Standing the Test of Time
For the past several generations of university of Central Missouri students, it has always been present as a key part of the campus landscape. Known as the Alumni Chapel, the Alumni Memorial Chapel, or just "the chapel," it has, with a quiet dignity befitting its purpose, served the campus and community in a multitude of roles.
For the many couples who have begun their married lives there, it is a place to be revisited on anniversaries. For some, it is a place of quiet solitude and contemplation. But to all, it stands in testament to the sacrifices that many of our alumni have made defending freedom.
The idea of a campus chapel became a reality on Nov. 2, 1944, during a meeting in of the Central Missouri State Teachers College alumni association in Kansas City. Dr. Drummond Rucker, vice president of the alumni association, made the motion to pass a resolution to build a "fitting memorial to the memory of those who have served, fought and died in World War II."
It would be 15 years before the chapel was completed. During that time, a great number of dedicated faculty members, alumni and friends of the college would raise more than $150,000 in private funds, with planning and celebration at all phases of the project. State funds could not be used for the project, so fundraising began in earnest. Emmett Ellis, professor of economics, chaired the general committee, made up of faculty, alumni and community members, and alumnus Earl A. Webb, Sr. chaired the fundraising effort.
The initial cost of the project was estimated at $60,000, but that cost had risen to nearly $150,000 by the time the chapel was completed. In a letter to potential donors, Perry McCandless, professor of history and member of the fundraising committee, outlined what could be achieved by donations of different amounts. For a donation of $5,000, the chapel library could be built and furnished. The stained glass windows could be funded at $250 per panel, the entrance doors could be funded at a cost of $500, and the library fireplace could become a reality for a donation of $400. Hymnals could be purchased for a donation of $100 for 25 books, or donors could purchase a "construction unit" for $50.
A site on what was then the southwest corner of the main campus was selected for the chapel. The site was dedicated in ceremonies on Oct. 21, 1954, during Religious Studies Week on campus.
In her speech during the ceremony, Mrs. J. Howard Hart, a 1910 alumna of Normal School No. 2 and member of the college's Board of Regents, noted that "the chapel will not stand merely as a church, nor be planned simply as a memorial. Rather, it is the plan and hope of all interested persons that this chapel will be the source and inspiration for the development of a broad and dynamic program in the field of good human relations."
T. Rawleigh Gaines, left, seals the box that will be placed in the cornerstone of the Alumni Memorial Chapel. Watching are fellow committee members, left to right, Emmett Ellis, Monia Morris, Irl A. Gladfelter, Gertrude Hosey and Rolla F. Wood.
"The Student," the campus newspaper, reported on March 26, 1956, that plans had been finalized for the chapel and approved by the Board of Regents. The new chapel would be built of sandstone to match the current campus buildings. It also was announced that a gift of $10,000 from St. Louis philanthropist William H. Danforth would fund the construction of a small prayer chapel on the east side of the structure.
In May of the same year, the board authorized bids for construction, and George Stump of Warrensburg was named the general contractor. A sealed metal box was filled with 23 items and placed in the cornerstone during a special cornerstone ceremony on Oct. 2, 1956.
Work progressed steadily throughout the summer and fall, and on Feb. 20, 1957, "The Student" ran a front page photo of students Edell Schaefer and Ken Buhlig examining construction progress. Their interest was more than casual. They had selected their wedding date of May 19, 1957, and they would be the first couple to be married in the chapel after its completion and dedication on May 9, 1957.