Rolfing Memorial Library

The Chicago area has many universities, both private and public.  Undoubtedly, all of them have interesting stories and materials.  Trinity International University is an example of one of them.  Located in Bannockburn, Illinois (a small suburb about 30 miles north of Chicago) since 1961, the University can trace its roots back to 1897.  During that time, Swedish immigrants, who were members of the Swedish Evangelical Free Church in Chicago, started a Bible school.  Eventually, this school merged with a Danish-Norwegian Evangelical Free Church’s Bible school.  Over the first half of the twentieth century, the university changed its name and location several times, and was even a part of Moody Bible Institute and Chicago Theological Seminary on different occasions.  Today, the University has over 2,000 students, although this number includes two other smaller campuses in California and Florida.

The university’s current library is called the Rolfing Memorial Library, and was built in 1974.  It was named in memory of James E. Rolfing, who was the son of the president of the Wurlitzer Company, which makes organs and pianos.  Sadly, James E. Rolfing died prematurely in an airplane crash, so his parents donated money to the library in memory of him (although, I do not know if he had any connection to Trinity).

The university’s archives is located in the library, and is named after Gleason Archer, who served as an Old Testament and Semitics professor at Trinity from 1965 to 1986.  His office was located where the archives are currently housed.  Archer knew at least eighteen languages and, according to his son-in-law, taught himself Egyptian hieroglyphs as a young boy.  Trinity has one of his typewriters, which typed in Greek.

Other interesting items in the archives include a signed copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first book, This Side of Paradise.  Because the book has library stampings in the front, it must have circulated in the library at one point, until someone realized its importance.  Additionally, the archives contains about 200 theological books, mostly written in Latin, and mostly dating from the seventeenth century.  Obviously, the archives also houses documents relating to the University’s history.  However, perhaps the papers that are of most interest to scholars are those of Carl F. H. Henry, the cofounder and first editor of the magazine, Christianity Today.  He taught as an adjunct professor at Trinity occasionally, and ultimately donated his papers there. 

My favorite items in Trinity’s archives are 11 unique book pages, mostly dating from the seventeenth century.  They originally came from the collection of Stanley Slotkin, but Trinity does not know how they obtained these book pages, which range from a musical score page, to a Hebrew and Greek commentary page, to a Quran page from 1207.  Interestingly enough, it appears as if the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History also has a page from this same Quran that Trinity has: https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_808673

Stanley Slotkin was born in the U.S. to poor Russian-Jewish immigrants, but became wealthy by renting furniture to people, which was not a common practice in the 1930s.  With his wealth, he started several hobbies, which included collecting books and donating them to different libraries.  However, to ensure that many places could benefit from these donations, he disassembled the books and gave each page to a different place.  Clearly, archival practices have changed since then! 

Slotkin had other hobbies as well, such as funding peoples’ plastic surgeries.  After Slotkin funded his secretary’s plastic surgery on her nose, she found a husband soon afterward, so this inspired him to sponsor plastic surgeries regularly.  Additionally, Slotkin created the first blood bank in Israel during its war for independence in 1948, and also gifted different museums with stones from Bethlehem.  More information about this unusual man can be found in the links below.

One final noteworthy artifact at Trinity is a 500-year-old Torah scroll from Germany (meaning that it survived the Holocaust), which was donated to the school in 2014.  It is currently on display in the library.  A Torah consists of the first five books of the Bible, and is read on a weekly basis at the synagogue, so that the entire scroll is completed each year.  Trinity’s scroll was donated by Kenneth R. and Barbara Larson, a Christian couple who have been purchasing unkosher Torah scrolls (meaning that they cannot be used in a synagogue anymore due to various reasons), and donating them to Christian universities.  Trinity was the third recipient, of what has been 55 donations thus far. 

Although Trinity does not have an archivist, you can contact the friendly library staff to see if they can give you a tour: http://library.tiu.edu/archives

Sources and Further Reading

“Archives and Special Collections.” Trinity International University. http://library.tiu.edu/archives (accessed October 25, 2019).

“History & Heritage.” Trinity International University. https://www.tiu.edu/about/history-heritage/ (accessed October 25, 2019).

Oliver, Myrna. “Stanley Slotkin; Began Abbey Rents.” Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1997 https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1997-sep-30-mn-37823-story.html (accessed October 25, 2019).

“Page from Koran.” National Museum of American History. https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_808673 (accessed October 25, 2019).

Stocker, Joseph. “He Gives People New Faces.” The Evening Independent, December 13, 1959. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&dat=19591213&id=6ZQLAAAAIBAJ&sjid=bVUDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4146,2427726 (accessed October 25, 2019).

“Torah Recipients.” God’s Ancient Library. https://www.godsancientlibrary.com/recipients (accessed October 25, 2019).

“Trinity Receives Rare, 15th Century Torah Scroll.” Trinity International University Newsroom. https://news.tiu.edu/2014/09/19/torah-scroll/ (accessed October 25, 2019).

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