In the 1950s, Dr. Clyde S. Kilby, an English professor at Wheaton College, began a correspondence with C.S. Lewis. Over the next several years, he had the opportunity to meet Lewis and eventually received 15 letters from him. After C.S. Lewis’s death in 1963, Dr. Kilby was inspired to establish the “The C.S. Lewis Collection," a repository that eventually would include not only Lewis items, but also materials from six other British writers whom Lewis either knew or who significantly influenced him: Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. Dr. Kilby’s proposal to form a Lewis Collection was accepted by the Wheaton College Library Committee in 1965, and he began the years of travel, relationship-building, and gathering of materials that would lay a strong foundation for the Collection.
In 1974, friends and family of Marion E. Wade, businessman and C.S. Lewis aficionado, established an endowment in his memory to support the Collection, which was then renamed “The Marion E. Wade Collection." In 1980, the Center published the first volume of its academic journal, VII: An Anglo-American Literary Review (now titled: VII: Journal of the Marion E. Wade Center). Dr. Kilby, Dr. Beatrice Batson, and Dr. Barbara Reynolds founded VII to provide a venue for critical assessment of the works of the seven Wade authors. Following Dr. Kilby’s retirement in 1981, the Wade Center has flourished under directors, Dr. Lyle W. Dorsett, (1983-1990) and Dr. Christopher W. Mitchell, (1994-2013).
Over the years, as the collection grew, the Wade Center was moved between various locations on Wheaton College’s campus, including Blanchard Hall and Buswell Library. In 1998, with the generous help of Marion Wade’s daughter Mary, the Wade Center began construction of a new limestone building fashioned after the style of an English manor house, which opened in 2001. This facility has made it possible to serve more than 12,000 visitors a year, through the museum, the reading room, discussion groups, and speaking engagements.
The 30th Anniversary of the Wade Center (PDF, 47 KB)
(Wade history article from VII, Volume 12, 1995)
50th Anniversary of the Wade Center - webpage with highlights and memories from our 2015 anniversary celebration