Departmental History: School of Theatre Arts

This post traces the origins of and changes to the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees for IWU’s theatre program as found through examining the Catalogue of Courses held in the University’s Archives.

Starting in 1945-46 academic year, students could take a course in dramatics from among offerings in the Humanities division in the College of Liberal Arts but dramatic productions had their origin in the student organization known as the Masquers starting in 1916. IWU’s Speech program is associated with this area of study beginning in the 1920s.

Summer Theatre, ca. 1966

Richard Jenkins, Class of 1969, is in a white t-shirt, third man up on the left side of this photo. Contact if you can identify any of the others. (click to enlarge)

1947-48 BA and BFA awarded in Dramatics: This is the first time the School of Dramatics is listed as an independent unit within the College of Fine Arts. “The courses in Dramatics are offered 1) as part of a liberal education, 2) as training for teachers and directors in schools, and 3) as preparation for work in the theatre, either community or professional.” (see catalog p. 153). The catalog also notes that a BA in Dramatics through the Division of Humanities is available on completion of 16 semester hours (of 126 total) in Dramatics. BFAs require 60-100 semester hours in Dramatics and “allied fields.” Professor of Dramatics Lawrence E. Tucker, M.A., is the School’s first Director and it was his first year on campus.

1951-52 BA and BFAs awarded in Drama and in Drama and Speech — the year that the unit becomes known as School of Dramatics and Speech. Tucker is still the director (see catalog p. 137). Candidates for BFAs “must present a minimum of 124 semester hours.” BAs are earned through the Division of Humanities after completion of 24 semester hours.

1964-65 BA and BFAs awarded in Drama — the year the unit becomes the School of Drama. The courses in Drama are offered 1) as part of a liberal education, 2) as training for teachers and directors in schools, 3) as preparation for work in television or the theatre, either community or professional, and 4) as preliminary work for graduate study” (see catalog p. 119). Tucker is still the director but is listed with a Ph.D. at this time. Candidates for BFAs “must present a minimum of 130 semester hours.” BAs are earned through the Division of Humanities after completion of 24 semester hours (of 124 total).

1978-79 BA and BFAs awarded in Drama and in Music-Theatre — the unit is still The School of Drama. “The Music-Theatre Degree Program at Illinois Wesleyan University has as its goal the training of young people for careers in musical theatre. It is a complete and intensive course of study leading to a degree, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music-Theatre” (catalog p. 125). Associate Professor of Drama Carole A. Brandt, Ph.D., became the director in 1977. BAs are awarded in the College of Liberal Arts after completion of 34 course units. BFAs in drama require 34 units; BFAs in Music-Theatre require 36 units.

1993-94 Music Theatre, Theatre Arts — the year it becomes The School of Theatre Arts. Professor of Theatre Arts Jared Brown, Ph.D. is listed as the director with a start date of 1989. BAs are awarded in the College of Liberal Arts after completion of 35 course units. BFAs in theatre arts require 35 units; BFAs in Music-Theatre require 36 units.

2003-04 Acting, Music Theatre, Theatre Design and Technology — still The School of Theatre Arts. Professor of Theatre Arts Nancy B. Loitz, M.F.A., is listed as the director with a start date of 1999. Of 32 total course units required for graduation, BAs in Theatre Arts need 12; and BFAs in Acting need 20.5 units, BFAs in Music Theatre need 22.25 units, and BFAs in Theatre Design and Technology need 19 units.

Research Files: IWU’s First International Students

Photo scanned from a scrapbook held in IWU archives. The person is unidentified but the book belonged to an 1895 graduate.

Photo scanned from a scrapbook held in IWU archives. The person is unidentified but the book includes named graduates from classes in the years after 1890.

In 1890, Wesleyan’s first two international students graduated from IWU’s Law School. Their names were Yeizo Osawa and Kashiyira Tanaka. They were from Tokyo, Japan, and were in residence on campus when they graduated. Stories in our student publications relate how they shared their culture with IWU’s campus, such as delivering lectures and describing some of the customs of Japan. Their presence among the graduation class of 1890 was even noted in local newspapers and in the Chicago Tribune.

