The founding president of what is now Brite Divinity School was remembered Monday night with the dedication of an antique stained glass window.
The window, which bears a likeness of James Benjamin Sweeney, was commissioned at the turn of the last century after Sweeney’s death. Brite President Dr. Newell Williams remembered Sweeney’s dedication to Brite with a quote from a faculty member from Sweeney’s time:
“No one has been a more genuine friend to the young men or women who wished to dedicate their life to Christian service,” Williams said.
At the time of his death, Sweeney was pastor of the Dixon Street Christian Church in Gainesville, Texas. The congregation commissioned the window in his memory.
At some point, it was removed from the Dixon Street Church to make way for construction. Somehow, the window ended up in Dallas.
Williams said when Chancellor Victor Boschini learned about the window, he decided it would a perfect gift for Brite. Since the dealer was located in a “questionable” part of Dallas, TCU Police Chief Steve McGee went along.
The pair negotiated a deal only to discover the window was too large to fit in the TCU police car, Williams said. McGee called SMU’s police department and asked to borrow its large patrol van. Boschini rode back to TCU holding the window upright in the back of the van.
While the window was certainly a relic, Williams said, Brite was unsure what to do with it.
Ver Barritt, a craftsman who works as a building maintenance supervisor with the physical plant, decided to build a wood case for the window out of a tree that once stood in front of Clark hall.
Brite officials thought the display was complete until they noticed the window was falling apart. The cost to restore the window was too hefty for TCU or Brite to pay, Williams said. Instead, officials called Mark Loewen from the First Christian Church and asked if the congregation would be willing to help fund the restoration.
Loewen offered to cover the entire cost of the repairs, Williams said.
The Brite Board of Trustees, Brite students and alumni, and various individuals who were involved in the restoration of the stained glass window were in attendance at the dedication.
“To celebrate 100 years of anything is remarkable. To celebrate 100 years of the Divinity school is an incredible milestone,” said Paul Ray Jr., president of the board of trustees. “Particularly if you look at all the history that milestone represents between TCU and Brite.”
As the board of trustees circled around the stained glass window hanging in the main offices of Brite, Williams thanked Sweeney’s framework and the trustees’ contribution for “100 years of thriving and growth.”