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Chapel House reopens after renovations

November 9, 2016
Vassar professor Nicholas Adams delivers lecture at podium in the Chapel House Sanctuary

Taking the long view of Chapel House history with Vassar’s Nicholas Adams (Photo by Nick Gilbert ’18)

Colgate’s Chapel House is at once an architectural novelty and a sanctuary. Beneath the flat roof, behind the 1950s abstracted formalism, you’ll see rare works of religious art and books on world religion; you’ll find a dining room, music room, and living quarters. In silence and meditation, you can lose yourself or find yourself at Chapel House, depending on your objective.

An anonymous gift, made by a woman nearly 60 years ago, created this unique retreat as a place where people of faith — or people of no faith — could seek out religious insights and spiritual nourishment. Colgate reaffirmed this mission last week, celebrating the completion of renovations that make the facility more sustainable and accessible.

In keeping with the space itself, the reopening ceremony was far from ordinary. It featured welcoming thanks from Chapel House Director Steven Kepnes and introductory remarks from President Brian Casey. Japanese Zen master Jeff Shore spoke passionately about Chapel House’s reach across oceans and generations.

Vassar College art professor Nicholas Adams guided students, faculty, alumni, and friends on an intellectual tour through the house’s physical, philanthropic, and religious heritage. He noted the various buildings that inspired architect Walter Severinghaus — like Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and Marcel Breuer’s McComb House.

Adams also highlighted the deep-seated commitment to religious exploration that moved “the lady” to fund the project, as proposed by Ken Morgan, Colgate religion professor and first director of Chapel House. Citing Morgan’s own writings, Adams said:

“Spurred by [her] largesse, Morgan put together a proposal for ‘a small building where a seeker could study how the religious beliefs and practices in all traditions have been presented in books, in recordings of religious music, and in reproductions and originals of religious arts.’ It would be, ‘a place welcoming seekers … who wanted to know more about the religious paths followed by other seekers; about their personal devotional rituals, chanting, prayers, meditation, and what they have read.’ The lady offered Morgan $600,000 for his meditation center and had two requests: her name ‘was never to be mentioned, and she must approve the architectural plans.’”

Charles Hallisey ’75, now the Yehan Numata Senior Lecturer on Buddhist literatures at Harvard Divinity School, reminisced about life as a student working in Chapel House. Hallisey’s undergraduate experience was shaped by the building and the ethos of those who ran it — including legendary faculty members like Morgan and John Ross Carter, the second director of Chapel House. The lady reportedly believed that her project would be worth the money if even one person found meaning in Chapel House. “I am that one person,” Hallisey said.

“Our anonymous benefactor could have no idea that she was creating a rare oasis of peace in a continuously connected world,” Casey said. “Her original intent still resonates and serves as the primary focus of this beautifully designed, carefully restored home. But the impact of her generosity has expanded with the decline of silence and solitude in our society.”

For more details on Chapel House, including information on making overnight reservations, visit colgate.edu/chapelhouse.

Questions a religion major gets asked

February 15, 2016

Exploring the intersection of MoMA’s print and digital marketing

June 8, 2015
Lauren Casella '15 at MoMA, where she is interning for the summer

Lauren Casella ’16 at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, where she is interning for the summer

Editor’s note: This blog post is the first in a series written by students about their summer experiences.

Last week, I started my internship in New York City, working for the marketing department at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Housing collections of architecture, design, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and film, MoMA is regarded as one of the most influential modern art museums in the world. Read more

Professor and chaplain Coleman Brown, a trusted moral voice on campus, passes away

December 17, 2014
Coleman Brown

Coleman Barr Brown

Coleman Barr Brown, professor of philosophy and religion and university chaplain, emeritus, died December 14 at the age of 80.

