“Culver changed my life.” That’s a common mantra among Culver alumni. For Colin Brown ’67, the meaning of that phrase runs deep, all the way down to his core values by which he lives his life each day.
Brown’s memories of and love for Culver, and his understanding of its values, especially that of service, are physically embodied for him in the Memorial Chapel.
“It was the one place where you could escape,” he says, “where you could find … a reminder and commonality of what you used to do when you went to church with your family …
“But it gave you the opportunity to just reflect and be in your own space and think about things outside of that orbit that was right outside.”
Since Brown (above, left with Head of Schools Jim Powers and Facilities Director Jeff Kutch) was at Culver, though, time and the elements haven’t always been kind to such a large edifice in such an open space. Over the decades since the Chapel’s opening in 1951, the unpredictable Northern Indiana weather has had its victories.
And that did not sit well with Brown.
“When I came back and I saw some of the water damage … it quite frankly broke my heart,” Brown said during a visit to Culver on the occasion of his 50th Class Reunion.
The damage he was talking about was most evident upon walking into the Chapel. The limestone had deteriorated primarily due to infiltration by and condensation of moisture on the stone, leaving it stained and blotched.
Repair and restoration of the Chapel had already begun — with the addition of a modern HVAC system, storm windows, gutters and exterior masonry repair – thanks to generous support from a number of donors, including Janis and John Ruan ’61; Wendy and Bill Brewer ’74; Deby and Jamie Fellowes ’64, and Lucy and Wilbur Sensing ’47, among others. The carillon and organ, also not immune to the stress of time and the elements, had been restored and updated thanks to support from Academies organist, carillonneur and master instructor John Gouwens and Toots and Jim Henderson ’52.
Brown was instrumental in the completion of phase two of the Chapel project, which restored the interior, as well as the installation of a new sound system and some landscaping.
For Brown – whose brother, U.S. Army Col. Keirn Brown, is a 1964 graduate of Culver and a 1969 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy — the motivation was extremely personal from his student days.
I respected the fact that it was a Memorial Chapel.
“I respected the fact that it was a Memorial Chapel,” he said. “When we marched to Chapel … you would see the names (of Culver graduates killed in World War II). And you knew … you were walking into a venerated space, but a very spiritual space where you could escape.”
In Brown’s case, he said, he decided to do whatever it took to finish the job, whatever the cost. That, too, was also very personal for Brown, from his time at Culver as a student who received a scholarship to attend.
One of his instructors impressed on him that Brown’s ability to attend Culver (“I would not have been able to come here if I wasn’t on scholarship,” he says) was due to the generosity of previous alumni who supported Culver.
“Every year I gave at least 10 bucks,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever skipped a year in the annual fund, giving back. Because I’ve been very fortunate and very lucky, I have the ability to do the same.”