Biography and History

The religious interests of members of the University are served through the offices of the Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel. In the college's early history, religious programs at the University were supervised by the president; by the 1890s the Philadelphian Society, a student organization, took over some of this responsibility. In 1928 the university completed its new chapel and centered all responsibility for campus religious life in the new position of Dean of the Chapel. Six people have served in this position: the Reverend Dr. Robert Russell Wicks (1928-1947), the Right Reverend Donald B. Aldrich (1947-1955), the Reverend Ernest Gordon (1955-1981), the Reverend Frederick H. Borsch (1981-1988), the Reverend Sue Anne Steffey Morrow (Acting Dean, 1988-1989), and the Reverend Dr. Joseph C. Williamson (1989-present).

As a form of public worship, chapel played an integral role in the early history of the University. Daily services, dating back to the founding of the college, were conducted by administration and faculty members, in private homes and i n Nassau Hall. In 1847, the first chapel building was erected, later replaced by the larger Marquand Chapel in 1882. After Marquand Chapel was destroyed by fire in 1920, worship services were held in Alexander Hall until the current building, known as the University Chapel, was completed in 1928. For much of the University's history, students were required to attend chapel; juniors and seniors were released from this requirement in 1935, sophomores in the 1950s, and freshman in 1964.

Staff members of the Office of the Religious Life and Chapel work with chaplains of particular denominations and faiths on a variety of activities. Student religious organizations are associated with the Religious Life and Chapel program. For further information about the program, researchers should contact the Office of the Dean of Religious Life.

Source: From the finding aid for AC144

  • Office of the Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel Records. 1906-2015 (inclusive), 1920-1981 (bulk).

    Call Number: AC144

    The religious interests of members of the University are served through the offices of the Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel, which work with chaplains of different denominations and faiths on a variety of activities. The Dean of the Chapel records document the activities of the Office and the Chapel and include former dean files, historical material, minutes, and marriage, birth, baptism, and death records as well as adminsitrative files and programs of services and concerts.