Brown joined the Colgate faculty in 1970 as an instructor in philosophy and religion.  He also served as university chaplain from 1974 to 1989, when he turned to full-time teaching, and assumed the responsibilities of his new appointment as associate professor for the study of education and ethics.
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Professors lead “Atheism and Other Theisms” workshop for local teachers

August 7, 2014
Professor Patrick Riley leads a humanities worksop in the Case-Geyer Library for local high school teachers. Photo by Andrew Daddio

Professor Patrick Riley leads an arts and humanities workshop for local high school teachers. Photo by Andrew Daddio

Fill a room with teachers, hand them philosophical texts and pose centuries-old questions about the nature of spirituality and religion, and the conversation is bound to get interesting. Read more

Colgate faculty members to take an interdisciplinary walk on the Camino de Santiago

May 19, 2014
The El Camino de Santiago walkers

The El Camino de Santiago walkers

Colgate faculty members will join together to walk the Camino de Santiago, the route to the shrine of the apostle St. James who is said to be buried in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

The interdisciplinary experience is made possible through the Kallgren Fund, an endowed fund created to support faculty members at Colgate.

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Examining the history of the Holocaust through art

February 25, 2014
Gabriella Nikolic

Figure 4 from the One Day, One Woman, One Child exhibition

Striking images of Holocaust victims overlaid with paint and text stare back at viewers as they encounter the pieces in the exhibition One Day, One Woman, One Child — which will be in the Longyear Museum of Anthropology until this Friday.  Read more

Kelsey Jensen ’14 spends three weeks with Colgate team studying forests in Ethiopia

February 13, 2014
Kelsey Jensen '14 (center), with Josh Hair '14 and Professor Carrie Woods, traveled to Ethiopia during winter break.

Kelsey Jensen ’14 (center), with Josh Hair ’14 and Professor Carrie Woods, traveled to Ethiopia during winter break.

(Editor’s Note: This post is by Kelsey Jensen ’14, a chemistry major from Williston, Vt. See more photos and read about her daily experiences in Ethiopia at her personal blog.)

During winter break I discovered that working on an interdisciplinary research project in a foreign country is one of the most interesting ways to learn about a new culture.

Research that combines natural science, social science, and humanities is rare to find, but Colgate is a university where collaborations like this happen, and I was lucky enough to get involved. Using the Alumni Memorial Scholarship granted to me upon admission, I spent three weeks of my winter break in Ethiopia working with Professors Catherine Cardelus and Carrie Woods from the Department of Biology, Peter Klepeis and Peter Scull from the Department of Geography, and Eliza Kent from the Department of Religion, studying the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Forests.

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Colgate student shares 13 photos from inspiring trip with classmates to Italy

January 15, 2014

(Editor’s note: Morgan Higgins ’16, of Staten Island, N.Y., who plans on a double major in religion and English, shares 13 photos from a Colgate Newman Community winter break trip to Italy. Higgins was one of 10 students who participated in the trip organized by university chaplain Mark Shiner.)


A group photo (excluding three), from the top of Assisi by the castle. Read more

Steven Kepnes announced as new director of Chapel House

October 23, 2013
Steven Kepnes

Steven Kepnes is the new director of Chapel House and director of the Fund for the Study of the Great Religions.

Provost and Dean of the Faculty Douglas Hicks named Steven Kepnes the new director of Chapel House and director of the Fund for the Study of the Great Religions.

“Steven has been serving in an interim capacity in these roles since July 1, and I am grateful to him for his willingness to take on this good work in a more permanent way,” said Hicks.

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Up in the air and out on the street: Beyond Colgate trips enhance learning

February 1, 2013

The flight over Central New York for geology students was funded by Beyond Colgate.

Five hundred feet above the ground. A street corner in Harlem. These are just two of the many places “Beyond Colgate” that students have been in recent weeks.

