Place Setting: Opening Convo

Place Setting: opening convo Skinner Memorial Chapel is one of Carleton’s most beloved buildings, hosting not only the weekly convocation series but also concerts, presentations, worship services, and memorial gatherings. Students use the downstairs rooms for meditation, rehearsals, small-group discussions, and even a weekly folk song sing-along. The chapel also is a favorite venue for alumni weddings, Reunion, and summer academic programs.

The chapel was designed by Patton, Holmes, and Flinn, the Chicago architectural firm that designed Scoville Hall and all of Carleton’s collegiate Gothic buildings. It was named in honor of Miron Skinner, a trustee of the College from its founding until his death in 1909, and was funded with a gift from his widow, Emily Willey Skinner. After 17 months of construction, the chapel was dedicated on October 8, 1916, as part of Carleton’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Ninety-five years later, another celebratory crowd filled the chapel to capacity during the 2011–12 academic year’s Opening Convocation.

  1. Academic procession: Each year, faculty members process into the chapel for Opening and Honors Convocations and Commencement. The colors of the gowns may indicate the school from which the wearer graduated.
  2. John Schott: As the Carleton faculty member who has held the rank of professor for the longest time, Schott, the James Woodward Strong Professor of the Liberal Arts, is the current College marshal. He carries the Carleton mace, which was designed by art professor and longtime College marshal Alfred Hyslop, who donated it to Carleton upon his retirement in 1963.
  3. Steven Poskanzer: Participating in his second Opening Convocation as Carleton’s 11th president, President Poskanzer wears the College medallion, which was created by art professor Timothy Lloyd in 1987 for the inauguration of President Stephen Lewis.
  4. Rush Holt ’70: President Poskanzer chose Holt—a Democrat from New Jersey and the only research physicist in the U.S. House of Representatives—to deliver the Opening Convocation address. Holt spoke about how his science background and Carleton education help him solve political problems.
  5. Audience: Approximately 400 students, faculty and staff members, and Northfield residents gather in the chapel each week for convocation, although attendance is higher at Opening and Honors Convocations.
  6. Bubble Brigade: Members of the senior class blow bubbles from the balcony onto processing faculty members—a tradition that began in 1970 at President Howard Swearer’s inauguration.
  7. Front entrance: Because her husband was devoted to both the College and the town, Emily Skinner requested that the chapel be built with its main entrance facing south as a symbol of the cordial relationship between Carleton and Northfield.
  8. Tudor arches: Designed according to the English late-Gothic architectural style that flourished in the 14th to 16th centuries, the chapel is modeled after a small parish church, not a great cathedral. The late-Gothic style introduced these four-centered Tudor arches, which are much wider than they are tall.
  9. Bedford stone: Costing $135,000 to build, the chapel is constructed out of Bedford stone, a high-end limestone quarried in Indiana that also was used in the construction of the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, and Yankee Stadium. In 2010, the stonework on the chapel’s front façade and tower interior was cleaned and tuck-pointed.
  10. Stained glass windows: When the original leaded stained glass windows were damaged in a hailstorm on June 20, 1968, the Minneapolis Art and Church Glass Company used samples of the broken glass to create new windows that matched the old ones. The company’s one glass painter spent almost seven months working on the new panes, which were installed in January 1969.
  11. Banners: Designed by Elizabeth Barrett Hunter ’41, the banners were intended to add color to the chapel nave with images suggesting the daily rhythms of light and darkness. Hunter and other local women sewed the banners and appliquéd and embroidered them by hand. The Class of 1941’s reunion gift and an anonymous donor funded the project, and the banners were installed in May 1982.

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