The Gift of Faithful Wheaton Alumni

Throughout her life, WheatonGives Scholarship recipient Thian Dim ’25 has had a front-row seat to the generosity and kindness extended by Wheaton College’s close-knit alumni network.

Words: Eliana Chow ’21
Photos: Diana Rowan

Wheaton College IL Thian Dim profile photo

“If so many alumni want to give back, Wheaton College must be a really meaningful place.”

As a first-generation student paying her own way through college, Thian Dim ’25 knows first-hand the value of a strong support system and network of grace. The sophomore urban studies major (on a pre-med track) has seen God provide again and again both relationally and financially. With delight, she shares how she’s been able to pay that kindness forward as an undergraduate so far.

When Dim was six years old, she and her family fled their home country, Myanmar, and spent a couple of years in Malaysia. When she was eight, they arrived in Wheaton, IL as refugees through the support of College Church (a church located just off campus). Church members and their broader network of Christians helped Dim’s family put down roots in their new country, assimilating to the midwestern culture and English language while maintaining relationships with relatives still living in Burma.

Because of the many overlapping connections between the church and Wheaton College, Dim admits with a laugh that she didn’t realize the two were unrelated entities. Throughout her elementary school years, she and her peers were tutored in her ESL classes by several Wheaton students and church members, and from a young age identified the reliability and faith behind their friendship.

“I’ve always had a positive view of Wheaton College students, and I knew there was a good community there,” Dim said. “That was one of the main reasons I chose to apply.”

Building Lasting Connections

In addition to a full academic and work schedule, Dim invests time singing in the Wheaton College Gospel Choir, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. Especially as a commuting student, she is grateful for this avenue of staying connected with the campus community.

“I first heard about Gospel Choir during a Chapel service my freshman year, and I just felt so happy watching and listening to them worship with us,” she said. “I had never seen people worship like this before, and I wanted to be a part of it.”

While many of her close friends are also in the group, Dim emphasizes the impact of worshiping with alumni whenever they come back to visit campus. During the 35th anniversary celebration, Gospel Choir alumni returned to share meals, stories, and worship with current undergraduate choir members. The day before their fall concert, Wheaton undergraduates, alumni, and staff gathered in one of the Billy Graham Museum exhibits and lifted their voices to the Lord.

“It was so cool to see the different generations worshiping in the same room and singing the same songs,” Dim said. “I don’t know how to describe the feeling. I was amazed at how God and music can bring people together to worship him even more.”

Paying it Forward

Dim has also encountered the generosity of alumni thanks to a new anonymously funded scholarship offered through WheatonGives, the College’s annual giving day. In 2022, WheatonGives encouraged donors to nominate students for a scholarship, and shortly after the festivities wrapped, Dim received a phone call congratulating her for being selected as a recipient of one of two $5,000 scholarships. 

“I didn’t believe them at first,” she recalled. “I was surprised that anyone would think to nominate me. But I was very grateful, too.”

The scholarship has alleviated significant mental and time-oriented stressors for Dim this academic year. Rather than working overtime and worrying about how to keep herself afloat financially through the semester, she is able to focus on and enjoy her academic coursework and extracurricular involvement. With the scholarship, she is also increasingly aware of how tight-knit Wheaton’s alumni network remains throughout the years. From coming back to mentor students and offer career advice, to giving back to the College financially for scholarships like hers, Dim has noticed how many alumni want to connect with current students. And the more she experiences this generosity and care, the more she’s inspired to do the same.

“It’s encouraging to know there’s this supportive community around us—something we often don’t even realize is there,” she said. “Since it’s a private institution funded mostly by donors, I keep thinking that if so many alumni want to give back, Wheaton College must be a really meaningful place.”