Oberlin Alumni Hymn Writers Exhibit


George Nelson Allen (1812-1877), OC 1838 was the founder of Oberlin Musical Union and “Father of the Oberlin Choir.” His multifaceted Oberlin career included scientific trips to the Yellowstone area as Professor of Geology. He brought out in pocket size Oberlin’s first hymnal titled Social and Sabbath School Hymn Book (Oberlin: J.M. Fitch 1844). His tune MAITLAND, for 150 years a favorite, is still included in many contemporary hymnals.

Emily Clark Huntington Miller (1833-1913), OC 1867, Hon. 1893 came to Oberlin College from Brooklyn, CT in 1854 and enrolled in the Literary Course. After graduation she was active in missionary, temperance, and Sunday School affairs. She served as Dean of Women at Northwestern University 1891-1899. She was editor of the first juvenile magazines, Little Corporal, Saint Nicholas, and associate editor of The Ladies’ Home Journal. Thirty-six of her hymns are published in American hymnals.

Lucy Rider Meyer (1849-1922), OC 1872, Hon. 1880 added to her Oberlin degree an M.A. and M.D. from Cornell College and Northwestern. She gained international recognition for her leadership in the Methodist Church. She also taught chemistry at McKendree College, taught at Northfield Seminary, edited Everybody’s Gospel Songs, founded the Chicago Training School of Missions, and authored many books, one with an introduction by Dwight L. Moody. Her hymns are in many published collections.

Caroline Leonard Goodenough (1856-1946), OC 1877, 1880 was the first of four generations of Oberlin students. After graduation from Oberlin she served 35 years as a missionary in Natal, South Africa with her husband. High Lights on Hymnists and Their Hymns was compiled during her years of retirement in the home of her childhood in Rochester, MA. There are 14 volumes of her hymns in the Oberlin College Library.
Joshua McCarter Simpson (ca. 1821-), OC 1848 a free black citizen from the Zanesville area, was enrolled in Oberlin 1845-1848. He was one of the most prolific early creators of anti-slavery songs. As author of “Freedom’s Cause” (sung to the tune for “We Won’t Give Up the Bible”), he is included in Unsung Hymns by Black and Unknown Bards (Jon Spencer, Duke University Press, 1990). There is a copy of Simpson’s first published works titled Original Anti-Slavery Songs (1852) in Oberlin College’s Special Collections.

Daniel Sidney Warner (1842-1895), OC 1865 a native Ohioan, was enrolled at Oberlin in the English preparatory course in 1865 but cut short his college studies to prepare himself for the ministry. He became the guiding force of the Church of God movement. He traveled as an evangelist and wrote books, tracts, and hundreds of hymns.
Mary Ann Temple Bell (1858-), OC 1879 was born in Yazoo County, Mississippi. She came to Oberlin from Vicksburg in 1877. (Her brother also attended Oberlin.) She taught in a private school 1880-1881, in public school in East Carrol Parish, LA 1882-1883, and in public school in Issaquena County, Mississippi 1885-1886. She married Robert James Bell June 12, 1883. She served as first Vice President of Women Workers at Missionary Baptist State Convention 1894 and as Sunday School Missionary for Warren County 1892. She was a missionary to Women’s Baptist Home Mission, Chicago 1895-1896. She wrote in 1908 that she had taught in her own private school from 1897 till then. She also refers to her composition of music for her church choir and for publication, including “Come, Join the Army”, text by F.M. Davis.
William Reed Newell (1868-1956), OC 1883 came to Oberlin from Clarksville, PA. He served several pastorates and then was made assistant superintendent of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He was a popular conference speaker as well as a scholar, with many publications to his credit, including Studies in the Pentateuch and Studies in Joshua-Job (Kregel Publications). Newell hastily scribbled the words for “Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride” on the back of an envelope. Just moments later he met Towner, Director of Music at the Moody Institute who composed the music within the hour.

Frances Densmore (1867-1957), OC 1887, Hon. 1924 was a piano performance major in the Conservatory 1884-1887. Born in Redwing, MN in 1867, the drums she heard from nearby Dakota Sioux led her to her pursuit of recording, organizing, and documenting Native American songs until her death in 1957. Her analysis of 600 songs from the Chippewa and Teton Sioux tribes, published in 1918, was reprinted by the Smithsonian Institute in 1993. After eighteen years of living among the Sioux and recording their religious songs, Densmore was adopted by Chief Red Fox. Through her work, many traditions, customs, and ceremonies of Native Americans have been passed down and made available to the world.
May Whittle Moody (ca. 1870-1963), OC 1889 came to Oberlin College in 1888 to receive training in music after three years at Northfield School. In 1894 she married William R. Moody, son of the famous evangelist. She co-edited with Charles Alexander the Northfield Hymnal No 3. Of her many published tunes, still a favorite is “Moment by Moment”, 1896.

