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THOUGHTS ON RUDD CHAPEL
By Mary Frances Rudd Carlson
 
Just days after my father's "Home-going," thoughts began swirling about the fact that the College had outgrown its facilities for holding chapel and other special events.  The alumni headed by Rebecca Peck Hoyt, who was Director of Alumni Affairs, decided to engage as many alumni as possible to contribute to a project that would take care of Bryan's rapidly growing student population.
 
Having been at Bryan since birth and in the beginning, actually living in what is now Mercer Hall, I can't help but think back to what Bryan did in the early days for chapel gatherings.  How well I remember what was probably the first chapel on the first floor of Mercer Hall just down the hall from the old dining room.  I remember being in there numerous times for chapel services, plays, and small musical performances.
 
Then came the historic white Army chapel, which was brought from Tullahoma where General Eisenhower lived and trained troops during World War II.  What a challenge that was to number each piece of lumber and bring the chapel to the top of the hill to be re-constructed, piece by piece, paying attention to the numbers.  It wasn't long before students had a beautiful place for worship with a gorgeous view of the valley and the mountains.
 
But who is still living and remembers the "original" gathering place on the hill, which was a rustic pavilion located near where the first men's dorm was built.  I doubt that it was used during bad-weather months and was probably more for conferences and special events such as a wedding.  I don't remember when the pavilion was torn down.
 
The most special event of all was construction of Rudd Memorial Chapel and its opening dedication night!  There was a real spirit of celebration, and for our Rudd Family Members—Daddy's cherished first cousins and his great aunt Lettie (90 years plus), who had traveled from California after serving for years as a missionary in China and the Philippines.  Little did we realize that from that large event, all of those people are gone now except for me and for one cousin in Dallas.
 
Highlights of that first night were the words spoken by former "Dean" Dwight Ryther, who had always been by Daddy's side except for a brief time serving in WWII and Cliff Barrows, who had always been by the side of the beloved evangelist, Billy Graham.  Music on the first organ was special and was provided by a member of the Billy Graham Team.  This was an evening I will never forget although I had been privileged to attend numerous other events there and still remember certain students and faculty who made that place a majestic building for worship and praise.
 
All of these meeting places (chapels) have seen God's Word proclaimed by numerous leaders of the faith, but there have been humorous moments, too—like the time that my father was praying in chapel and prayed for the seniors who were preparing to leave for their annual senior sneak.  The "sneak" was a secret no more!  Another time a student went to sleep while my father was speaking, and his seatmate punched him and told him that Dr. Rudd had just called on him to pray.  The "sleeper" stood up and prayed in the middle of chapel!  Who can't relate stories like that, which would relieve some of the stress associated with a typical college day in the academic and spiritual world!
 
As others recount their special memories, may God be the Glory for all the great things He has done!

I was conducting Messiah by Handel in the spring of 2003 with a large Bryan Chorale, with orchestra and soloists.  There was a large audience for this and everything was going very well.  The weather outside increasingly got more and more stormy.  Just before the "Hallelujah Chorus" finale, we sang "Since by Man Came Death," which starts in a very dark and slow style.  It then suddenly raises the mood to a loud downbeat for the timpani followed immediately with the text "by man came also the resurrection of the dead!"  At that very point a very loud clap of thunder synchronized with the timpani.  It startled everyone, but certainly made the music and message that much more effective.  It was as if God Himself wanted to create his sound to make the resurrection more powerful than expected.

~ David Luther, Professor of Music


In the early 1990's, Melissa Lay, mezzo-soprano music major, was on stage singing in a production of Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado. Suddenly three bats, disoriented by the spotlight, swarmed the stage in erratic circles, yet Melissa was able to finish her solo and maintain composure. At intermission, the houselights went up, and the bats, sensing "daylight," landed on the wall near the stage. To the rescue, MK Trevor Boot fetched his pellet rifle. Drawing on his experience in the Brazilian jungles, he perched on the balcony and took out the bats one by one to the cheers of the audience. It was a most unusual intermission entertainment!

