As part of the Heinz Memorial Chapel’s 75th anniversary celebration, 184 couples— including 11 MD alumni—renewed their wedding vows on November 23. Max Baer (BA ’71), a justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, officiated. A pipe organ medley of processionals set the mood, and Baer gave a brief sermon. Some 200 couples affirm their romantic love at the nondenominational chapel each year, he noted, yet it is friendship that sustains them through the subsequent years.
Then Baer asked the couples to rise from their pews and face one another. With hands clasped so their entwined fingers touched each other’s wedding bands—and as children and grandchildren squirmed nearby—each again declared, “I do.”
Couples traveled from as far as California. Some had been married 50 years (to the day). Others, not yet six months. For one pair, the day marked their 17th renewal.
Toni Robinson-Smith (BS ’81, MD ’86) was ill in the hospital when she received an invitation to the event. As a student, she visited the chapel for solace. In 1998, she and her husband were married there. Returning to renew her vows was poignant, she says. “I was happy to be well enough to be a part of it.”
Nicholas J. Feduska (BS ’63, MD ’67), too, visited the chapel whenever possible during his student years. He celebrated his entry into the world of medicine there on May 31, 1967, and three days later returned to the Gothic structure to marry fiancée Katharine Wong. “The chapel has always meant so much to us,” he says. “So many happy memories.”
Plastic surgeon Robert Bragdon (MD ’73) and nurse Theresa “Bunny” Clements married in the chapel in 1968. Over the intervening 45 years they’ve brought up four daughters and worked together for three decades. For them, says Bragdon, the renewal was “our time to be together and focus on each other.”