Sisag Krikor Emurian (1874-1968), OC 1901 was a young music professor in Armenia when he fled to America and enrolled in Oberlin to fulfill his dream of becoming an opera singer. Professors King and Bosworth persuaded him to enter the Theological Seminary. After graduation he made extensive evangelistic tours as a singing clergyman and composer/preacher. He published a booklet containing several of his gospel songs in 1913.
H. Augustine Smith (1875-1952), OC 1902 came to Oberlin in 1899 from Naperville, IL for musical training. His father had been an 1862 alumnus of the college and his great uncle Professor of Old Testament 1836-1840. Smith was called to be Head of the Fine Arts Deptartment of Boston University. He assumed the role of Director of Music at Chautauqua in 1923, and in 1927 joined the Eastman School of Religious Education. He did significant work in editing The Army and Navy Hymnal, The Century Hymnal, Hymns for the Living Age, The New Church Hymnal, Hymnal for American Youth and other collections. He was internationally famous for directing religious musical pageants.

Ernest Bourner Allen (1868-1931), OC 1903, 1923 was the first of four generations of Oberlin students. Prior to earning his BDiv from the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology in 1903 he had served Pilgrim Church in Lansing, MI (1895-1901) and Washington St. Congregational Church in Toledo, where he continued until 1918 when he was called to Pilgrim Congregational in Oak Park, IL. He was a Trustee of Olivet College for 34 years, Moderator of Ohio and Illinois Congregational Churches, recipient of many honors, and was included in Who’s Who in America. He was a prolific writer of poetry and prose; his articles were published in The Christian Century, Christian Herald, Christian Endeavor, World, and The Congregationalist.
Anna Louise Strong (1885-1970), OC 1905 after graduation made journeys to China and Japan, went to Russia in 1921 to assist in famine relief, and traveled as journalist, newspaper reporter, correspondent for Hearst newspapers in Eastern Europe. As a lecturer and writer, she was known for her Letters from China 1958-70.

R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943), OC 1908, Hon. 1926 was one of the first Afro-Americans to earn the Conservatory degree and the first awarded an honorary degree from Oberlin. He had a distinguished career as teacher and composer, studying in Paris in 1929 with Nadia Boulanger. Later he founded Hampton Institute School of Music, and taught at Lane College, Lincoln Institute, and Bennett College. He published Religious Folk Songs of the Negro (1927) and The Dett Collection of Negro Spirituals (1936). He actively advanced musical education for Afro-Americans in USA and was President of the National Association of Negro Musicians 1924-1926. He received awards for both music and literature from Harvard, Eastman, and the Harmon Society. His oratorio, The Ordering of Moses, is based on “Go Down, Moses.”

Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929), OC Hon. 1916 was head of the English Department at Wellesley College. She authored some two dozen books and textbooks as well as several collections of verse. She is remembered primarily for “America the Beautiful”. Oberlin was one of three colleges to confer upon her an honorary degree.
Ferdinand Quincy Blanchard (1876-1968), OC Hon. 1919 was a vigorous proponent of providing educational opportunities for Afro-Americans. He was a member of the Prudential Committee of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, a leader in the American Missionary Society, and a Trustee of Fisk University. He served as Moderator of the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches 1942-1944. For 36 years he served as minister of Euclid Avenue Congregational Church in Cleveland, OH. He authored many books and wrote a number of hymns.
William Grant Still (1895-1978), OC 1920, Hon. 1947 studied composition at Oberlin. His work gathered honors, commissions, and fellowships which brought him worldwide recognition and an honorary degree from his alma mater. A bibliography of his compositions includes 24 arrangements of Negro spirituals and Twelve Negro Spirituals (1937).

Philip Frazier (1892-1964), OC 1922, Hon. 1960 came to Oberlin College from the Santee Indian School, Santee, Nebraska. While a student he sang with the College Glee Club, often in full Native American regalia. After graduation from Chicago Theological Seminary and ordination in 1926 he spent the rest of his life in missionary work among the Dakota, Osaage, and Kickapoo Indians. Many hymnals include his paraphrase of a Dakota hymn which is still sung for Dakota occasions celebrating births, communions, and burials.

