Blue skies and balmy temperatures greeted more than 350 Westminster Choir College alumni as they returned to Princeton on May 16 and 17 for Reunions and Commencement. The weather seemed to reflect the mood on campus as classmates reconnected and celebrated Westminster’s illustrious heritage and bright future.
Since Commencement was held on Friday afternoon, rather than Saturday, both days were filled with back-to-back performances, receptions, dinners and more. Of course each day included opportunities to sing together. Thursday’s Festival of Hymns led by Sacred Music faculty member Tom Shelton, included some old favorites and a few new works that gave students the opportunity to show off their instrumental and percussion skills. The Festival was followed by a packed reception honoring the 95th birthday of Helen Hubbert Kemp ’41.
Friday began with the Alumni Chapel Service led by Rev. Rodney Brown ’69, with Lee Dettra ’63 as organist. Rodney’s homily centered on the cellist of Sarajevo and the important role that all musicians play in creating a world that celebrates life and the essential value of beauty. Three awards were presented to Westminster alumni at the Alumni Luncheon. Jane Shaulis was recognized for her long and successful career as a singer, which includes 550 performances at the Met. John Walker ’73, senior producer in music programming at Public Television’s Thirteen/WNET, was honored for his success as a television producer and writer. Ron Melrose M.M.’90, music director for the Broadway hit Jersey Boys, was lauded for his commitment to the theater and to the church.
Following lunch everyone gathered outside of The Playhouse to celebrate a milestone in Westminster’s history: the construction of the new Marion Buckelew Cullen Center on the Westminster campus this summer. This will be the first new building on the Westminster campus since 1975. The buoyant mood continued as alumni traveled to the Princeton University Chapel for Westminster’s 84th annual Commencement. This year’s speaker was opera singer Paul Plishka, who also received an honorary Doctor of Music. Professor of Conducting James Jordan delivered the charge to the graduating classes, suggesting to students that they be “the air under the wings of another.” The day ended with dinner in Bristol Chapel, transformed into an elegant dining room for the occasion.