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Mills College chapel celebrates its 50th birthday

Reverend Dara Olandt, Karen Fiene, and Alumni Association President Viji Nakka-Cammauf cut and serve the cake
Reverend Dara Olandt, Karen Fiene and Alumni Association President Viji Nakka-Cammauf cut and serve the cake.

The Mills College Chapel celebrated its 50th anniversary with cake, coffee and community as supporters gathered to honor the chapel’s many years since its doors opened in 1967.

Since 1967, the Mills College Chapel has provided a nondenominational space for the community. On Sept. 15, people from all over Mills and the Bay Area came together under the chapel’s roof to celebrate its 50 years on campus and to toast to, in the words of the Mills College chaplain, Reverend Dara Olandt, “fifty plus more years of being a place of welcome.”

The chapel’s Program of Celebration was opened with a performance from the Mills College Choir and featured speeches from members of the college community including President Beth Hillman, Provost Chinyere Oparah and Alumni Association President Viji Nakka-Cammauf.

“This is a very different space that belongs at Mills,” Hillman said. “This 50th anniversary gives an opportunity to appreciate that.”

The program also featured representatives from multiple Bay Area religious organizations who shared their traditions with the attendees. Over the course of the program, Qal’bu Maryam, Women’s Mosque representative Rab’ia Keeble led the attendees in prayer; Rabbi Dev. Noily from the Kehilla Community Synagogue blew a shofar for the chapel’s guests, and the audience meditated with the help of East Bay Meditation representative Mushim Ikeda.

Following the program, attendees gathered in the Chapel’s lounge for the cake-cutting ceremony performed by Olandt, Nakka-Cammauf, and campus architect Karen Fiene.

“This is a safe space and a brave space,” said Natalia Sandoval, program assistant for Spiritual and Religious Life. “My hope is that more and more people realize that spiritual and religious life is here as a resource.”

Sandoval and many others shared how the Mills College Chapel had impacted them over its 50 years on campus.

“This has been a place for people seeking solace, people seeking justice, people seeking questions and people seeking answers,” said Judith Bishop, director of the religious studies program at Mills and one of the many Mills faculty members in attendance.

Also joining in the festivities were representatives from the religious and spiritual student organizations that meet at the chapel.

“It gives us a space to express ourselves religiously in a safe manner,” said Rowan Matthews, Mills College Magic Society.

“It was such a special experience to have so many people gathered together to celebrate the chapel’s 50th,” Olandt said, as the event came to a close.

Though the celebration may have ended, Mills College community members can visit the chapel from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.