The history and significance of Roberts chapel on campus

At the heart of Waynesburg University stands a three-level, 120 foot tall, 20,400 square foot chapel. Roberts Chapel is named after Dr. Roy Roberts, who pledged that his estate, when he passed away, would go towards building a chapel. 

According to President Douglas G. Lee, Roberts never got to see the finished structure. He only saw the pictures for what it would look like.

Adding a chapel onto campus had been a plan for a while, but it did not go into effect until the transition from Waynesburg College to Waynesburg University in 2007, according to Lee. It took a year and a half for the chapel to finish being built on Sept. 24, 2011.

Upon completion of the chapel, a ceremony was held inside the finished building when 400 people attended the ceremony to hear performers such as J. Christopher Pardini and David Allen Wehr, according to a historical account by Anamarie Lipinski, published April 22, 2021 at

Inside the chapel hangs a large Japanese scroll, held inside a frame with a plaque beside it, explaining how the scroll was acquired, according to the entry at The scroll has the verse Luke 18:16 painted in Japanese. Lipinski’s account explained the origin of the scroll. Waynesburg graduate Dr. M. L Gordon spent a lot of his time in Japan as a missionary. Gordon and his wife had an elementary school established in Kyoto. The scroll remained at the elementary school until Gordon passed, and the scroll was then donated to the university. 

The chapel stands near the top of the campus hill and overlooks almost all of campus.

“Stand at the top of the chapel… standing at the highest point where it is about faith, look over to the stover campus center which is service… and then down to Miller Hall which is learning.” Lee said three different parts of the Waynesburg University campus display the University’s mission. 

The view of the Stover campus center from Roberts chapel

Photo by Rebekah Vaughan

Chaplain Joshua Sumpter spoke about Roberts Chapel and its significance to the campus and its connection to the late Chancellor Timothy R. Thyreen, who was president during the construction of the building.

He said, “The chapel represents the heartbeat of our mission at Waynesburg University.”

Roberts Chapel has held numerous different events since being built in 2011; services, Upper Room, memorial services for students who have died and other events. One individual who spoke at Roberts Chapel that Sumpter mentioned was the Rev. Paul Abernathy.

Abernathy is an Orthodox Christian priest who works with the Neighborhood Resilience Project in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. 

According to Sumpter, the two times that Abernathy came to speak for the University the COVID-19 pandemic restricted students from being able to physically go and listen to his message. 

Sumpter shared a story about Thyreen that referred to Thyreen’s passion and love for the students and the university itself. 

“I heard stories that if Thyreen saw students wearing shirts from other schools, he would take them to the old bookstore and get them new Waynesburg University gear… Thyreen really believed in Waynesburg’s mission.”