The University of Richmond is currently working on a $2 million renovation of Henry M. Cannon Memorial Chapel. The work has altered several on-campus events, including forcing Proclamation Night to be rescheduled for Nov. 10.
The primary need for the renovation is because of water damage, said the Rev. Craig Kocher, university chaplain. The chapel was built in 1927 as a gift from the Cannon family. Kocher said that because of the building’s age, water has seeped into the chapel. The renovations will place the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system under the floor of the chapel. This will allow the chapel to be heated and cooled more easily and will make for easier management of moisture to prevent further damage.
Additionally, Paul Lozo, assistant director of operations and management at university facilities, said the exterior masonry was being renovated because of the age of the building. The exterior of the windows are being painted, the flat roofs are being replaced and all the windows are being resealed.
Lozo said the project began in mid-April and is scheduled to be finished by the end of October. He said everything was on schedule for now. Robert Sheperd, the project manager for construction and architecture at university facilities, said the mechanical system was almost done, the plaster and paint were 50 percent done and the exterior changes were 70 percent done.
For the duration of the renovation, the chapel has been taken “off-line,” so it is not available for weddings, church services or other events. As a result, Proclamation Night, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 22, has been pushed back to Nov. 10.
Proclamation Night is the traditional event at which the freshmen women sign the honor code. The senior women participate as well, in celebration of their time in Westhampton College.
The decision to push back the date of Proclamation Night was made by Dean of Westhampton College Juliette Landphair, Chair of the Westhampton College Honor Council Sarah Roden, Special Projects Chair of Honor Council Shelly Holland and senior class President Caraline Mikkelsen.
Landphair said the decision had been a result of having no other choice. Last year, Proclamation Night was held in the Robins Center because of the size of the senior class. The Robins Center is also being renovated, so that was not an option this year. Roden said that the Robins Center and the chapel were the only two venues on campus that could hold more than 800 people, which is necessary for Proclamation Night. She said the group had considered holding the event off-campus, but they thought that would make the event less accessible.
“I do think especially for first-years it will be a little bit of a different experience,” Landphair said, “but it’s hard to know in what ways until we actually do it.”
She said the ritualistic aspect of the night would remain the same, but she will shape her remarks around knowing the two groups are at different stages of their year. Although it is not a long span of time, students are at very different points in late September and November, she said.
Landphair said she was thrilled to be going back to the chapel, because that venue is “just so special.”
Holland said it was important to keep the event in the chapel to keep the ceremony largely the same. “In no way do I think the date will alter the experience in a negative way,” she said. “I truly believe that waiting to have it in the chapel, or at least on campus, is one of the pivotal aspects of the experience.”
Louisa Boliver, a freshman who has an older sister, Charlotte, in the senior class, said she thought the night was meant “to welcome the first years and begin the farewell to the seniors.”
“I guess they probably have a valid reason for changing the date but September seems more appropriate to me,” Boliver said.
Freshmen Jackie Arnold and Holly Speck had limited knowledge of the event, so they said they were not bothered by the decision.
“I had heard that it was supposed to be earlier and it was moved back,” Arnold said, “but since I don’t know what it is I don’t really mind.”
Speck said, “I think it’s kind of weird that the boys’ equal to Proclamation Night is still earlier and the girls’ is in November.”
Roden said the later date will probably impact what the freshmen women write in their letters to themselves. These letters are returned to the women when they attend Proclamation Night as seniors. Roden said she doesn’t think her senior class’s experience will be significantly altered.
“Maybe by November I won’t be having a minor panic attack every time I have to admit that this is my last year here,” she said, “but I will be just as curious to read my letter.”
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