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Quakerism at Wilmington

Although the college was founded in 1870 by the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, attending this Quaker college doesn’t mean that you have to wear a bonnet or go to chapel!  It does mean, however, that the Quaker values of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship are integrated into the life of the campus.

Wilmington College was founded by the Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1870. Friends had long been a presence in southwest Ohio and were some of the first settlers of Clinton County, dating back to the early 1800’s.

Brothers John Henry and Robert Douglas envisioned the need for a Friends college and led a fundraising campaign in area Quaker meetings to purchase the grounds and unfinished building of Franklin College at auction.

The Quaker values may come across in the classroom, where, for example, courses in Social & Political Studies have a strong Peace & Social Justice influence, or in the relationships between faculty and students, where the ideas of Equality and Respect for All Persons shape the way we all interact as a community.

A Students Perspective

Caitlin Schafer, WC ‘15 

I remember my first week here and how amazed I was at the friendliness of this campus. Everyone was so very warm and welcoming and willing to help out. This college is definitely different from other schools in a special way – I should know, since I transferred here. The Quaker caring mentality is very apparent through all modes of education (at least what I’ve experienced). Wilmington College has become my home away from home.

The Quaker values have also made an impact on my world outlook. I used to think of peaceful protesting as being OK, but not enough to fight the bigger issues, like when countries are at war. Wilmington College has challenged my thinking in that area, and broadened my understanding of global issues. This recurring theme seems to always come to mind, which is best said, “The greatest illusion in this world is the idea of separation. Things that seem separate and different are not.” We as human beings may feel divided into countries and nationalities, but WC has shown me how we are one people living on one planet. We as a race need to learn how to see beyond borders and flags to connect everyone in the spirit of friendship.

Quaker traditions are important to the Wilmington-campus atmosphere. Their influence is felt in the personal working relationships among members of the College community and in the concern for each individual. Students, faculty, administration, and staff are addressed by names rather than titles. This reflects Quaker values of mutuality and equality.

Decisions at Wilmington College are not reached by voting. Rather, the group seeks for a plan of action upon which all can unite. This approach to problem solving, based on consensus, reflects a Quaker approach to business and can be seen operating in almost any group meeting on-campus, from the trustees to faculty-staff meetings to small informal committees. Many student groups also follow this way of decision-making.

College programs on and off-campus also reflect Quaker traditions and concerns. Friends have founded fourteen liberal arts colleges in the United States. Historically, Friends have been concerned with careers involving practical skills, such as agriculture and carpentry. The Wilmington combination of liberal arts and career preparation reflects Quaker interests in education.

Since the founding of the Religious Society of Friends in 17th century England, Friends have worked to end war and create a world of peace. The Peace Testimony continues to be a central witness of Quakerism. It is made visible at Wilmington College with the Peace Studies program, the annual Westheimer Peace Symposium, and the Peace Resource Center, which attracts scholars and visitors from around the world. The Center houses extensive materials on World War II atomic bombings. Its Hiroshima-Nagasaki Collection, related to the bombings of those cities, is the largest collection of this kind outside of Japan.

Quakers also have a long standing interest in international education and international relations. The College academic program reflects this international emphasis in the general education program. International students from several countries also reflect the hope that Wilmington College will help students develop a fuller understanding of world cultures and world issues.