One of the most recent acquisitions of the Winona History Center at Grace College, Winona Lake, Ind., is a bronze bust of Dr. William E. Biederwolf (1867-1939) who directed the Winona Bible Conference from 1922 until his death in 1939. The bust was given to the History Center by the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois, and it was brought to Winona Lake by Skip and Carol Forbes. Carol Forbes, who spent many years developing and archiving materials in the Winona History Center, has had a special research interest in Biederwolf.
Biederwolf was born in Monticello, Indiana. He was educated at Wabash College, Princeton University, and at several universities in Europe. A Presbyterian, Biederwolf served as a pastor, chaplain, and in 1900 he turned to full-time evangelism under the tutelage of J. Wilbur Chapman, the first director of the Winona Bible Conference. One of Biederwolf’s greatest legacies, however, may be the role he played in convincing the founders of Grace College & Seminary to locate their school permanently in Winona Lake.
Biederwolf was present at the meeting held in the Winona Lake Presbyterian Church (now Church of the Good Shepherd) in 1937 during the Brethren conference. A capacity crowd of more than 500 was present and plans were announced for the opening of Grace Theological Seminary. Biederwolf was impressed with the proceedings and the spirit of the gathering and he invited Grace Seminary to make its home in Winona Lake.
The seminary opened the next fall in Akron, Ohio, with a student body of 39. After careful consideration, and in response to Biederwolf’s invitation, the seminary moved to Winona Lake to begin operation two years later in the fall of 1939. Grace College was subsequently founded in 1948 and it became a four-year liberal arts college in 1954. Biederwolf, after a lengthy illness, died September 3, 1939, in the town where he was born—Monticello, Indiana.
The bust was originally owned by J. Palmer Muntz, who directed the Winona Bible Conference from 1938 until 1958. The transfer from the Billy Graham Center was arranged through Tonya Fawcett, director of library services at Grace College and Seminary.