Even earlier, other graduates with international addresses received degrees through our Non-residential program, meaning they did not have to attend classes on our campus. This program is described the following way in an 1895 publication:

The object of this step was to furnish lines of systematic study for those
professional men and women whose duties and environments are such
as to make a resident course of study an impossibility, and yet who
earnestly desire systematic study.

Sounds a lot like what online learning programs promise today, doesn’t it?

An early graduate of the program with an international address is Rev. John Oakly Spencer of Japan, who graduated with a Ph.B in 1888. One wonders about the possibility of Osawa and Tanaka meeting Oakly and finding out about our small school in Central Illinois!

Other Non-resident graduates living abroad in the same time period were Rev. Myron Chesterfield Wilcox of China who also graduated with a Ph.B in 1886, and William Groves of Uruguay who graduated with an M.A. in 1897. William C. Armstrong and Frederick W. A.Meyer, of Ontario, Canada and Arthur Thomas Carr of Birmingham England all received M.A. in 1896.

These men were not international students in the same way we think of today, but they demonstrate our current philosophy has long-standing roots: bring the world to Wesleyan and Wesleyan to the world!

To learn more you can visit Tate Archives and Special Collections in the Ames Library or contact us at!

Departmental History: French

This post summarizes changes noted in the French Department by examining the Catalogue of Courses. Course catalogs from 1851-1954 are available online; the rest are available in print in the University Archives.

  • There is no evidence of any French courses until 1871 but then it was not offered as part of the main courses of study. In the 1871-72 course catalog, it is stated that “classes will be organized whenever desired in either of all of them,” which includes French, Italian, and Spanish. This course was offered by a Professor Merriman. However, this only lasted for two school years and ended in 1873.
  • French was offered again in the 1879-80 academic year during student’s sophomore year. Students could take French, German, Greek, or Latin. Taught by Professor Reymond.
  • In 1881, French is offered as a post-graduate area of study, or could replace Greek, German, or Latin courses. No instructor was listed.
  • The 1889-90 academic year French was offered again and then was consecutively offered until present day, with an exception of the 1922-23 academic year where no French was offered.
  • Often French was accompanied by/interchangeable with German, but there was a much heavier emphasis placed on German. For instance, in the course descriptions, the German department would receive almost a full page of description whereas French would receive 2-3 sentences. Also, German would have 5+ courses offered whereas French would only have 2 courses.
  • The February 1, 1889 Elite Journal (p. 12) notes students interests in having French courses offered.

Titles of French Departments:
1889-1895: French (courses)
1895-1899: French and German
1899-1910: Modern Languages (included both French and German, with subheadings for
1910-1918: Department of French
1918-1921: Romance Languages (French and Spanish)
1922: No French offered
1923-1939: Modern Languages (French, German, and Spanish)
1939-1995: Foreign Language Department (Classical and Modern languages subheadings)
1995-2005: French Department
2005-Present: French and Francophone studies

Department Chairs/Heads:
1871-1873: Professor Merriman
1879-1880: Professor Reymond
1889-1891: Professor Wait
1891-1892: Professor Steele (head of Modern Languages and Latin)
1892-1895: Professor Heidel
1895-1896: Professor Snyder
1896-1899: Madame de Blumenthal (listed as instructor)
1899-1900: Ms. Shephard
1900-1905: Ms. Smith
1905-1908: Ms. Mitchell
1908-1909: Professor Graham
1909-1911: Professor Eggert
1911-1913: Professor Corstvet
1913-1914: Parlin (listed as instructor)
1914-1916: Professor W. Ferguson
1916-1918: Laitem (listed as instructor)
1918-1921: Professor Norton
1923-1934: Professor W. Ferguson
1934-1944: Professor C. Ferguson and Professor W. Ferguson
1944-1951: Professor C. Ferguson
1951-1952: Professor Norwood and Professor Bettger
1952-1955: Professor Norwood
1955-1957: Professor Labarthe (Professor Norwood on leave)
1957-1959: Professor Deitz
1959-1966: Professor Bettger
1966-1971: Professor Holm
1971-1976: Professor Troyanovich
1976-1979: Professor Moretto
1979-1984: Professor Huseman
1984-1988: Professor McDonald
1988-1990: Professor Fajardo
1990-1993: Professor Klingenberg
1993-1999: Professor Matthews
1999-2002: Professor Callahan
2002-2013: Professor Sheridan
2013-Present: Professor Matthews

