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Nature and Revelation

A History of Macalester College

2010
Author:

Jeanne Halgren Kilde
Foreword by James Brewer Stewart

Nature and Revelation

Tells the story of one of the most prominent educational institutions in the Midwest

Nature and Revelation is a history of Macalester College, from its origins as a Presbyterian secondary school to its current presence as a nationally prominent liberal arts college. Jeanne Halgren Kilde tells stories of the college’s influential leaders, its defining moments, and the sometimes controversial evolution of the school’s curriculum and reputation, exploring its transformation from a modest evangelical college into a progressive, secular institution.

No conventional institutional history, Nature and Revelation is far more than the saga of Macalester College as it journeyed from frontier evangelical academy to first-rank liberal arts college. Drawing on a deep background in cultural, political, and intellectual history as well as a wealth of archival sources, Jeanne Halgren Kilde elegantly illuminates the historical context and unexpected contingencies that shaped Macalester’s commitment to service and internationalism in a rapidly modernizing world. This is a must-read for scholars interested in religious and cultural history, as well as for anyone with ties of memory to this extraordinary college. I couldn’t put it down!

Mary Lethert Wingerd

Nature and Revelation is an absorbing history of Macalester College, from its origins as a Presbyterian secondary school in frontier St. Paul to its current presence as a nationally prominent liberal arts college. Detailing the college’s history, Jeanne Halgren Kilde tells stories of the college’s influential leaders, its defining moments, its rapidly changing student life, and the sometimes controversial evolution of the school’s curriculum and reputation, exploring its transformation from a modest evangelical college into a progressive, secular institution.

By highlighting the college’s balancing act between nature and revelation—between the pursuit of empirical knowledge and religious conviction—Kilde traces the impact of changing perceptions of religion and education over Macalester’s more than century-long history. As once-religious colleges gradually shed their church ties and negotiated tensions between religious, vocational, and liberal arts missions, they both mirrored and affected the development of education and the trajectory of American Protestantism itself. Placing Macalester College in a national context, Kilde explores the cultural, political, and pedagogical challenges and shifts experienced by most U.S. institutions of higher education during this turbulent period.

While so doing, Kilde uncovers a number of little-known aspects of the college’s history and explores the facts behind such persistent Mac myths as whether its most generous supporter, Reader’s Digest founder DeWitt Wallace, actually coaxed a cow into a college building as an undergraduate or later terminated his financial support of the college in objection to what he considered its leftist political sympathies, or whether the college’s initiative to attract minority students during the 1970s drove its operating budget into an enormous deficit. An enlightening and rich history, Nature and Revelation documents Macalester College’s unique story and reveals its significance to higher education and religion in the United States.

Nature and Revelation

Jeanne Halgren Kilde is director of the religious studies program at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of several books, including Sacred Power, Sacred Space: An Introduction to Christian Architecture and Worship and When Church Became Theatre: The Transformation of Evangelical Architecture and Worship in Nineteenth-Century America.

James Brewer Stewart is James Wallace Professor of History Emeritus at Macalester College.

Nature and Revelation

No conventional institutional history, Nature and Revelation is far more than the saga of Macalester College as it journeyed from frontier evangelical academy to first-rank liberal arts college. Drawing on a deep background in cultural, political, and intellectual history as well as a wealth of archival sources, Jeanne Halgren Kilde elegantly illuminates the historical context and unexpected contingencies that shaped Macalester’s commitment to service and internationalism in a rapidly modernizing world. This is a must-read for scholars interested in religious and cultural history, as well as for anyone with ties of memory to this extraordinary college. I couldn’t put it down!

Mary Lethert Wingerd

Macalester insiders will love her careful attention to detail, and members of the Christian higher education observatory will love her thoughtful and consistently contextualized contribution to the conversation about institutional secularization.

Journal of Research on Christian Education

Kilde has made a thorough and outstanding contribution with her history of Macalester College.

H-Net Reviews

Kilde has made an important and welcome contribution to the history of the relationship between higher education and Christianity in the United States that is sensitive to the ambiguities and nuances of the affinities between Protestantism and broader cultural themes.

Church HIstory