~ Sigrid Luther, Professor of Music


One of my more unusual Rudd memories happened several years ago during an honors chapel where we acknowledge students who have excelled academically and demonstrated exemplary Christian character. This is known as a dignified academic occasion that we annually hold in Rudd. Unbeknown to any of us, the Bryan Phantom was lurking in the wings of the stage; and a net loaded with mini bouncy balls was hidden in the lights high above the stage. The release of the balls was set for when I gave the President's awards; but fortunately for me, the trip device did not activate properly and the program proceeded as scheduled. That is until Dr. Scott Jones, Professor of Christian Ministries, came to the podium to present his department's award to Bailey Payne. As Dr. Jones announced Bailey's name, the Bryan Phantom, cape and all, came running across the stage at the same time that the bouncy balls descended from the heavens on Dr. Jones. As the audience responded with gasps and laughter, Dr. Jones, totally un-phased and calm, told us as the balls bounced all around him that he had young children at home and was used to pranks. So thanks to the Bryan Phantom and the trigger device finally kicking in, many of us left our dignified academic event with an image of the Bryan Phantom in our minds and a souvenir bouncy ball in our pockets.

~ Stephen Livesay, President


There are two memories I would like to share. One was when I got to serve on the props committee my senior year for the performance of Oklahoma! by the Hilltop Players. It was lots of fun! My second memory was playing hide-and-seek in Rudd with my friends. Lots of great places to hide!
 

~Lori DeBoer VanDerScheer ('88)
 


My favorite memory of Rudd Auditorium took place on August 29, 1986: It was the night I met my husband at the President's Reception. At this event Freshmen were paired with Sophomores on a sort of "blind date" in order for the Freshmen to get to know people on campus. I was not paired with my husband, but I sat next to him during the Fine Arts performance. He and my date, Matt Asbury, were good friends and the three of us were talking and joking all evening. The next day Dan followed me all around the All College Picnic and eventually we began dating. Here we are, 25 years and two sons later still going strong – and all because of Bryan!

~Jamie Jewell Harrington ('90)
 


Besides the amazing chapels we were privileged to enjoy throughout the week, I have a great memory – I think it happened towards the end of my junior year. We came in and found the stage covered with a home made pool full of fish! It was quite the feat of creativity for such a prank!

~Rachel Crumpler Williams ('98)
 


My favorite memory occurred in the late 80's. During chapel some of the guys let go some mice they had purchased at a pet store. It was hilarious to watch people react and know exactly where the mice were. Those of us who were there have talked about it ever since!
 

~Kim Esuchanko Rhodes ('89)
 


I have the same memory as Dr. Luther. I was standing behind the curtain off stage in fear and amazement as the bats swooped around Melissa. I feared that one would attack her and I was amazed at how she maintained her wits and sang her solo to the end. It was an experience that I will always remember!
 

~Julie Runner ('93)
 


David Stearns, a student in the class of 1955, received a call from his father that his mother had passed away and he wanted to get home for her funeral. He had no car and needed transportation to Knoxville to catch a plane to New York City close to his home town in Verona, N. J. Dr. Rudd heard about his plight, and came up with the idea of having a student use his car to drive David to the airport. The person Dr. Rudd had in mind was Paul Marsteller, a fellow senior student. He asked Paul if he would take time from class to get David there on time. Paul agreed to do it but was a little surprised that the president would put enough confidence in him to take the president’s car and a fellow student and drive to Knoxville more than 80 miles away. Of course Paul agreed and left almost immediately for the airport. This is typical of Dr. Rudd looking after the welfare of the students even when it involved his time away from his already busy schedule and money out of his pocket.

Another memory I have took place on a cold winter evening the steam boiler that supplied the heat for the Administration building (now called Mercer Hall), developed a serious problem and had to be shut down to receive some major repairs. Dr. Rudd, president of the college, not wanting the students to come to classes in the morning in a cold unheated building sprang into action. He went to work with some help from a couple of students and worked through the night to do the needed repairs to the steam boiler. He was successful in getting the repairs completed and was able to fire up the boiler and get a head of steam for the eight o'clock classes. The building had heat in the morning and most students were not aware of the all-night toil of the president until chapel time when word spread about what had taken place the night before. 

~Paul Marsteller ('54)
 



As Lori ('88) mentioned, "Sardines" and Hide-and-Seek games were great fun when played in Rudd and created wonderful memories with college friends! But my favorite memories of time spent in Rudd were of time spent in Ruth Bartlett's office upstairs in the balcony during voice lessons and downstairs in the Choir Room rehearsing with the Chorale. One of the funniest memories I have in Rudd came during a performance on stage. Because I am rather short of stature, I always stood on the front row and at the end when I sang with the Chorale. At the end of a particularly exuberant song we had to hold a "big note." As I sang the last word and thrust open my mouth fully to hold the note, the top plate of my false teeth flew out of my mouth along with the note! I threw out my hand and tried as inconspicuously as possible to catch the teeth. Thankfully I grabbed them before someone on the front row ended up with a surprise in their lap!


~Kimberle Crowe-Tuttle ('84)