Ray Francis Brown (1897-1964), OC 1924, 1925 came to Oberlin from Roxbury, VT. After graduation he was organ instructor in the Conservatory and organist/choirmaster at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Elyria. He studied at the Royal School of Church Music 1933-1934 and at Pius X School of Liturgical Music 1950-1951. For five years he was director of the Music School at Fisk University and conducted the Fisk University Choir. In 1934 he was appointed organist at General Theological Seminary. He was an Associate of the American Guild of Organists and served on the national council. University of the South at Sewanee awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Music in 1956. He published The Oxford American Psalter and articles about training choirs; he trained many seminarians in chanting. He was an authority on choral music and helped form the Episcopal Church choral music tradition. He was a member of the Joint Commission on Church Music of the Protestant Episcopal Church and served on the tunes committee for the Joint Commission on the revision of the Hymnal 1940.

Rob Roy Peery (1900-1973), OC 1925 while an Oberlin student was awarded the Ohio State prize in Composition; many other honors were added during his distinguished career. His positions included Music Editor of The Etude 1942-1949, Editor-in-Chief for Theodore Presser Publisher, and Associate Editor for Lorenz Publishing Co. In addition to his responsibilities as organist of several large churches in Salisbury, NC, Philadelphia, Germantown and Dayton, he served on the faculties of Lenoir-Rhyne College and Catawba College, both in North Carolina. For many years he was a member of the Committee on Church Music for the United Lutheran Church in America. He was one of the earliest members of the Hymn Society of America. His hymns appear in a number of hymnals.


Eunice Lee Kettering (1906-2000), OC 1929 contributed much to American hymnology through her tireless work in collecting and preserving Appalachian ballads and folk hymns. Her name appears on a recent list of “some of the finest composers of the 20th century” and many of her compositions are settings of hymn tunes. After the completion of her thesis “Sacred Folk Music of the Southern Appalachians” (Union Seminary 1932) she continued to search and record on site these vanishing treasures of American sacred music.

Margaret Palmer Doane (1908-2004), OC 1930 after earning her Oberlin degree did graduate work at the University of Chicago where she was a member of the Orchesis, the University Chapel’s dance group. Throughout her life she actively promoted dance as a means of expression. She served on the national Board of Directors of the Sacred Dance Guild. She wrote many books encouraging all ages to participate in dance movement, even those unfamiliar with this means of expression. In 1985 Professor Doug Adams of Pacific School of Religion wrote: “ Margaret Taylor continues to be the leader in sacred dance. She pioneers in each new development…her fresh approaches call us to sing new songs and dance new dances.”


George Theophilus Walker (1922-), OC 1941, Hon. 1985 was awarded an honorary degree from Oberlin in 1985. His hymn tune LANGSTON was commissioned by the UU Hymnbook Resources Commission for the recently published hymnal Singing the Living Tradition. He now resides in Montclair, NJ and is active as a teacher and composer.


J. Robert King (1920-1994), OC 1942 earned the Mus.M. degree at Eastman in 1946 and is recognized by the Moravian Music Foundation as a scholar who edited much Moravian music. He was given the Moramus Award for outstanding service to the archives by restoring many compositions that were used in local church orchestras between 1750 and 1825. The University of Delaware honored him with its Medal of Distinction for service to the University, the State of Delaware, and beyond.

Marjie Hawthorne (), OC 1944 came to Oberlin from Kansas and studied organ with Arthur Poister. After graduation she taught organ, piano, and theory at Iowa State College, Ames. She served as organist for churches of all denominations in many cities—among them Topeka, Ann Arbor, Chicago, and Minneapolis. From 1968-1974 she was a member of the Hymnal Committee commissioned by the Fourth General Synod of the United Church of Christ. To prepare herself for her committee tasks she earned the Master of Arts in Religious Studies from United Theological Seminary. She is currently a business systems analyst.

William Watkins Reid, Jr. (1923-2009), OC 1945, 1947 went on from Oberlin to earn a degree from Yale Divinity School and served the Methodist Church not only in local parishes but also through his involvement in annual conferences and membership on various commissions and boards of that denomination. In addition he served as a member of the Alumni Board of Oberlin College and the Executive Committee of the Hymn Society of the US and Canada. Many of his hymns are published in hymnals of several denominations.

