Wesleyan College and leaders from The United Methodist Church consecrate new Pierce Chapel
Thursday afternoon, April 9, 2015, Wesleyan College held a Consecration service for their new Pierce Chapel. Invited guests included Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees, donors, and descendents of George Foster Pierce’s family, Wesleyan’s first president and for whom the Chapel is named. Pierce Chapel was officially dedicated Monday, March 30, 2015, to a congregation comprised of Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff.
Leaders of the Methodist Church were instrumental in the 1836 founding of Wesleyan, and Thursday’s service welcomed many of today’s Methodist leaders including Reverend Tommy Mason, Senior Pastor, Mulberry Street United Methodist Church, who gave the Declaration of Purpose. Also taking part in the ceremony were Reverend Dr. Laudis Lanford, Superintendent of the North Central District South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church; Reverend Jennifer Stiles Williams ’93, Co-Lead Pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Orlando, Florida; Susan Pyeatt Kimmey ’71, Chair, Wesleyan Board of Trustees; Reverend James R. King, Jr., Bishop of the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church; and Reverend Charlene Payne Kammerer ’70, Bishop of the Western North Carolina and Virginia Conferences of the United Methodist Church (retired). Reverend Kammerer, Wesleyan Class of 1970, is the first woman to be ordained Bishop of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Conference.
Working with Cole & Cole Architects, from Montgomery, Alabama, Sheridan Construction Company of Macon began construction of Pierce Chapel in December 2013. The Chapel has a capacity of about 300 in the sanctuary, which will be used primarily for worship services and occasionally as a venue for recitals, concerts, and special events. Downstairs is the Lovick P. Corn Center for Camus Ministry, a meeting space for faith-based programs, and campus groups, and the chaplain’s office.
“The Rivoli campus of Wesleyan College is now 87 years old,” said Wesleyan President Ruth Knox ’75. “As we live out our commitment to The United Methodist Church and to the ‘foundation of faith’ that is a cornerstone of the Wesleyan experience, it is long past time to have a dedicated Chapel building at Wesleyan College. Over the course of the past 179 years, the descendants of Lovick Pierce have shaped the face of Wesleyan College in ways unmatched by any other family in the College’s history –– as founders, first president, trustees, student leaders, alumnae leaders, and generous benefactors. We believe that the new Pierce Chapel, this time honoring not only Wesleyan’s first President but also an entire family whose vision and generosity have so shaped this institution, would be the perfect way to combine history, mission, current need, and permanent tribute.”
The original Pierce Chapel, located on Wesleyan College’s downtown site, was the central feature of campus life, and its significance was enormous. The students’ days began and ended with services there. Even after the new Rivoli campus opened in 1928, Pierce Chapel continued to be a vital part of the Conservatory and was the scene of significant events for the entire College such as baccalaureate and commencement. After its destruction by fire in 1963, Wesleyan had no chapel facility at all, and for 52 years was the only Methodist-affiliated college in the state without a dedicated chapel building.
The chapel reflected the close relationship between the College and the Pierce family from Wesleyan’s earliest days. The common ancestor of both is Lovick Pierce (1785-1879), a Methodist minister and father to George Foster Pierce (1811-1884), who became president of the College at age twenty-six. Lovick Pierce himself was instrumental in Wesleyan’s founding and served on the original Board of Trustees with his son. Since the College was founded, except for a brief period in the 1960s, Weslean has been guided by a member of Lovick Pierce’s family. They have served on Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees a cumulative 245 years. Elizabeth (Betty) Turner Corn, a descendant of Lovick Pierce, has served as an active Trustee since 2002 and her husband Lovick Corn served from 1970 until his death in 2013. Elizabeth Ogie (the sixth generation since Lovick Pierce) is the most recent member of the family line to join the Board, beginning her service in 2009. The family also has contributed some of the College’s most notable alumnae, including Ella Pierce Turner, who graduated in 1852 after founding the Adelphean Society, later Alpha Delta Pi sorority.
The floral arrangements in the sanctuary for Thursday’s service were donated by the Flower Guild of Mulberry Street United Methodist Church in memory of Reverend William H. Hurdle, senior pastor emeritus, and Wesleyan College chaplain from 1998 - 2015.