by Dr. Barrett McRay ’83, M.A. ’86, M.A .’95, Psy.D. ’98,
Chair and Associate Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry
On a quiet afternoon, while working in my office on the second floor of the Billy Graham Center, which overlooks Blanchard’s front lawn, I am interrupted by a knock at the door. As I open the door, the visitor’s countenance quickly changes from bright anticipation to puzzlement, and instead of a warm greeting, there is the tentative question, “Dr. McRay?”
“Yes,” I respond.
What follows is a conversation that I have repeated countless times over the past nine years since my father, Dr. John McRay HON, retired from his position as professor of New Testament and archaeology. I have come to look forward to these encounters with graduate school alumni who stop by my office expecting to find my father. I often sit with these new friends, listening to stories about the impact that my father and his teaching had on these graduates’ lives and ministries. A Wheaton graduate alumnus myself, we reminisce about the amazing professors who shaped our experience—Drs. Walter Elwell ’59, M.A. ’61, Frances White hon, Herb Wolf ’60, and Julius Scott, Jr. ’56. We speak of these and many other faithful scholars and mentors who carried on the legacy of teaching and training that is the heart of the Wheaton College Graduate School.
In May of 1998, I walked across the stage of Edman Chapel, shaking the hand of President Duane Litfin to receive my doctor of psychology degree. It was the first year that Wheaton’s Graduate School conferred a doctoral degree. My father marched in that same commencement in his regalia as a faculty member; and that fall, I began teaching in the Graduate School, my office just a few doors down from my father. For three years, I enjoyed the rare blessing of teaching alongside my father as a colleague. On those days when being a young teacher felt a bit overwhelming, I would stop by my father’s office, and with a few words of wisdom he would set me back on track.
Each semester, I walk the halls of the Billy Graham Center on my way to class. My life is filled with memories of the professors whose voices still echo in these classrooms. The faces and names are different now, but the tradition continues. Wheaton College’s Graduate School is a place where students come to be challenged, to broaden their knowledge, to deepen their character, and to be trained for Kingdom service.
When my father retired from Wheaton, he gave me a special gift—his academic regalia. Each May I put it on to march in commencement as a way to honor him and to remember the heritage that has been entrusted to the generation of professors with whom I now serve.