Wheaton Begins Intentional Recruitment of Black Students

During the 1960s, efforts to attract Black students to Wheaton were met with middling success. Though enrollment statistics regarding applicants of color are not known, official correspondence indicates that the College had trouble attracting Black applicants and chalked this up to three main factors. Black students faced barriers to attendance in the form of small financial aid packages, unappealing location and lack of public transportation, which, combined, gave the College a reputation as a “socially select suitcase school.” This atmosphere was sensed in person by at least two prospective Black students, according to a letter from one administrator.

The 1960s saw renewed pressure from the student body for the Office of Admission to begin intentional recruitment of Black students. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., students fundraised for a scholarship in his name, pressured the college into sanctioning a Black Student Society and pushed for the creation of admissions materials for Black students.

In 1966, Director of Admission Barbara Ziegler noted that other Colleges were “waging… much more active campaign[s]” than Wheaton’s. The available evidence indicates that the administration recognized the need for change and so were not as shocked by student activism as Courtney Smith, President of Swarthmore College and Wheaton Trustee, who died of a heart attack in his office as students organized a sit-in right outside his door.