Zhang: When you first came to Rollins, what was your impression of the school then? The student life, the school administration?
Wettstein: Oh, it was a wonderfully happy place. The students were very cordial. They were fun loving and they were easy to get to know. They were cooperative when you developed a new program and so on. It was quite an interesting place, but it did not have the strong academic focus that the faculty believed they needed.
sought, then, to build a deeper kind of curriculum.
In those days, one of the things that was attractive was
the students became a part of the so-called Free College
In the early seventies there was a movement
through many, many colleges in which students would complain
didn’t want the formal education but they wanted an education
would build their understanding of themselves and the world.
So they had a Free College; it would mean that the
just set up a theme and then divide it up and students who
wanted to do
it would take that and become a part of it. Well
that lasted about a term (laughs) and then fell apart because
only work if you really had a strong, strong academic focus and
didn’t have that. But we had
friendship and an interest in building community.
Rollins was a wonderful community; mutual supportive.
So that was indeed a good feature.
Zhang: Tell us about your course of service to the third world country. What inspired you to develop this course?
Wettstein: Well, what inspired me was kind of related to what we were talking about before. I felt I couldn’t really teach ethics in an affluent society very well without having a confrontation with the problems as they really are. And so I thought, You just can’t come to any significant ethical conclusions when you’re sitting in your chez lounge or driving your convertible to the beach or whatever.
So, I made some arrangements with a minister in town who worked with high schools, young people. And that kind of got me going to think that there might be something that college students could do. So I went with him to Haiti and we spent a weekend in Haiti in Port-au-Prince, and there saw the most abject conditions: huts built out of discarded wood and metal sheets, and no— And five thousand people squeezed into a neighborhood. There being no sewage, they had to walk for their water. And all of that, what does that say to us and how does that shape us?
just as I was ready to take the group to Haiti for
the first group, Papa Doc [Dr
left and Baby Doc [Jean-Claude
who lived in Barbados, came into power.
And the whole situation in Haiti was now too, too
It just— I didn’t think I could really bring young
into that situation. So I
made—followed up some contacts I’d made with people in Jamaica
had a program in which they were working in the Blue Mountains,
needed help in nursery care and teaching and some health care.
And so, we went there instead.
And then had several, really beautiful, years.
Zhang: Could you tell us about your work with Habitat for Humanity here in Winter Park?
Wettstein: My work was just at the beginning of it. I’d forgotten now how I heard of Habitat, but we heard that, oh yes— We have, among college chaplains an organization called the National Association of College and University Chaplains. This had meetings every year and we’d share ideas on ministry. It was a group of very interesting people, one of whom was talking to us about Habitat and introduced us to Habitat.
along with— Along my ministry at the church, at the chapel, we
to take on an assistant chaplain for me, who was John Langfitt.
volunteered to take a group of students over to Tampa where he
understood there was a Habitat project.
So he went over to Tampa and started, and our
students were so impressed, not only with the soundness of the
that was being constructed, but the responsibility of the home
the this whole process. It’s
a very significant, I think, for Habitat to be very careful
gets the help and how and why and so on.
So they came back with a good report, and so then we
meeting of interested students together to see if they were
do something. So they
formed the Habitat for Humanity chapter at Rollins College to
money for the building of homes. And
then one home followed another, and so a lot has been done.
Wettstein Comments on the Proactive Nature of Rollins Students in the Community
had, in my ethics course, two students who decided that they
to really identify with the problem by becoming a part of it for
overnight. So they took their shabbiest blue jeans and put
on. And the girl did not wear any
make-up or whatever, and the
two of them went down and sat down and ate lunch at the Bread
World location [Daily Bread]. And they got into
conversation and one of
the homeless said, “Oh I know what your problem is: she’s
pregnant, isn’t she?” (Laughter) So the guy wanted to go along
it; he said, “Yes, what can we do?” And one of the men
overheard and said, “Whatever you do, don’t go to the hospital!”
(Laughter) “They’re crooks over there!” (Laughter) “But
I know of a good nurse, a good mid-wife nurse and she’ll take
you.” And she took, she found a bit of a paper napkin and
down the midwife’s telephone number. Well
that’s the kind of thing that could happen. The
students really got a taste of what it was like.
Zhang: You served as Dean of the Chapel and you’re in charge of the weddings. So I understand you have married more than five hundred people over two decades. So how’s that like in addition to your Sunday service? You must’ve had a very busy weekend.
Wettstein: Oh yeah, the weekends were busy. And very often we’d have three wedding’s on a Saturday. The chapel is such a beautiful building and it just is so natural for a wedding that we did them again and again. Every young bride in Winter Park and Orlando wanted to be married in that chapel. Well we couldn’t handle that many so what we decided to do is that we’d only make the services available to alumni or faculty and their families. And so, we cut it [the list] down.
Now, the five hundred figure is, I think, a little expanded,
we certainly did have lots of weddings and it gave us good
with these people. We, oh I
guess about fifteen years ago or so, maybe twenty, we set up a
service for the renewal of the vows and invited all the couples
been married in the chapel to come to a chapel service, and we
the renewal of vows in the service and then went out and had
a tent. It was really quite a
splendid occasion so, you know, we
did a lot of marrying and the people still come by and say thank
On Saturday, I will be doing a renewing of the vows
for a couple that has been married twenty-five years.
So that’s an interesting opportunity.