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Memories live on in Carole Chapel

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Updated: Oct. 7

Located between Mabee Library and the Memorial Union rests a serene getaway filled with cedar finishes, holding floor to ceiling windows allowing for natural light, surrounded by greenery to accent its beauty. Carole Chapel, named after the late Carole Etzel, has a history as beautiful as its design.

Originally named Nunemaker Chapel after Irene Nunemaker, today’s Carole Chapel had its start on the campus of the Menninger Clinic, one of the top psychiatric hospitals in the world. Working in New York for AVON, Nunemaker wanted to be a benefactor of Menninger Clinic by creating a chapel to be placed on the clinic’s campus. Completed in 1996, Nunemaker Chapel remained until the Menninger Clinic was moved to Houston, Texas, in 2003. It was then that the Etzels stepped in.

“I was on the Board of Regents [for Washburn University] in 2003, as well as on the foundation board for Menninger Clinic,” said Tim Etzel, “So I was in the unique position of asking for the gift of the chapel on behalf of Washburn.”

While it was Tim Etzel's position which allowed for the initial request to be made, he attributes the motivation behind the chapel’s donation to Washburn to his late wife, Carole Etzel.

“I was very proud and still am,” Tim Etzel said. “It was the right name. There wasn’t any question in my mind. She was the one that asked me what they were going to do with the chapel. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Then I went by and looked and it took off from there. It was her idea, her inspiration, her drive that caused it to happen.”

In the wake of the 1966 tornado that swept through Washburn’s campus, the university’s community was left lacking a chapel. Thanks to timing, Menninger, the Etzels and many others, the need was met in December of 2003 as Carole Chapel was moved to Washburn’s campus. Dedicated in 2004 with Carole’s name, the chapel has been used since as a place of quiet amidst chaos, musical performances, meetings and even the occasional wedding.

“Carole Chapel has been a resource for myself and others to have a place for reflection and prayer in the midst of Washburn’s busy campus,” said junior OTA/ health service administration student Avery Shrader.

Praises like this one from Shrader have brought joy to Tim Etzel.

“I’m very pleased with the way it's used,” said Tim Etzel. “I get a quarterly report that tells me what the chapel is used for.” 

Many of the activities held within the chapel are highly beneficial to the Washburn community. 

“A large part of it is used for the music department. That would be really fitting, because Carole and I supported the music department and she played the piano so she was very musical. I know she’d be proud of that," said Tim Etzel.

Carole Chapel’s rich history is marked with the inspiration of many and a deep care for a building providing peace for many. Being home to Carole Chapel is an honor that Washburn gets to hold. If you find yourself needing some quiet in the noise of everyday life, take some time to take advantage of this treasure on Washburn’s campus.

Updated information: "Carole" Chapel; the tornado on Washburn's campus occurred in 1966

Edited by Brianna Smith, Jessica Galvin, Jackson Woods

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