An element of WKU history has returned to the Hill as about 200 people witnessed the May 7 dedication of the Chandler Memorial Chapel.
Built entirely with private funds, this $1.8 million facility was made possible by gifts from 90 individual donors, and an additional $300,000 was raised for enhancements and endowment to support maintenance and preservation.
WKU President Gary Ransdell said many people have remarked about the University’s early history when founding president Henry Hardin Cherry held daily chapel services in Van Meter Auditorium. Those services had a lasting impact on students, he said.
“Now we have a place of faith, solitude and contemplation for people of all religions or those who claim no religion,” Dr. Ransdell said. He said the Chandler Memorial Chapel will be a place where people can celebrate the most special, or the most tragic, times of their lives.
This non-denominational chapel, announced during the 2008 Homecoming celebration, is located on College Heights Boulevard, adjacent to the Craig Alumni Center.
“As we transform this campus, I’ve observed that there’s a missing element in our first 100 years and that is a place in which our faculty, staff, students and alumni can express their faith or reflect on their thoughts,” Dr. Ransdell said. “For some time now it has been my intention to help bring about that place on our campus—a place for peace, solitude, and private expressions in a completely non-denominational manner where every person is embraced. Those who just seek solitude and inspiration without religious context can find comfort in this place.”
David Chandler of Bowling Green, who made a lead gift to begin the program, said the Chapel will add an important element to WKU. “It’s an honor to be a small part of Dr. Ransdell’s vision for a chapel on the WKU campus. My hope is the chapel will provide a place of solitude for faculty, staff and student body to worship and practice their faith.”
While Chandler praised the architects and the committee for polished limestone, glass and finished wood structure, he said the Chapel was more than the tangible building. “Its intangible beauty is the key element that hopefully will have an impact on generations to come,” he said.
Dr. Ransdell said he “wanted to help create a place where we can come together as a campus community in moments of celebration and tragedy—a place for weddings and special moments but also a place to grieve and console.”
Bob Kirby of Bowling Green has been a key volunteer for the fund-raising initiative and he and his wife, Norma Jean, also made a gift in support of the project.“I see it as a quiet place where students, faculty and anyone else can go and get things off their minds,” he said. “It will be a place of refuge, and the beautiful setting only adds to it.”
George Nichols of Potomac, Md., said he and his wife, C.J., met as students at WKU, and they were pleased to support the chapel project. “When we learned of the project, it was a perfect thing for us to invest in, as it was the church community that played such an important role in our lives as we were growing up,” he said. “That foundation is the bedrock of our family today. For us, being able to be a part of providing a unique place on campus for students to go to practice their faith is a blessing. Also, my mother passed away 11 years ago. Having our family name be a part of the Chapel is also a memorial to her.”
The idea of a chapel is synonymous with WKU’s rich history, dating back to the University’s founding when Dr. Cherry encouraged students to attend a daily chapel service. “In its final analysis, chapel is the place where Western is daily born,” Dr. Cherry asserted, and many students and faculty agreed with him. Chapel was one of the fondest memories that many students carried from the Hill, and their most vivid recollections were often of Dr. Cherry’s own inspirational talks.
A key part of the Chapel is a WKU Columbarium, which will allow WKU alumni and friends to secure a permanent resting place on sacred WKU ground. Several niches are built in the Chapel and adjacent grounds and are being sold. An owner’s ashes will be permanently sealed in an urn in each personally identified niche. Each owner’s name and limited personal information will forever mark the niche. A “Memorial Wall” will also be available to honor benefactors and remember those persons interred elsewhere but who wish to be remembered at WKU.
The WKU Chapel and Columbarium will keep alive Dr. Cherry’s assertion that “The Spirit Makes the Master,” as all in the WKU family will have the opportunity to seek sanctuary and forever rest within the walls or on the grounds of the WKU Chapel.
Benefactors of $25,000 and above include:
David G. Chandler
Carol and Denny Wedge
Cynthia and George Nichols III
Pat and Thomas Gorin
Sodexho Education Facilities Solutions
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas A. Donnelly
Michael and Louise Lynch
Ray Buckberry Family
Bob and Norma Kirby and Family
Kim and Mike Simpson
Islamic Center of Bowling Green
Contact: Tom Hiles, (270) 745-6208.