Wilbur “Wil” Wheaton was born on Sept. 23, 1932, in Rock, Kansas, to Marion Ostrander Wheaton and Eva Ester (Showers) Wheaton. His father was an American Baptist minister. As a result, family moved often, to Andover, Kansas; Rosell, Kansas; Scott City, Kansas (elementary school); and Chanute, Kansas (final years of high school). He graduated from Chanute High School in May 1950. He attended Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas, and graduated in 1954, gaining both a degree in Mathematics and a wife, by marrying his college sweetheart (Ellen Ann Henning) in January 1954. After college, he began his military service (U.S. Marines) in Quantico, Virginia, and Camp Pendleton, California, then continued his studies by earning a Master’s degree in Counseling from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. The Wheaton’s had three children (Wendy, Kevin, and Deanna). The family moved to California for Wil to begin his career as an educator, (counselor, principal, superintendent). While in California, Wil also earned his Doctorate of Education degree from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and began to pursue one of his favorite past-times by becoming a private pilot.
In January 1983, Wil and Ellen returned to Ottawa, Kansas, when Wil became the president of Ottawa University. Wil was the first Ottawa University graduate to become Ottawa University president. Dr. Wheaton served as president from 1983-1993. He made curriculum changes at Ottawa University including the reintroduction of Debate and Forensics and the creation of degree programs in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. In 1984, the Wheaton’s established the Wilbur and Ellen Ann Wheaton Scholarship Fund which annually benefits a Music student enrolled at OU. He oversaw many renovations to the College campus. During his tenure as president, Behan Hall transitioned to become the Vera Wise Technology Center to prepare for the digital age. Ward Science Hall was renovated and a modern, handicapped accessible wing was added. Atkinson Hall became the campus center for Music and Theatre. Martin Hall, Wilson Field House and the Mabee Center were renovated and restored. In anticipation of an increased need for technology campus wide, new fiber optics connected all facilities and computer labs were set-up in the residence halls while he was president.
Wil served OU as President for 9 and a half years before retiring and moving to Thailand for two years where he taught Algebra and English at Sammuk Christian Academy, Bang Saen, Thailand. Wil was awarded the rare “Emeritus” status by the Ottawa University’s Board of Trustees upon his retirement from the OU presidency in 1992. Ellen Ann Wheaton took the time to prepare a letter of advice for the current president of Ottawa University, Kevin Eichner and his wife, before they took the presidency. One of her most sage and appropriate recommendations was “always wear comfortable shoes”. No better advice could ever have been given.
Wil retired and moved to Sedona, Arizona and then moved to Meridian, where he died in 2017.
The Wilbur Wheaton Collection which was created by Ellen Ann during the tenure of President Wilbur Wheaton, and is a Collection of recipes associated with Ottawa University dinners and special events that were catered between 1983 and 1992.
The Wilbur Wheaton Collection was scanned by Sarah Rocker and Anna Ernst. Transcription was done by Hope Tsosie.