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The Class of the Chapel

Photo courtesy of Joe Bell.

“And so we come to June, when the booming organ will send us down the red carpet, through the groups o family and friends, to the unexplored avenues of the future. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we have one bright white, shining thing in common. We are the Class of the Chapel.”
—Melinda Mauck Capp ’65

No one disputes the Class of 1965’s claim even though, as Capp recalls, “some of the graduation ceremonies for the class ahead of us occurred in the practically completed structure.”

But Norton Chapel was dedicated Oct. 10, 1964, some four months after the Class of 1964 had started down its “unexplored avenue of the future.”

The Chapel, which carries the name of former Keuka College President Arthur Norton, was the site of two major events in Rev. Elizabeth (Betsy) Conklin Bueschel’s life: her college graduation in 1965 and wedding just a week later.

Betsy ’65 and David Beuschel were one of the first couples to be married in the Chapel. “We chose the Chapel because Keuka was an important part of my family,” said the Board of Trustees member. “My mother attended Keuka for a year. My father was a Baptist minister and we’d come to campus every summer for Baptist conferences.”

In announcing the dedication of Norton Chapel and the Lucretia Davis Jephson Christian Education Center in September 1964, College President William Litterick said a dream of friends and patrons of the College has been the establishment of a permanent sanctuary for worship and meditation.

There was some concern about the location of the building, according to Beuschel.

“A lot us weren’t pleased with the idea of the Chapel being built on the main path to the lake,” said Beuschel.

“When the idea was first brought to light, the fact that they were going to block the view of the lake was amazing.”

However, at that time, the chapel was located in Hegeman Hall and the idea of having a freestanding chapel on campus was very appealing. More than 1,200 donors contributed $640,000 to the Norton Chapel Campaign.

Keuka used to offer a major in Christian education and the lower level of the Chapel once housed instructional facilities for the Department of Religion and Christian Education.

“Part of the plan to build the Chapel was to provide space for classrooms for Christian education and other religious education, including Bible study,” explained Beuschel.

Although the major is no longer a part of the College’s curriculum, Beuchel believes the Chapel “has become a focal point for not only the College, but the lake community as well. It is an important symbol. It holds many things in terms of the sacred.”

It holds many things in terms of the Class of 1965 as well.

In a piece for the 1965 edition of the Kiondaga (yearbook), Capp wrote: “By the end of our freshman year we had… seen the rough sketches of the chapel. Sophomore year… the chapel was rapidly becoming part of us. Junior year… the chapel had its first visible fruition as the walls and roof beams towered over the hole in the ground. Senior year brings us to the top and the chapel to completion. Just as we are now dedicated to life ahead, so the chapel is mounted securely in future service.”

– Gretchen Parsells for Keuka magazine.