Interviews by Gina Stafford
Love and loss permeate the very founding of UT Chattanooga’s 100-year-old Patten Chapel. Edith Manker Patten gave $75,000 in 1917 to honor her deceased husband, John A. Patten. The building was dedicated on May 30, 1919.
For the UT Chattanooga family, the chapel—the only one on a public college campus in Tennessee—continues to be a place where love is celebrated and sorrow borne.
Constance “Connie” Ford Blunt (Chattanooga ’68) knew she would be married in Patten Chapel from the first time she stepped inside it in 1964.
“I was in awe of the architecture, the greatness, the character and the total ambience of this holy place,” she says. “I looked around and said, ‘Oh, my goodness. I love this place. This is my Westminster Abbey. I want to get married here someday.’”
Three years later, she did—to Terry Blunt (Chattanooga ’66, ’74, ’76) on Dec. 23, 1967.
Laura Ward (Chattanooga ’90) married David Ward (Chattanooga ’90, ’09) on July 14, 1990, in the chapel. They met at a pool party when both were in elementary school, then again when they were both freshmen at UTC.
“I walked in and thought, ‘Oh, the aisle was so much shorter before,” she says of her wedding. “It felt like it was a million miles long. It was packed, so it seemed like a lot of people. It’s a gorgeous place.”
Laura Robbins was an undergraduate physical therapy major when Matt Robbins showed up as a graduate teaching assistant in class one day. He used her as his mock patient in the class. They married on Saint Patrick’s Day in 2018.
“I like the idea that the chapel is still there,” Matt Robbins says, “that they’ve not removed it from campus or deconstructed it to be rebuilt somewhere else.
It’s a part of history. It’s a beautiful chapel. I’m glad that it still stands and students are able to come in and not only view it but use it and have it be a part of their lives.”
UTC Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Brown, whose oversight includes campus facilities, says people gravitate to Patten Chapel for solace in tough times.
“Particularly when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, happened, I remember that space became such a refuge for the campus community,” Brown says. “It was ecumenical. Which religion did not matter, nor did denomination, ethnicity or nationality. People just sort of migrated there—it was the heart of campus in more ways than one—and I think that’s the kind of special place it holds in the hearts of those who are now or have been part of this campus.”