The program, jointly funded by the university and Colgate alumni, enables students to apply classroom material to situations and locations beyond campus boundaries. Each semester, about a dozen such trips are supported. Read more

Longtime faculty member Donald L. Berry, who introduced Holocaust course, dies

January 17, 2013
Donald L. Berry

Donald L. Berry retired from Colgate in 1994 after having started his career teaching in the Department of Philosophy and Religion in 1957. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

Donald L. Berry, Harry Emerson Fosdick Professor of philosophy and religion emeritus, who introduced one of the nation’s first college courses to explore the implications of the Holocaust for Jewish and Christian theology, passed away on Tuesday, January 15, at home in Hamilton, N.Y. He was 87 years old.

Berry, who retired from the Colgate faculty in 1994, began his career at Colgate in 1957 as a member of the Department of Philosophy and Religion and served as associate university chaplain until 1964, when he began teaching full time. He taught a wide range of courses, especially New Testament and Contemporary Theology, as well as in the General Education Program, instituting the Holocaust course in 1970. Read more

Dispatch from Israel

January 7, 2013
Colgate University extended study to Israel

Israel extended study participants are seen on a day trip to Beit Guvrin.

Colgate students taking The Land of Israel extended study course visited historic Beit Guvrin, January 3. Students participated in an archaeological dig, toured the site, and took part in a study session about the Bar Kochba revolt. The group is led by Steven Kepnes, Murray W. and Mildred K. Finard professor in Jewish studies and religion.

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Destinations Egypt and Israel

December 26, 2012

Past extended study courses have included travel to Uganda.

Students in extended study courses left for Israel and Egypt this week to further explore concepts developed in their classrooms during the fall semester at Colgate.

Both courses, Living Egypt and The Land of Israel, focus on deep historical understanding of culture in the respective countries, and how the past has influenced where each nation is today.

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Colgate receives $700,000 Mellon grant to fund new Sophomore Residential Seminars

December 17, 2012
David Dudrick,  associate professor of philosophy and director of the new Mellon Sophomore Residential Seminars program, will teach Existentialism in Drake Hall.

David Dudrick,  associate professor of philosophy and director of the new Mellon Sophomore Residential Seminars program, will teach Existentialism in Drake Hall. A week-long academic travel experience to Paris is part of the course.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $700,000 grant to Colgate for use over four years, to support a new program of Mellon Sophomore Residential Seminars.

The initiative will create a series of courses — to be offered every year for a substantial number of sophomores — in which students will live and study together, meet regularly with the seminar professors and guest speakers in their designated residence hall, and engage in an embedded academic travel experience related to the course. Each spring, all Mellon seminar students will continue the dialog with a one-quarter-credit course with their professor. Read more

Students collaborate with faculty on summer research

July 30, 2012

At Colgate University, faculty teach all classes. The advantage of that for students becomes clear when it comes to research. Faculty in all departments and programs closely engage students in research projects – sometimes as early as sophomore year.

This summer, more than 100 undergraduates returned to Colgate to work one-on-one with faculty mentors on scholarly projects in all disciplines.

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Student research delves into religious communities

July 26, 2012
The upper balcony of the Tabernacle Baptist Church

The upper balcony of the Tabernacle Baptist Church

On a hot afternoon in July, young children are sifting through clothing, household items, food, and toiletries in the Caring Corner at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Utica. Their families, mostly Karen refugees from Burma, are the newest, but largest, percentage of the church’s congregation.

“Because the kids are the ones who speak English, many of them do the shopping for their families,” explained Nathan Lynch ’14. “The church converted their balcony into a store to give out supplies to the refugees because food stamps only go so far; plus, they can’t buy non-edibles with them.”

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Here is the week that was in the news

February 21, 2012

Last week was a busy week at Colgate University. While this is a mini-highlight of what was making news, you can skip this post and go right to comments to tell us your news from the past week. Here are just some of the things we were talking about:

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Kenneth W. Morgan, 103, helped create Chapel House

January 6, 2012

Kenneth William Morgan, professor of religion emeritus who helped establish Chapel House, died recently at the age of 103.

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Interfaith competency begins in year one

October 28, 2011

Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, packed Memorial Chapel with people eager to hear his inspiring message: that young people are the key to building religious cooperation and interfaith leadership.

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