McKee to Kugler: 95 Years of Chaplains



Today’s Chaplaincy 

  • In 2007, the Seventh University Chaplain at Yale was hired. Sharon M. K. Kugler is the first female, the first Roman Catholic and the first lay-person to hold the role of University Chaplain at Yale.

via (http://www.courant.com/new-haven-living/people/hc-nh-sharon-kugler-profi…)

  • Coming Together 7, a nationwide multi-faith student conference, is hosted at Yale in February 2015


Bingham Grows

  • In 2001, the Musallah (Muslim prayer room) opens in the basement of Bingham Hall, next to the Chaplain’s Office. 

  • In 2005, Sohaib Sultan was hired as the first Muslim in the Chaplain’s Office, serving students as the Muslim Fellow.
  • The first Hindu Diwali Pooja is celebrated at Yale in 2005. 

  • Neil Aggarwal was hired as the first Hindu in the Chaplain’s Office in 2010. He held the role of the first Hindu Fellow at Yale.


  • In 1992, Frederick “Jerry” Streets is hired as the Sixth Yale Chaplain. Streets served from 1992-2007. He was the first African American and the first Baptist to serve in this role.

via (http://glc.yale.edu/)

  • In 1995, the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale opens.

via (http://newvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/slifka.jpg)

  • In April 1996, the Chaplain’s Office moves to the basement of Bingham Hall

via (https://c1.staticflickr.com/2/1197/1244874537_09bb1b1a59_b.jpg)


Adams & The Eighties

  • Harry Baker Adams accepts the role as the Fifth University Chaplain at Yale, after serving a semester as interim chaplain in 1986. Adams graduated from Yale College in 1947 and Yale Divinity School in 1951, where he served in various academic capacities beginning in 1956. He last served as the Associate Dean of the Divinity School from 1965-1986, before serving as chaplain. While Chaplain, Adams was the Master of Trumbull College from 1987-1997, and later served as the acting Master of Saybrook from 1998-1999. 


via (http://notaloneyana.blogspot.com/

  • Laurie Rutenberg joins staff as the first rabbi serving as Assistant University Chaplain at Yale in 1982. The first African American to serve as Associate Chaplain at Yale was Claudia Highbaugh, who joined the staff in 1987.


Making Moves

  • In 1976, John Vannorsdall hired as the fourth University Chaplain at Yale, serving from 1976-1985. Vannorsdall is the first Yale Chaplain who is not a Yale graduate. He studied at Harvard & Lutheran Theological Seminary. He formerly served as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven from 1951-1957, before becoming a University Pastor at Cornell (1957-1962) then as chaplain at Gettysburg College (1962-1976). 


  • The Chaplain’s Office moved from Durfee Hall to Dwight Hall in 1976

via (http://postcardeddie.com/)

  • The first female, Donna Schaper, serves the role of Associate Chaplain and Associate Pastor of the Church of Christ in Yale from 1976-1980.

via (http://www.hartsem.edu/academics/faculty/)


Yale Religious Ministry Grows

  • The first self-identified Hindu matriculates at Yale College in 1962
  • Around 1965, the Yale Religious Ministries is formed, which still meets today. Regular meetings held with leaders of various religious groups on Yale’s campus, as well as religious leaders at neighboring institutions. 


*Fun flyers forYRM social events from the archives


New Beginnings 

  • Sidney Lovett retires in 1958 after serving at the University Chaplain for 26 years. During his tenure he helped to establish the Department of Religion at Yale in 1946. Lovett also served as the fourth master of Pierson College from 1953-1958 (a position now known as Head of College).
  • William Sloane Coffin, Jr. becomes the third University Chaplain at Yale (1958-1975). Coffin graduated with his BA from Yale in 1949, was a member of Skull and Bones. He later attended and graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1956. 

(Coffin leading clergy during a public challenge of segregation)

via (http://www.history.pcusa.org/history-online/exhibits/church-and-segregat… )


A Decade of Firsts

  • Ministry leaders request to be formally recognized by the University as the Religious Ministry to Yale University in 1947. This was a group “composed of persons appointed to devote a major part of their time to a ministry to students and faculty, and [requesting] the extension of University courtesies and facilities to such persons,” consisting of the University Chaplain, five Protestant pastors from the University Christian Association (now Dwight Hall), the rabbi from the University Hillel Foundation and the Roman Catholic chaplain from St. Thomas More Chapel.
  • First self-identified Muslim student matriculates at Yale College in 1940
  • First self-identified Baha’i student matriculates at Yale College in 1944
  • Yale Hillel Foundation is established in 1941. Hillel was housed in Durfee Hall, along with the Chaplain’s Office.
  • The National Association of College and University Chaplains (NACUC) is founded at Yale by Professor Clarence Prouty Shedd in 1948, with the help of University Chaplain, Sidney Lovett. This association still exists today.

New Personnel 

  • Rev. Burton McLean (below) serves as the first Associate Chaplain, a position is created in 1949. The position also serves as the General Secretary of the Yale University Christian Association (Dwight Hall, YMCA) and the Associate Minister of the Church of Christ in Yale

via (https://vineyardgazette.com)


Walter T. Brown (1931-1932)

  • Head of the religion department at Yale, assumed the role of acting chaplain from January 1931 until the end of the academic year in spring 1932.

Rev. A. Sidney Lovett, Jr. (1932-1958)

  • Graduated from Yale in 1913 and was a member of Skull & Bones, later attended Union Theological Seminary. Lovett served as pastor of the Mount Vernon Congregational Church in Boston from 1919-1932 before becoming the second University Chaplain at Yale in the fall of 1932.
  • First self-identified agnostic and Buddhist students matriculate at Yale College in 1930
  • First self-identified Atheist matriculates at Yale College in 1935
  • Religious counseling program for Jewish students is started on campus in 1933. In Lovett’s second year, he identified the need for Jewish students to be served by someone with different training than himself, and advocated for a counseling program to begin. This program eventually evolved into the Yale Hillel Foundation.
  • In 1935, the offices of the University Chaplain and the Church of Christ in Yale moved from Farnam Hall to a larger space in Durfee Hall due to the growing needs of the social and pastoral activities of the Chaplain’s Office.
  • St. Thomas More Chapel opens in 1938. Father T. Lawrason Riggs, class of 1910, was an early Catholic graduate of Yale, who saw the need for a Catholic chaplaincy after the numbers of Catholic students significantly increased after WWI.


  • Yale compulsory chapel ends in 1926 after 225 years. The last required chapel service is held in Battell Chapel on June 5, 1926 ( pictured below). 

Compulsary Chapel

  • Charles Reynolds Brown, Dean of Yale Divinity School, resigns from the role of pastor of the Church of Christ in Yale University, where he served since March 20, 1916

Rev. Elmore McNeill McKee (1927-1930)

  • On May 23, 1927, a council of New Haven pastors elected Elmore McKee, pastor of St. Paul’s in New Haven, to be the first full time pastor of the Church of Christ in Yale University, and subsequently the first Chaplain.
  • McKee graduated Yale in 1919 and later studied at Yale Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School. As an undergraduate, McKee was a member of Skull & Bones and chairman of Yale News. McKee left the chaplaincy in December 1930, when he took a position as rector of Trinity Church in Buffalo, NY.