ASU's Danforth Chapel celebrates 60 years, recalls first wedding and religious service

February 25, 2008

Danforth Chapel, the non-denominational church on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, will celebrate 60 years of weddings and religious services on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008.

William Danforth, founder of Ralston Purina company, funded 24 chapels on university campuses throughout the United States more than 60 years ago. ASU was selected as one of the 24 and received $5,000 from Danforth to build the chapel. Download Full Image

The university community is holding an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to revive memories from locals and alum who have appreciated the services provided by Danforth Chapel through the years. The open house will be hosted by ASU Office of Student Life and Council of Religious Advisors.

The event’s guest speakers include:

Jean Reaves-Clark, the chapel’s first organist

Colonel Billie Stephens, groom of the first marriage in the chapel

Genie Hopper Zavaleta, ’47-48 graduate of William Danforth’s "Danny-Grad" Fellowship program

WHAT: ASU’s Danforth Chapel Celebrates 60 Years

WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

WHERE: Danforth Chapel on Cady Mall, ASU Tempe campus


ASU graduates Billie Stephens and Dorothy McKenzie-Stephens were the first to marry on June 2, 1948 in the Danforth Chapel.

The chapel was built in 1947 and dedicated on February 26, 1948 while Arizona State was still a teacher college.

The chapel’s cross has a tumultuous history. It was never a requirement of the chapel to have a cross, but some workers put it up because of a miscommunication in the design plans. Just before the chapel’s dedication, a student sawed off the cross. It was later found and placed back on the chapel. The ACLU later filed a suit in 1990 to remove the cross and a court order granted removal. The university has honored the court ever since and the cross is now located in the vault of the university archives in Hayden Library. The cross will be on display during the week of the 60th anniversary.

The chapel has hosted an average of 15 weddings a year since 2005. Documents indicate that up to 50 weddings a year used to take place in earlier years.

Up to 25 religious groups of varying faiths use the chapel for services. Most are ASU student organizatioins.

William Danforth died on Christmas Eve in 1955 at the age of 85 after 19 of his chapels had been built. Five others were in the planning stages at the time.

There was a requirement by William Danforth that Heinrich Hofmann's painting of "Christ in the Garden" be hung in each chapel. Each chapel also has an inscription hanging in the chapel with the following language:"Dedicated to the worship of God with the prayer that here in the communion with the highest those who enter may acquire the spiritual power to aspire nobly, adventure daringly, serve humbly."

MEDIA CONTACT: Kacie McKay, kacie.mckay">">, 480-965-6547

Sally Ride blasts onto Tempe campus for festival

February 25, 2008

Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, returns to ASU on March 1 as keynote speaker for the Sally Ride Science Festival and Educator Institute. About 800 to 1,000 children, teachers and parents are expected to attend the events, which will cover topics like exploding stars, extreme astronomy and molecular madness.

This is the seventh year for the festival to be held at ASU, with interactive presentations taking place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Gammage Auditorium. The aim is to spark fifth through eighth graders’ interests in science, math and technology, with discovery workshops and a street fair that includes hands-on activities, booths, food and music.

Co-sponsors are Barrett, the Honors College, and Sally Ride Science, a science content company for children that also produces publications, summer camps and after-school programs.

A professional development workshop for teachers will take place at the same time at the Mars Space Flight Facility, called “From Astrobiology to Zoology: Igniting Students’ Interest in Science Careers.” Teachers will learn practical ways to integrate science careers into their classroom activities and will be given time to customize lessons and activities for their classrooms.

The festival costs $18 and the educator institute costs $30, including lunch, workshops and the featured talk. Advance registration is required, with a deadline of Feb. 29. For information or registration go to or call 800-516-5161.

Children’s workshops will be taught by local scientists and engineers, with ASU faculty and students taking the lead. Participants will include Cecilia Lunardini of physics, Frank Timmes and Laura Wasylenki of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Gregory Privitera of psychology, Marcia Levitus of Biodesign, and Libby Larson of geography, along with a dozen graduate and undergraduate students.

Irene Bradley, admissions specialist, will talk to parents and teachers about preparing young students for college. Anita Verdugo Tarango, director of outreach for University Student Initiatives, will discuss the Barrett Summer Scholars program. Download Full Image