Inside USD

Founders Chapel Gets Summer Sprucing

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Founders Chapel is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2014, so, really, what better time to do some sprucing up and make an already treasured space at University of San Diego campus even brighter?

Last week, the university brought in an Arizona company, Associated Crafts, to clean and repair its stained glass windows on both sides of the building.  The company, which specializes in stained glass services and repairs for churches throughout the nation, cleaned the oxidation build-up that had formed on the each of the stained glass windows since its initial existence.

“The stained glass is held together by lead and the lead holding the stained glass is white, which is the oxidation. When lead oxidizes, it can become brittle and weak,” said Jason Lenstrom, who was part of the company’s crew.

Using a process called “cementing,” Lenstrom explained that a mixture of chemicals were used to scrub the oxidation away and make the stained glass windows shine bright. The major repair involved the top part of most of the windows where the glass had significant bulges. The crew was able to flatten the bulges and restore them to their original state.

“The biggest thing is that we wanted to strengthen the windows, make sure they were flat so they can stay in forever,” said Lenstrom, who took pride in his work and especially enjoyed restoring the windows in Founders Chapel.

The chapel’s stained glass windows, made of translucent glass, represent various Gospel scenes.

“The glass here is some of the best I’ve seen in California,” he said. “I’ve not seen any prettier glass than what you have here.”

Work on Founders Chapel’s stained glass came more than six months after the other treasured place of worship on the USD campus, the 55-year-old Immaculata, had its stained glass windows cleaned and repaired. Monsignor Daniel J. Dillabough, USD vice president for mission and ministry, was pleased to have this work done.

“We had talked about some work on the windows a few years ago, but other priorities prevailed,” he said. “When The Immaculata began its project, the company asked if we would like to have them take a look at our windows and make a bid. After a full review process according to our internal practices, we decided to undertake the project.”

The value of this work is something Mary Whelan, USD’s executive director for University Design, sees as a necessity to preserve the tradition of Founders Chapel.

“The repairs to these windows is a fraction of the replacement value, but still not inexpensive. In all, as stewards of these treasured pieces in our chapel, we must find ways to preserve these for our future generations,” she said. “As our original buildings begin to age, we are taking note of some of the signature pieces we have in these buildings that call for special attention — the French Parlor, chandeliers in Shiley (Camino) Theatre, Mother Hill Reading Room furnishings, the exterior windows and grills to Camino and Founders, and many more. All these areas have our attention and often times require special funds to accomplish, which may come through donations.”

Though it is too soon to see the full impact of the window work just completed, Dillabough expects it to be a noticeable difference. He and Whalen both said the windows were one of several enhancements coming for the place where many USD alumni have been married and the campus community flocks to during the academic year for worship.

“We’ve spruced up the Bride’s Room with new paint and are in the process of reupholstering the furnishings and replacing the area rug,” Whalen said. She and Dillabough also revealed that USD’s Facilities Management is examining the possibility of illuminating the stained glass windows at night.

“The thought is that we can have spotlights installed behind the low parapet on the exterior of the chapel that would shine on the windows when there are evening services in the space,” Whalen said. “This should prove to be a lovely visual experience and bring yet another unique feature to Founders Chapel.”

Said Dillabough: “We are always working on projects for the Chapel. One of the next ones will be refurbishing the pews and cushions.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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