Rodney Hood (1924-2003), OC 1946 wrote two published texts including the Sesquicentennial hymn. In addition to his Oberlin BA he earned graduate degrees from University of Wisconsin, Colgate, and University of Chicago. He taught math and philosophy at Ohio University, Beloit College, the University of Chicago, and Franklin College, Indiana where he continued to serve as Professor Emeritus teaching Math, New Testament Greek, and Religion courses. He was ordained into the American Baptist Ministry in 1953 and held pastorates in Macedon, NY and Franklin, IN.
Caroline (Kelly) Slingland Truitt (), OC 1946 came to Oberlin from Ridgewood, New Jersey. Hymns and Ocean Grove were ways of life for her family; her first solo was a hymn and her first piano performance was accompanying hymns. Her great grandparents summered in Ocean Grove where hymns are sung every day; and now her grandchildren continue the tradition to the sixth generation. She was deeply involved in the editing and production of a hymnal--a historic record of favorite camp meeting hymns and choruses sung at Ocean Grove for over a century.
Charles Spivey (), OC 1947 studied in Oberlin from 1944-1947. He served as a member of the committee that prepared and published the African Methodist Episcopal Church Bicentennial Hymnal (1984) having worked on the publication of earlier editions of that hymnal. He is pastor of Coppin Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in Chicago.
Mary Louise VanDyke (1927-), OC 1947 earned graduate degrees in Music Education (Western Reserve University) and Church Music (Kent State University). She served on the National Board of Choristers Guild, founded the Northeast Chapter of the Choristers Guild, and helped found and maintain Oberlin’s series of Northern Ohio Hymn Festivals. She served for 25 years as Coordinator of The Dictionary of American Hymnology; in 1996 for her service to hymnody she was made a Fellow of the Hymn Society. She served hymnal editors in many capacities as indexer, researcher, and contributor. She has published many articles and co-edited Exploring the Hymnal. She is active in music and art projects.
Leigh Conover (1927-), OC 1948 served as student organist at First Church in Oberlin and studied with Professors Coci, Poister, Dann, and Haugh. Although his profession has been in the field of title insurance, he has held church music positions throughout his career and served as Dean of the Atlantic City and Palm Beach chapters of the American Guild of Organists.
Greitje Terburg Rowley (1927-), OC 1949 came to Oberlin from Florida. Her hymns and anthems have been winning entries in many competitions. Her hymn “Be Thou Humble” appears in Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985). Other published works include children’s songbooks, cantatas, piano pieces and anthems. Many of her piano and vocal works have been performed.

Dosia Carlson (1930-), OC 1952 is an inspiration to many differently-abled people. The day before she was to enter high school she was hospitalized with polio, shattering her dream of being a missionary in China. After studying in Oberlin she went on to seminary, was ordained, earned a doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh and served on the faculty at Defiance College from 1960-1974. She is founder and director of the Beatitudes Center for Developing Older Adult Resources in Phoenix. She has been granted several prestigious awards, among them the Antoinette Brown Award for outstanding women clergy and the Woman of Distinction Award for 1989 from the State of Arizona. Her hymns are published in more than twelve major hymnals and are widely sung throughout the world. God’s Glory is her autobiography highlighted by her own hymns.
Thomas Lee Hayes (1932-2003), OC 1953 was born in Dayton and grew up in Pittsburgh before coming to Oberlin. He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1958 and served congregations in Ohio and Pennsylvania before shifting the focus of his ministry to peacekeeping after his march with Martin Luther King in Selma. He was appointed in 1966 Executive Director of the Episcopal Pacifist Fellowship, which became the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. He continued to work actively in international interfaith groups as he served churches in New York, Maine, and until his death in Windsor, VT.

Scott Withrow (1932-1993), OC 1953 was student organist at First Church 1950-1953. After graduate work at Eastman he held organ positions in many denominations. He served as Professor of Music at the University of Alabama and at Vanderbilt University. He also was the Director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus and Director of Music at Camp Pemigewassett (following George Waln and Arthur Williams). He published anthems and several books of descants and arrangements of hymns.

Verogla Nix (), OC 1955 served as student choir director/organist at Mt. Zion Baptist Church while attending Oberlin. She is editor of Songs of Zion, an anthology of church music from the Afro-American religious tradition (Abingdon Press, 1981). Fifty-two of the 250 hymn tunes in the hymnal were arranged by Ms. Nix. The collection is considered by scholars to be one of the major church musical resources published in recent years.


Fred Steen (1930-1998), OC 1955, 1957 received both the Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology degrees from Oberlin in 1955. From that time on he served as the beloved pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church for almost 47 years. At Oberlin’s 1972 Commencement he was given the College’s Distinguished Community Service Award. Singing in the Fisk University Choir led him to appreciate the role of hymns in people’s lives. Because of this musical background the president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention appointed him to that denomination’s Hymnal Committee to prepare The New Progressive Baptist Hymnal, published in 1982.

