LWC Community Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Begley Chapel

COLUMBIA, KY. -- Twenty years ago on a bright autumn day, the Lindsey Wilson College community gathered to dedicate a new building on the A.P. White Campus. That ceremony, held on Oct. 10, 1997, marked the official opening of the John B. Begley Chapel.  

On Wed., Oct. 18, members of the LWC community gathered again to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a building that has become the symbol of the mission and values of the methodist-affiliated college.

“Some events, that may not seem so significant in the natural, are of great significance in the supernatural,” LWC Dean of the Chapel Rev. Terry Swan said during the 20th anniversary service. “Twenty years ago we dedicated this building to honor the glory of God, standing in these same places. It went on to be the symbol of our school. Twenty years later, we have lost count of the number of worship services, weddings, all night prayer meetings, lectures, and the number of individuals who just come into this peaceful place and draw closer to God.”

The anniversary chapel service was held on the lawn next to the L.R. McDonald Administration Building, directly in front of the entrance to the chapel -- the same location of the dedication ceremony held more than 20 years ago.

“It is a beautiful and unusual, symmetrical work of architecture that captures your eyes from the outside. Then if you walk on the inside, you find out there are no windows -- so it raises your gaze up to the heavens so that you can look to God,” said Swan.

Throughout LWC’s history, college leaders talked about plans to build a chapel, but the commitment to do it was not made until the mid-1990s when two anonymous donors pledged money to build the Begley Chapel.

The $2 million chapel was the first building placed on the LWC A.P. White Campus whose sole purpose was worship.

“Let us never get to used to it, for we know that God is in our midst as we go about here daily transforming lives at Lindsey Wilson College.”

The keynote speaker was LWC Chancellor John B. Begley who served as the sixth president of Lindsey Wilson from 1977-1997.

“There are lots of chapels and worship centers on college and university campuses,”said Begley. “But I submit to you that you will not find a chapel or worship center on any college or university campus with a more compelling purpose than that of the Begley Chapel.”   

The John B. Begley Chapel is named in Begley’s honor.

“Having this building named in honor of me was far more than I desired and more than I deserved,” Begley said. “But it means more to me than I could ever explain.”

The chapel was designed by the late world-renowned architect E. Fay Jones. Jones, a disciple of the legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who was widely regarded to be one of the world's leading chapel architects.

Begley’s message titled, “You Can Move Mountains,” speaks to the situation Begley found the college in during his first year as president in 1977.

“I knew that Lindsey Wilson College had mountains that needed to be moved,” Begley said. “We only had 381 full-time students enrolled, 100 of which were high school students taking one course. Our total annual operating budget was only $600,000, one of the lowest in the country. The buildings and grounds were in deplorable condition. We were a college that many people thought would not survive.”

Since then, the college’s enrollment has increased by more than 5 times and the budget has increased by more than a hundredfold. However, Begley says that there are always mountains that will need to be moved.

“Although the mountains are different today, there are still mountains that need to be removed,” Begley said. “That is the world of higher education everywhere. And for what it’s worth, most of us here today have some mountains we face as individuals that need to be moved.”

LWC was founded in 1903 to serve as a training school for Vanderbilt (Tenn.) University, which was then affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Today, full-time enrollment for the 2017-18 school year stands at 2,483 students with nearly 1,100 students living on campus and 107 full-time faculty teaching classes in 26 locations across Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. Lindsey Wilson College offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate level degrees.