GRTS Alumni Stories

Wallace Alcorn (M.Div. '59)

wallace alcorn story

Your Story

I almost didn't come to GRTS, and when I did in September of 1957, it was by accident. Upon completing the residence work for a M.A. in New Testament in the Wheaton Graduate School of Theology, I planned to enter a Ph.D. program at the University of Edinburgh with the thought of graduate school or seminary teaching. I paused at New York to take the basic course in the U.S. Army Chaplain School at Fort Slocum.

Toward the end of my final graduate school semester, however, Dr. J. Edward Hakes spoke in an undergraduate chapel at Wheaton. Since he was the president of GRTS, I dropped in to hear him. His scholarship, spriritual commitment, and wholesome sense of professionalism impressed me. I obtained a personal interview, and he won me over by his personal warmth and earnest concern for my future ministry. He reasoned that if I was going to teach seminarians, I ought to go through the same thing myself. 

Before leaving Wheaton, I went to the University of Chicago and interviewed with Dr. Leon Wood, who was beginning his doctoral work there. He excitedly showed me his research notes on the prophet Elijah. A few years later I wrote the teacher guide to his Elijah: Prophet of God. The influences of Hakes and Wood, plus the insight I gained from the military chaplaincy program, turned me back to GRTS.

Having already done my New Testament work at Wheaton, I began to study Hebrew and Old Testament with Dean Wood. I was dissapointed at the few pastoral studies classes that the seminary offered at the time. Dr. Warren Faber's preaching classes, however, were probably the most immediately useful courses I have ever taken. At the time, my idea of preaching was either putting on a show (which turned me off) or an academic lecture (which then was my tendency). Dr. Faber taught me thematic expository preaching. An exceptionally wise provision the seminary made was to bring in Pastor Henry Owen Berends from Second Baptist Church to teach Pastoral Theology. Pastor Berends became my model of what a pastor should be.

Although I later visited Edinburgh, I never got to study there. I went in to the pastorate in Bloomfield HIlls, Michigan, and then to Princeton and New York University for my Ph.D in the history and philosophy of education. I was also commissioned as an army chaplain and retired in 1990 at the Military District of Washinton as a Colonel. I even came to love pastoral ministry, and I did get to teach first at Moody Bible Institute and then at Northwest Baptist Seminary, but I asked students to call me "Pastor" rather than "Doctor."