answer to such questions at Macalester shift distinctively, even dramatically, from time to time. Edward Neill’s negotiations with the Minnesota Synod of the Presbyterian Church were over whose say counts. In that case, the very founder of the college found himself forced to relinquish his position as Macalester president...

    • 15 Peaks, Pluralism, and Prosperity
      (pp. 313-324)

      THE SNOW-COVERED GRANITE PEAKS of the Heritage Range of the Ellsworth Mountains in Antarctica have peered out over the continental ice for hundred’s of millions of years. One of those peaks, Mount Macalester, juts an impressive 7,972 feet into the frigid sky. Just how a mountain in the Antartic came to be named after a small liberal arts college in Minnesota is one of the too rarely told stories of this period.

      Scientific exploration of the Antarctic was given a boost in the 1960s with the worldwide expansion of science. In the United States, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 325-330)

    THIS BOOK BEGAN with some reflections on the nature of history making: the creation of narratives by selecting certain events and circumstances and interpreting them in particular ways to illustrate a general continuity or disruptedness. Is this story of the changing institutional identity and commitments of Macalester College a narrative of continuity or a narrative of disruptedness? Or has this story blazed a path between the two poles, and if so, does that path lead to knowledge and understanding?

    I have chosen to end the narrative just as the college embarked on a new period of financial well-being and renewed...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 331-382)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 383-388)
  11. Index
    (pp. 389-400)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 401-402)
  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 403-434)