History of the Y Chapel of Song
The Y Chapel of Song, located on theUniversity of Central Oklahoma , is unique among college chapels in that it was almost entirely designed and created by the students, faculty, staff, and friends of the University.
It was at a meeting of the campus Young Women's Christian Association in April of 1941 that a motion was made and passed to dedicate $1,500 to start construction of a small chapel on the campus. According to Dr. R. R. Robinson, University president from 1939 to 1948, the purpose of the chapel was ‘to provide a much needed place for meetings of small religious groups.' In addition, Dr. Jessie Ray Newby, Ph.D., Chairman of the Y Chapel Committee, committed it to be ‘open to all who have even a moment of time to enjoy its privileges.'
As state funding could not be used for construction of a building devoted to religious purposes, a Work Progress Administration grant was obtained, and an extensive fund-raising campaign was begun by Dr. Newby. The Frank Buttram family provided a matching grant that the University community met and exceeded. Dr. Newby also obtained funding for many of the individual windows, pew carvings, and altar furnishings by providing for the items to be dedicated to family and friends, faculty and staff, and even students who were involved in the project.
World War II was not only an obstacle in securing funding, it made obtaining the glass and lead for the windows difficult as well. Thus many parts of the project were started, placed on hold, and picked up again when materials became available.
University of Central Oklahoma took the project to heart and met to decide a theme for the Chapel. The students decided to use as their focus for the 14 stained glass windows the songs that they sang in the services of the time.
Songs relating to a complete life cycle - Infancy, Childhood, Marriage, Maturity, and Immortality - are reflected in the windows on the north side of the Chapel. The windows on the south side represent the five fields of activity of the well-balanced male, as envisioned in the 1940s: Labor, Service, Civic Interests, Church Activity, and Intellectual Accomplishment.
The three narthex windows reflect the scripture ‘I am the vine, Ye are the branches.' The classic Rose Window illustrates the song ‘Blest be the tie that binds.' Even the doors to the Chapel represent popular hymns of the time.
Dr. Newby hired students to design the windows, and cut and paint the glass.
A studio in St. Louis assisted with firing and leading the windows. Art students also designed and created the tiles covering the low interior walls of the Chapel; industrial arts students, the pews and podium; and students in the metal work department created the iron lace organ grill.
Finally, in 1948, completed funding allowed for construction to begin. New and more modest plans called for the Chapel to be constructed around the completed windows and furnishings. Ground was broken in the fall, but construction was delayed once again, this time by an extremely harsh winter.
April of 1949 finally witnessed the opening of the Y Chapel of Song. And while the official cost is in the range of $30,000, it does not reflect the hundreds of hours of work and dedication provided by the students, faculty, staff and friends of the University who went beyond the scope of the project to create a lasting gathering place for the campus.
Today the Chapel not only provides ‘a much needed place for meetings of small religious groups,' as envisioned by President Robinson, but serves as well as a place for quiet and meditation for the entire campus community. It is also a favored site for many student events, recitals, initiations, and weddings.
The Y Chapel of Song was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in July of 2001. This recognizes the Y Chapel of Song as a memorial to the hundreds involved in its creation, and honors its artistic and architectural uniqueness.