Departmental History: Religion

This timeline tracks changes listed in the Catalogue of Courses for the Department of Religion and Religious course offerings at Illinois Wesleyan University from 1851-2000. Course catalogs from 1851-1954 are available online; the rest are available in print in the University Archives.


  • In the very first catalog, from 1851, there were only a few courses that were taken that were related to religion; Evidences of Christianity, taken during the first quarter of a student’s senior year, Natural Theology, taken during their junior year, and a few Greek and Mythology classes taken freshman year, and a Greek Testament course taken fourth quarter senior year. There were no mentions of any departments or course descriptions.
  • No records of catalogs from 1852-1856
  • From 1857 until 1859 there were only Natural Theology courses


  • 1860 and 1861 there were no religious courses in the scientific course study, but a course called Natural Theology for those in the classical course study.
  • From 1862 until 1865, there was only a Greek Testament course being offered
  • From 1866 till 1869, students in the scientific course study were required to take Evidences of Christianity, listed as an Ethical Sciences, and all students were required to attend a lecture called Relation of Natural to Revealed Religion, under the ethics category, where the lecture eventually disappeared towards the end of the decade.
    • It is noted in the Course of Study description that the Scientific course had been rearranged so that it was more similar to that of the Classical course, in order to make them more well-rounded.


  • Throughout the 1870s, the courses offered remained the same as they were in the previous decade
  • In 1874, the University offered to make special arrangements for those aspiring to join the Christian ministry, and offering to arrange a special theological course if needed.


  • Until 1883, there was only one class related to religion: Christian Evidences,
  • In 1884 students were still required to take Christian Evidences, but there was also the first appearance of the Department of Ethics and Metaphysics
    • In the description it reads that: “This department embraces a course of instruction in the external, internal and experimental evidences of Christianity”
  • In 1888 the department description changed. Instead of the previous statement, there is a description of the Evidences of Christianity
  • 1889 the description changed again to a professor giving instruction in Christian Evidences


  • From 1890 until 1893, the description and classes remained the same as it was from 1889
  • In 1894 there were sections under the Department of Ethics and Metaphysics called Philosophy of Theism and Christian Evidences
  • From 1895 until 1897,there was the Department of Ethics and Metaphysics (for philosophy majors), where there were sections called Theism and Philosophy of Theism
  • In 1898 Department of Ethics and Metaphysics included one section called Theism and Christian Ethics


  • From 1899 until 1907, there was the first sighting of a religion department, although it was grouped together with philosophy to make the Philosophy and Religion Department. Under the philosophy department, students still took a course on religion, Theism and Christian Evidences. Students were still required to take religion courses that varied depending on the year of the student, whether or not they majored in Philosophy and Religion. The number of courses offered under the department started out with very small and increased over the years.
  • In 1908 the Philosophy and Religion Department was combined with the education department, split into two parts
  1. Philosophy and Education
  2. Religion
  • In 1909 the department separated philosophy, education, and religion into three categories under one department.


