“Every college and university needs a chapel. And I especially want my alma mater to have one.” The words of Mrs. Anna Gardner Butler, a 1940 alumna of Campbell University, were all that was needed to put her beloved husband, Robert B. Butler into action. The Butlers gave a substantial gift but Mrs. Butler was quick to say that such a Chapel on the was not just her dream but the dream of many others. Others would follow the faithfulness of the Butler’s making the dream a reality and giving life to Butler Chapel.
“This Chapel is a life-long dream for many of us,” said Dr. Jerry M. Wallace, then President of the University, at the announcement of plans for building the complex. “It will be the capstone of the campus and the site of many life-changing decisions by students, staff and faculty.” Having a University Chapel became even more important with the opening of the Campbell University Divinity School in 1996. “The Chapel is to the minister what the courtroom is to the lawyer, what the laboratory is to the pharmacist,” said Dr. Michael G. Cogdill, founding dean of the Divinity School. Not only would the Chapel serve as a place of education, it would become sacred space for the University to gather for worship, prayer and reflection, and special events.
Plans for the Chapel were announced in 2007. The $8.5 million structure is an architectural style that blends Gothic design with spare contemporary lines. It includes seating for 400 people, a sanctuary with exposed beam construction and natural wood, a chancel area, grand piano, and pipe organ console with pipes extending the full height of the sanctuary.
Butler Chapel was dedicated in the fall of 2009 with a series of services to celebrate each space and the kindness of donors. In prominent places throughout the Chapel complex, plaques list the names of those whose generosity brought life to the Chapel. At the Chapel dedication service, Dr. John Roberson, then Vice President for Marketing and Enrollment Management expressed gratitude for those who gave with these words, “Each name represents a relationship with Campbell University. This iconic building will bring people together throughout the community and stand as a reminder that worship is essential to the purpose of this university.”
Mrs. Butler enjoyed writing and was the author of Simply Put . . . poems and thoughts by Anna Gardner Butler. In a selection called “A Prayer,” she spoke of an approaching storm with these words, “As the storm clouds gather, I take my quiet seat, dear Lord, and ask that Thou will come and sit beside me.” Butler Chapel, along with the bell tower and gardens, have become that place where individuals and the community gathers to find peace and hope in the presence of God.