The Alma College Chapel was rededicated to Thomas Andison, a former member of the Board of Trustees, on Sept. 30 during the annual Homecoming celebration. The Chapel was originally named after John Wirt Dunning, whose name will instead be dedicated to the residence hall Brazell West, located on South Campus. It will be known as Dunning Hall.
The dedication ceremony was held at the Chapel following the Homecoming worship and memorial service, where Jeff Abernathy, President of Alma College, spoke about the life and legacy of Andison who passed back in April of 2023.
“Mr. Andison served on the Alma College Board of Trustees from 2013-22. He was chair of the Investment Committee and granted emeritus status in fall, 2022. In addition to his service on the Board, Mr. Andison supported Alma generously: as a former college professor, he was especially passionate about supporting teaching and learning,” said Abernathy.
“Mr. Andison’s contributions to Alma College could certainly be considered ‘behind the scenes.’ Those close to him know that he did not seek the spotlight, but the scope of his generosity and its impact on Alma can’t be overstated. At present, he is the largest donor in the history of Alma College,” said Abernathy.
“His philanthropy toward Alma is especially notable because he didn’t attend Alma College; he sought us out as a place aligned with his values and where he saw students receiving a truly remarkable college experience from talented, caring faculty,” said Abernathy.
Andison’s name can be seen across campus, like at the Andison Center for Teaching Excellence located in the Learning Commons and each spring during the presentation of the Andison Awards for Teaching Excellence to recognize faculty work. There is no doubt about the considerable impact he had and still has on Alma College.
Prior to the rededication, the Chapel was known as the Dunning Memorial Chapel, after the late John Wirt Dunning. The Chapel was originally built in 1940, and had been dedicated to Dunning since 1941.
“John Wirt Dunning is a 1904 graduate and the only Alma College alumnus to serve as president of the institution (1938-42). According to the 1986 publication, Within Our Bounds: A Centennial History of Alma College, Dunning was a former minister who ‘proposed the college should be a laboratory of Christian living.’ This was manifested in the proposed chapel building and in the series of courses on citizenship and heritage,’” said Abernathy.
The Chapel’s name was never planned to be changed as it was only decided after Andison’s passing. Due to Andison’s generous contributions and lasting presence at Alma College, the Board of Trustees felt it more suitable to rename the building after him and memorialize Dunning elsewhere on campus.
“Alma College’s longstanding affiliation with the Presbyterian Church and Mr. Andison’s strong core of faith were [two] of the biggest commonalities of the relationship between [him] and Alma College. Alma’s Board of Trustees concluded that this was a fitting tribute for a person who made such generous contributions to Alma College,” said Abernathy.
For more information on the renaming of the Chapel and Thomas Andison’s life, visit alma.edu/news.