  • The departments remained the same until 1914, where a new department was added called The Department of English Bible and Religion
  • In 1915, under the section, Graduation Requirements, students were required to complete four semester hours in the department of English Bible and Religion
  • In 1919 the four course hours of English Bible and Religion was changed to “four hours of biblical literature.” The Department of English Bible and Religion disappeared, and was replaced with two new departments: The Department of Biblical Literature and The Department of Religious education, where they shared the same courses. In the course descriptions, it states that there are classes in other departments that are related to this department, and that students would be required to take.


  • In 1920, the department changed to the Department of Religion
  • In 1923, this department was replaced with the department of Bible and Christian Missions, although the department of Education and Religious Education was still there
  • In 1929, the department returned to being called the Department of Religion, with the two subtopics being English Bible and Christian Missions.


  • These departments remained the same until 1931, where the two subgroups under the department of religion disappeared.
  • In 1932 the departments were broken up into divisions, where religion was grouped together with philosophy and psychology. The latter were grouped together under a subheading and religion was by itself. Under religion was also the subgroup religious education.
  • In 1933 the religion requirement for graduation was reduced from four hours to three hours
  • In 1935, religion was grouped under the division of the humanities, along with art, languages, English, music, philosophy and psychology, and speech.
  • In 1939, religion was still under the division of the humanities, but grouped together with philosophy.


  • The departments and divisions remained the same until 1946, where religion remained under the division of humanities but was separated from philosophy.
  • In 1944, a concentration is offered under religion that prepares young women for the church.


  • No changes


  • Churchmanship Training Program introduced; a program that trains students to become members of the church, gone by 1964.
  • No other changes
  • Pre-ministerial training is offered in 1963, a more detailed version of concentrating in religion and includes a half-tuition grant.


  • The departments and divisions remained the same until 1972, where there were no more divisions and the department of religion was an individual department


  • No change

Departmental History: German

The evolution of the German Department as seen in the Catalogue of Courses. Course catalogs from 1851-1954 are available online; the rest are available in print in the University Archives.

Tutoring in German was available on request in IWU’s first course catalog of 1851-52 and then show a dedicated faculty member starting in the second catalog which was published five years later.

1857-65: German and French listed as electives in the “Classical” degree track (the only other track available was “Scientific”) for Junior year.

1892-1893: German and French languages taught together, but a more in-depth time and practice are spent on German even briefly letting students “in which the instructor uses the German language in order the better to familiarize the pupils with ordinary idioms, not necessarily met with in their reading” (16). Also includes an advanced class that studies the works like Goethe’s Hermann und Dorothea and Sesenheim; Freytag’s Journalisten, and Scheffel’s Ekkehard (30).

Focus still on ancient languages of Greek and Latin

1895: First year as a major. Separate listing of German as Course C of language after Greek and Latin. It is also described as adding a third year compared to the previous two year policy and a detailed description of this third year of study consists of reading of historical prose and the study of German Literature. The catalogue says that “German will be largely the language of the classroom throughout the year, and the student will be encouraged to continue in private the study of a most valuable language, which these three years of training ought to make easy and attractive” (28).

1900: Classified as a Modern Language (rather than Ancient language) and has 12 classes of study listed.

1910: Still offered as a three year program, but is more specifically divided into three sections of work. First Year: Mastery of the essentials of grammar, composition, conversation and pronunciation, and 150 pages of easy prose.

Second Year: Advanced grammar and syntax when writing German. Reading of more difficult authors covering 250 to 300 pages.

Third Year: Reading of selected poetical and historical prose works.

1920: German classes increase from general study of the language to more specific categorical classes such as The German Novel of the Nineteenth Century, The Drama of the Nineteenth Century, Goethe and Schiller, History of the German Language, Scientific German.

1930: Direct Listing of Major and Minor Status-Major 24 semester hours and Minor 12 semester hours-Same listing of classes.

German Club Present in 1930 catalogue-Described as “The German Club meets the needs of students of this language in providing extra-curricular opportunity for personal contacts and for attaining proficiency in conversation”(112). Club helped by Professor Ferguson-see next page

1940: Additional classes of Survey of German Literature and German Conference added to German course of classes and it is also in this catalog that Spanish appears as an additional modern language of study.