Joe Hickerson (1935-), OC 1957 while a student founded the Oberlin Folk Song Club. He studied folklore and ethnomusicology at Indiana University where se served as folklore archivist. Library of Congress appointed him Head of the Archive of Folk Songs (later called Archive of Folk Culture). He has recorded many folk hymns.

Danny Kleinman (), OC 1957 is known for his backgammon books as well as columns in The Chicago Point and Win Magazine. Under the pseudonym “Miss Lonelyspades” he also writes for The Card Player. He writes: “In contrast to the other things I do…where I always have a reason for what I do, my music is purely intuitive, done unknowingly just because it ‘feels right’ the way I sing it.” Kleinman is a computer programmer. He published a collection titled I Sing the Poet Acoustic in 1986. He continues to set his own texts and those of William Blake and Robert Herrick in a style appropriate for cantor and choir or congregation.

Caroline Arnold (), OC 1958 came to Oberlin from Kent to study cello. She played in the Akron and Youngstown symphony orchestras. She was active in her home community, serving ten years on the Kent Board of Education. In 1985 she joined Senator Glenn’s (D-OH) staff in Washington, DC. Her work, based on two American hymns, was premiered by the Congressional Chorus, which made up of approximately 50 singers who are staff members of the House, Senate, and Library of Congress.

Roy F. Kehl (-2011), OC 1958 came from St. Louis to earn a degree in organ performance. In 1960 he was awarded the MA in organ from Ohio State. In addition to serving as Organist and Choirmaster at Kenmore (NY) United Methodist Church and The Church of the Ascension, Chicago, he has been Assistant Organist at Alice Millar Chapel of Northwestern University and Associate Professor of Organ and Piano and Church Music at Houghton College. As a member of the Standing Commission on Church Music of Episcopal Church his special contributions to The Hymnal 1982 involved chairing the Plainsong Subcommittee and researching hymn tune names.
Nancy Moore Roth (), OC 1958 graduated from Oberlin with a major in music. She received ballet training in Cleveland and New York, earned an MDiv cum laude from General Theological Seminary (NYC) and was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1981. She is married to organist Robert Roth, and as a team they co-edited the children’s hymnal We Sing of God and a Teacher’s Guide for it. She served on the staff of Trinity Church, Wall Street before moving to Oberlin where she juggles the duties of parish priest (St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Elyria) and teacher of classes in movement and interpretation. Her books A New Christian Yoga (1989) and The Breath of God (1990), as all her writings, reflect her lifelong pursuit of the unity of body and mind. The Roth’s son Michael is an Oberlin alumnus.


George Calvin Hampton (1938-84), OC 1960 came to Oberlin from Ravenna, OH. After graduation he taught at Salem College, NC and earned the MM at Syracuse in 1962. He served as Director of Music for the Parish of Calvary/St George’s, NYC, where he played the celebrated Midnight Concerts at Calvary every Friday. His hymn tunes appear in many hymnals. Five of his tunes and a harmonization of the melody FOUNDATION appear in The Hymnal 1982. GIA published a fine collection of his work as The Calvin Hampton Hymnary (1980).

Martha Hurst Bruner (), OC 1961 was an English major in the college. She retired from teaching in 2000 and now substitutes as a church organist and pianist. Marty writes hymns in collaboration with two Elyria musicians, Janet Campbell-Kuhl, organist and piano teacher, and Carol Sharrock, organist, music educator, and organ teacher.

Charles Wells (), OC 1962 Professor Emeritus of Mathematics (Case Western Reserve University), and his wife Jane now live in New England. He is the great-great grandson of Benjamin Franklin White, one of the two editors of the original Sacred Harp, 1844. He says he remembers his grandmother showing him the Sacred Harp and explaining the shapes to him when he was twelve. So it was altogether fitting that he should co-edit the shape-note collection Oberlin Harmony while he was living in Oberlin in 2003. He was the moving force behind the weekly shape-note ‘sings’ on campus.
John Ferguson (), OC 1963 holds degrees from Oberlin, Kent State University, and Eastman. After a fifteen-year tenure on the music faculty at Kent he was appointed to St. Olaf College where his responsibilities include directing the Church Music/Organ Program and conducting the Cantorei. As organist and music director he served the UCC Church in Kent, OH and Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis. He has authored several books, a course on creative hymn playing titled Worship Blueprints published by the American Guild of Organists, and a biography of Walter Holtkamp. Hymns provide the basis for most of his choral and instrumental compositions, published by GIA, Augsburg, and Morningstar. His recent recordings, Hymns for Every Season and Alleluia! We Sing the Year Round are based on hymns. He is widely acclaimed for his hymn festivals.

