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'Step by Step, Rust in Peace' — Book Looks at WC's 'Quiet Peacemakers'

Book Details Campus' Peace Activism from World War II through the Vietnam War Era

July 22, 2011

The cover of

The cover of "Step by Step, Rust in Peace: The Quiet Peacemakers of Wilmington College, 1940–1970."

The cover of Step by Step, Rust in Peace: The Quiet Peacemakers of Wilmington College, 1940–1970 depicts students walking from Wilmington to Columbus to protest the Kent State University shootings in May 1970.

When numerous colleges and universities were forced to terminate their semesters and send students home for fear of violence on campus, WC not only stayed open but also played a leadership role in the peaceful response to Kent State.

Indeed, WC students at the Columbus vigil were intentionally given a place of honor next to those from Kent State.

Step by Step tells the story of, as Dorothy J. Maver, president of the National Peace Academy said, “intentional nonviolence and the legacy of peace activism” at Wilmington College. The book highlights the Quaker College’s activism and its endorsement of seeking alternatives to violence from World War II through the Vietnam War era.

Author Sharon Drees researched the College’s penchant for promoting peace and social justice, and came up with names like emeritus professor Larry Gara, T. Canby Jones and emeritus secretary of the College Robert McCoy, but also students, such as Carl Champney, who walked from California to Washington D.C. in 1976 in support of disarmament and social justice.

Champney said, at the time, “We are fortunate to have a campus where adult leadership is as principled as it is here.

“There are staff members whose records or opposition to war started long before the Vietnam War made such opposition respectable,” he added. “The rest of the country, unfortunately, cannot claim such ethical leadership.”

Drees, who conducted her research as a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, said learning of these persons’ personal testimonies to peace and nonviolence was a transforming factor in her own “personal faith journey.”

“Grounded in the teachings of Jesus Christ, so much of what they argued brought to life things in my personal faith,” she said.

Gara was a war resister while Jones and McCoy had conscientious objector status during World War II. Gara served time in prison for his nonviolent convictions and the others performed public service during the war.

“I found most fascinating the continuum of people that oppose all wars. It revolutionized my thinking about war,” she said. “These people stood up and said, ‘There must be a better way. They chose to put their trust in things other than (military) weapons.”

Nikki M. Taylor, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the University of Cincinnati, described Step by Step as “a meticulously researched, beautifully crafted and brilliantly argued tribute to Wilmington College’s peace activist tradition. She has helped us all re-remember why this college, its history and its activists are deserving of our collective respect.”

Donald McNemar, former president of Guilford College, said the book “demonstrates some of the ways in which this small Quaker school provides a striking example of what we can learn about changing society without resorting to violence.”

The “Rust in Peace” reference in the title alludes to a cartoon featured in a 1949 issue of Quaker Quips, the College’s student newspaper. Only three years after Hiroshima, the illustration features an atomic bomb on which was a placard stating “rust in peace.”

“Wilmington College has an extraordinary heritage,” Drees said. “Not only should Wilmington be proud of it, but they should proclaim it from the rooftops.”

Echoing those sentiments, Peace Resource Center director Jim Boland, professor of education, said the book “reflects the special nature” of Wilmington College.

WC’s Peace Resource Center published the book, which is available through the PRC’s Web site at <www.wilmington.edu/prc> and at the center, 51 College St. Also, it can be mail-ordered by sending $6.12 and $3 for postage and handling (P&H is $1 for each additional book and Ohio residents should add 43 cents sales tax per book) to: Peace Resource Center, Wilmington College, 1870 Quaker Way, Wilmington, OH 45177.

Boland said the author has “generously agreed” that all proceeds from book sales will benefit the Peace Resource Center.