In the Oct. 30 issue of the Collegian, there was an article about the Oct. 24 dedication ceremony for the Rothenberg Hillel House, named for trustee Alan E. Rothenberg ’67 P’96 H’10, the primary donor, who was in attendance. The Collegian states: “Rothenberg remarked that Jewish life at Kenyon had ‘come a long way,’ recalling his experience with mandatory chapel attendance previously required at Kenyon.”

The fact is that this mandatory chapel requirement was abolished in 1958*, five years before Rothenberg came to Kenyon. His quoted remarks give the misleading and false impression that he was victimized by a discriminatory, oppressive, religious requirement that did not exist when he was a student. This impression, of course, would not be as serious as a politician claiming that in the 1960s he toughed out military service during the war in Vietnam when he did not — but still.

Why the mandatory requirement was kept in place for 13 years after World War II and the Holocaust is puzzling, keeping in mind that the then-President of Kenyon Gordon Chalmers already had rejected a demand from the University of the South (known as Sewanee) in the late 1940s that Kenyon remove two African-American players from its football team before a game could take place.

It is possible that Chalmers (a born-Baptist) did not want to strain relations with the Episcopal Church and with Bexley Divinity School, then still in Gambier. Whatever the truth, nearly all liberal arts colleges were founded by Christian denominations and chapel or church attendance requirements were probably in force at several such colleges (surely Catholic colleges) into the 1950s.

Peter Dickson ’69

*Editors’ note: According to the Kenyon College archives, the chapel mandate was abolished in 1960.


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