We Are Buswell’s Descendants, And We Support Black Wheaton Students

30 grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the former Wheaton College president endorse the college's historical race review. ​

Dear Editor, Wheaton College Black students, and Wheaton College Community at large,

We are some of the descendants of Dr. James Oliver Buswell Jr., former president of Wheaton College. We love, admire and respect many things about him. Nonetheless, we were grieved very recently to learn of the 1939 correspondence between Dr. Buswell and trustee Hugo Wurdak in which they expressed reluctance about a prospective Black student’s application to the school, and shared the opinion that it would be better for a “colored” student to attend a “colored” institution. We can only imagine how reading those words must feel for Black Wheaton College students today. We grieve and repent over the pain and racial injustice that existed in 1939 and continues to exist today in our country, in the church, and in Christian institutions. We also grieve the opportunity the college lost by not welcoming Black students at that time. The Diversity Commitment of the college commits to “convene and nurture unique talents, experiences, cultural expressions, and perspectives.” Had Wheaton College actively recruited Black students years ago rather than encouraging them to attend other schools, Wheaton would be a better place today.

Buswell Memorial Library, named for former college President James Oliver Buswell. Photo from Wheaton College Writing Center Blog.

While we believe that Dr. Buswell did much which positively impacted the college in his tenure, we also recognize that he participated in a mindset and culture that has harmed so many Black people historically, and still does today. For that reason we who have signed this letter would like to express our support for Black students at Wheaton College today, and our sorrow and deep regret over the words and attitudes that were expressed in Dr. Buswell’s letters from 1939.

We understand that some students at Wheaton College expressed during a chapel service on February 15, 2021 how deeply wounded they felt when reading these words by Dr. Buswell, among other painful experiences they had had as Black students at Wheaton College. We understand that some students have also asked the college to consider renaming the Buswell library in light of the contents of these letters. It is our understanding that the college is currently doing a historical review, and if a decision is made to rename the library, then none of us intends to object to that decision. We do not presume to know all the concerns of Black students at Wheaton today, nor the full historical context of what was done and said in 1939, but as descendants of Dr. Buswell, some of whom bear his name, we wanted to apologize for the pain caused by Dr. Buswell’s words from those 1939 letters, and express our love and support for Black students and faculty and staff at Wheaton College.

We hope that Wheaton College will continue to learn from the past, and take active, positive steps to live out its “Christ Centered Diversity Commitment” to “create a campus climate where all faculty, staff, students, and alumni are included as full participants who feel welcomed, respected, valued, and supported.”

Very sincerely,

The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of James Oliver Buswell Jr.


Children and grandchildren of Jane Buswell Foxwell, Wheaton, 1942

Mary Foxwell Loeks, Wheaton, 1968

Kristin Loeks Jackson, Wheaton, 1994

Julian Loeks Jackson, Wheaton, 1993

Emily Loeks, Wheaton, 1996

J.D. Loeks

Martha Foxwell Berg, Wheaton, 1970

Gaius Berg, Wheaton, 1969

Jesse Berg

Philip Foxwell Berg

Andrew Berg

Linda Foxwell Pettit

Ethan Pettit

Nelle Pettit Potter

Lydia Pettit Young

Josiah Pettit

Isaac Pettit

Philip Foxwell, Wheaton,1980

Anda Foxwell, Wheaton, 1981

Alanna Foxwell, Wheaton, 2006

Tyler Foxwell, Wheaton,, 2008

Jordan Foxwell

Marisa Foxwell Duttweiler, Wheaton, 2013

Children and Grandchildren of James O. Buswell III

Carol Ou (Wife of Jamie Buswell, deceased)

Anna Buswell

Joshua Buswell

Children and  Grandchildren of Ruth Buswell Noe

Grace Noe Haymes

Robert Haymes

Ethan Haymes

Emily Abbott

Jack Haymes

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