Heinz Memorial Chapel Celebrates 75 Years

Issue Date: 
November 25, 2013


“The chapel will be more than a presence and a place of meditation, it will be the spontaneous and natural expression of life within the University.” —John G. Bowman, Pitt Chancellor from 1921-1945The University’s Heinz Memorial Chapel—led by Director Patricia Gibbons, who has been affiliated with the Chapel for 26 years—observed its 75th anniversary on Nov. 23 with a group renewal-of-wedding-vows event and reception, a buffet dinner, and a special concert by OvreArts, the Chapel’s resident ensemble.

The event commemorated the Chapel’s legacy at Pitt as a refuge for quiet contemplation, spiritual reflection, and joyous celebration, made possible through the generosity of the Heinz family.

In his will, Henry John Heinz (1844-1919), founder and president of Pittsburgh’s H.J. Heinz Company, made a bequest to the University of Pittsburgh, providing initial funds to build a memorial to his mother, Anna Margaretta Heinz. Soon after his death, his children—Howard Heinz, Irene Heinz Given, and Clifford S. Heinz—enlarged that gift and commissioned the building of the Heinz Memorial Chapel as a memorial to both their father and their grandmother.

The groundbreaking for the Chapel occurred in August 1933, the cornerstone was laid in February 1934, and the Chapel was dedicated, with appropriate ceremony, in 1938. Since then the Heinz family and the Howard Heinz Endowment, led by its board chair Teresa Heinz Kerry, have continued to support the Chapel for the benefit of all who choose to walk through its Medieval-esque doors and enter into a world of peace and light.

The soaring stained glass windows, crafted by Charles J. Connick, are exceptional and perhaps the Chapel’s most extraordinary feature. These luminous pieces of art—along with lofty vertical lines, sweeping flying buttresses, and delicate traceries of stone—celebrate humanity’s spiritual heritage from the time of the classical Greeks.

In its 75-year history, the Chapel has been for the University of Pittsburgh family a hallowed place to celebrate and mourn, sing and cry, reflect and remember. Through the years, the Chapel has hosted thousands of weddings, witnessed many memorial gatherings and stately funerals, and welcomed people with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and religious convictions as a place of worship and contemplation for all. It’s home to the acclaimed Heinz Chapel Choir and has been the scene of many memorable musical and artistic performances. Seventy-five years ago, on Nov. 20, 1938, at the ceremony to dedicate the newly completed Heinz Memorial Chapel, Howard Heinz said: “If those who come under the influence of this place go out to face life with new courage and restored faith because of the peace and calm and loveliness they found here ... this commemorative sanctuary will not have been built in vain.” Serenely, the Chapel continues its legacy as a rare, beautiful, and enduring hallmark of the University of Pittsburgh’s radiant soul. 

Excerpted from the Fall 2013 issue of Pitt Magazine.