he even received his diploma.
It was a crazy time for American
colleges, which were absorbing
thousands of returning GIs. When a
professor who taught a world literature
course abruptly left Bucknell, the
department chair invited young
Wheatcroft to take over. The baby-faced senior found himself in front of
a classroom filled with skeptical men
in their 20s and 30s, but he drew upon
the confidence he developed as a Navy
cryptologist to set a tone of respect —
“to raise literature up to the level where
I thought it should be,” he recalls.
Wheatcroft had long felt driven
to become a writer — he’d begun
composing Shakespearean-style sonnets
at around age 10 — but teaching the
class helped him decide to become
a professor. He accepted a position
at Bucknell instead of an Ivy League
school because he felt Bucknell would
give him the freedom to produce his
own creative work as well as teach. And
produce he did, publishing 26 books,
including poetry, plays and novels. He
wrote well into his 80s.
“He still gets letters at least once a
month from former students, some of
whom are now in their 80s,” says his
wife, Katherine M’75, who also taught
English at Bucknell. “They’ll write and
say, ‘You won’t remember me, but I
was in your course, and it changed my
life.’ They were nurtured in poetry,
and they still hold that memory.”
The Wheatcroft scholarship com-
memorates that kind of transformative
teaching. The anonymous donor credits
a successful career in finance to a wide-
ranging education in the liberal arts,
where classes in subjects such as literature
and philosophy complemented her
training in management. Professors
like Wheatcroft, the donor believes,
define the Bucknell experience.
The first recipient of the scholarship,
Jinling Luo ’ 18, has fully embraced the
liberal-arts credo. A native of the Hunan
province of China, she first considered
studying philosophy, then management.
She’s planning to double major in
economics and history.
Although separated by decades and
cultures, Luo and Wheatcroft share an
interest in teaching. She and a friend
created an educational program for
children in rural Hunan, which they
have run for the last two summers. Their
classes reinforce the idea of liberal
education, Luo says. “The student
volunteers utilize these experiences
when they go to college. They change
a lot — they’re more responsible and
more optimistic about life.”
Would she consider becoming a
teacher after Bucknell?
“I don’t want to set any limitations
on my career path,” she says. “I want to
focus on bettering myself. Then, when
opportunities come to me, I will take
the challenge and embrace it.”
It’s hard to imagine a better example
of the spirit of Wheatcroft and the
enduring power of the liberal arts.
Scholarship support is the top priority of the
WE DO Campaign for Bucknell University,
which aims to raise $150 million in endowed
scholarships and financial aid. For more
information, please visit bucknell.edu/WeDo.
To read the full text of tributes to
Jack Wheatcroft ’49 by siblings
Peter ’73 and Jan Balakian ’83, visit
bucknell.edu/bmagazine or download the
Bucknell Magazine app.
Jinling Luo ’ 18 is the first recipient
of the Wheatcroft Scholarship.
Peter Balakian ’73, an English
professor and author, paid
tribute to his mentor.