1950: Only listing of German as a foreign language and only First and Second Year German taught-So only 4 sections of basic language study and small compared to French and Spanish department.

1960: Return of 100 to 400 level German Language classes-Additions of German Composition and Conversation, Goethe’s Faust, Senior Review, and History of German Literature. Ferguson not listed-Emeritus- died on May 9, 1944.

1970: German interestingly is now placed before either Greek or Latin in the catalogue listing. Also a few more classes included such as Survey of German Literature Before 1700, Survey of German Literature After 1700, Contemporary German Literature, Independent Study in German Literature, The German Novelle, German Classicism, German Romanticism-obviously close ties to English department studies

1980: German major alongside the other languages of French and Spanish are divided into three major tracks of major sequence in Applied Modern Language, Modern Literature, and Foreign Language Education. With these divisions the courses expand to carter to these areas, but what is interesting is for the first time the mentions of Travel/Study Abroad classes and internships are listed in the catalogue.

1990: Relatively the same set-up of classes, but looks like there is an increase in studying the effect of translation to language studies, etc.

2000: German Department listing and courses offered officially takes up two full pages of content in the 2000 catalogue showing its serious growth and number of classes for students. The same format is still carried in the modern day, 2014.

Further research of the descriptions and images of the German study/club in the past Wesleyana yearbooks and past Argus issues might also be of interest.

Wesleyana digital collection homepage

Argus and earlier digitized news sources homepage

Here are a few interesting facts: According to Argus perusals, etc. enrollment in the German Programs nationwide definitely decreased during the years of World War II, but also most likely during the years of World War I as well. This is due to obvious reasons of conflict, but at least after the official end of WWII, German departments everywhere, including at IWU, did begin to resurface and, even, flourish only 3 or so years after the war ended (see March 10, 1948 Argus article, p4, on German Professor expressing these thoughts).

Another interesting focus was looking at the progression of the professorship of Wilbert Ferguson. He is listed as Professor of Greek, but also began teaching German on campus in 1895. He continued teaching both but isn’t listed with the title of Instructor of German until the 1907/08 catalogue. Ferguson eventually became the head of the German program and remained so until his death in 1944. The University Archives holds a large scrapbook of Professor Ferguson, but I have also featured here a 1941 Wesleyana picture (picture present in earlier editions as well) of Ferguson.

Audio and video recordings

The archives recently had several recordings transferred from media we could not listen to (due to outdated formats or fragile magnetic tape) to digital formats. The content of these recordings is mostly unexplored but includes some film clips of the 1952 incoming class and an undated commencement with nurses in capes. There are also a series of audio recordings, some labelled “Peopletalk,” that have alumni and faculty in the 1970s talking about what IWU means to them.

Some recordings are talks given for specific events like a 1949 dinner on the west coast that featured the then-oldest living alumni: Dr. Sam VanPelt, Class of 1875; or a 1969 recording by Hubert Humphrey during the long-running Steveson Lecture Series; or a 1971 visit by Helen Hayes who is speaking to students in Theatre Arts. An undated recording has Sociology Professor Dr. Emily Dunn Dale responding to commentary by Phyllis Schlafley on the topic of women’s roles in society.

Additionally, current faculty member Dr. Pam Muirhead created a video interview with Dr. Paul Bushnell in 2004 for the McLean County Black History Project. The original video tape had 10 minutes of sound distortion at the beginning, and the archives contracted with a media restoration company that was able to make all but the first two minutes understandable again. The subject of Dr. Bushnell’s interview is his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

There are other digitized recordings available and many other analog recordings await exploration in the archives, too. Some of these recordings could be added to our online collections, but first they could use a reviewer to determine suitability of content and basic descriptions that will let online researchers know how they are relevant. Some may be suitable for research projects and some may hold interesting insights into IWU’s history. All are here for the asking!