William Hiiakaiakapoliopele Kaina (), OC 1963 is known as “great lover of Hawaiian people, culture, language, and music.” He served as student pastor to Sullivan, OH Congregational Church 1962-63 and after graduation served many churches on the mainland and in Hawaii. He earned graduate degrees at Yankton, SD College and Yankton School of Theology. He was appointed in 1970 as Coordinator of Hawaiian Churches’ Ministry for the Hawaii Conference, United Church of Christ. Serving on the Hawaiian Hymnbook Committee, he prepared much of the supplementary worship material as well as fulfilling duties of coordinator for the publication. Rev. Kaina was called out of retirement to serve the Hawaiian Conference of the UCC 2005-06 and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Partners in Development Foundation, which supports Hawaiian families and communities.
Jeff Kline (), OC 1964 was “bitten” by the hymn-writing bug after the success of his first hymn “Building for Community” written for a special celebration of The United Parish in Brookline. To highlight many moments in the life of the congregation he has been inspired to continue his hymn writing, setting texts adapted from the service or the lectionary. He already has many more works in progress. Jeff teaches in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures at Boston University.
David Lewis Cosby (1946-1998), OC 1968 began his musical career at the age of nine as chorister at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. After graduating from Oberlin Conservatory he studied conducting with Otto Werner Mueller. He was Artistic Director and Conductor of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the American Master Choral. He made his Japan conducting debut with the New Philharmonic Orchestra, Chiba. He conducted several Moravian Music Festivals (1981, 1990, 1996) and had been named Conductor and Co-Music Director of the 20th Festival in 1999. A prolific composer, his work ran from sacred pieces to incidental music from dramas. His hymn tune DORIAN can be found on p. 678 of the recently published Moravian Hymnal and an arrangement of his appears in the same hymnal.

Lee Spear (), OC 1968 has done extensive research into the early 19th century vocal music of the Harmonists, a religious communal society founded in three communities located in Indiana and Pennsylvania. This group’s worship included many hymns and chorales.

James Curtis Gertmenian (1947-), OC 1969 came to Oberlin from South Pasadena, CA. After receiving the MDiv degree from Union Theological Seminary he held pastorates in UCC and Presbyterian churches. His hymn “In the Brilliant Sunlight” was selected for publication by the Hymn Society Banquet of Praise, and in The New Century Hymnal. He is the Senior Minister of Norfield Congregational Church in Weston, CT.

Calvin Taylor (1948-), OC 1970 studied organ with Haskell Thomson in the Conservatory. He held two organ posts during his student years in Oberlin, continuing an involvement with hymns he had known in his childhood. He is widely known as a recording artist and has published many works including piano and organ arrangements of hymns as well as hymns of his own. Although he and his wife have established a publishing firm in Kentucky, much of their time is spent touring and concretizing.

David Hurd (1950-), OC 1971 was an organ student of Garth Peacock at the Oberlin Conservatory. He has served as Professor of Church Music and Organist at General Theological Seminary, NYC as well as Director of Music for All Saints Church, NYC. He was visiting lecturer at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music 1982-1983. He also served on the Standing Commission for Church Music of the Episcopal Church 1976-1985, for six years as vice chair. Six of his tunes and many of his accompaniments, arrangements, and harmonizations are in The Hymnal 1982. GIA published twenty-nine of his hymn tunes in The David Hurd Hymnary (1983)
Ray Urwin (), OC 1972 a native of Toledo, served as organist of The First Church in Oberlin during his student years. After graduation he held the position of organist at St. John’s Cathedral, Wilmington, DE until his appointment in 1990 as Director of Music, St. Francis Episcopal Church, Ranchos Palos Verdes, CA. Urwin studied with Fenner Douglas in Oberlin and later with Charles Krigbaum and Arthur Poister as he earned additional degrees from SUNY at Stony Brook and Yale. Urwin recently was appointed to the Commission on Liturgy and Music of the Los Angeles Diocese (Episcopal). Two of his compositions appear in The Hymnal 1982 and three of his hymn tunes are published in New Songs of Rejoicing (Selah Publishing Co., 1994).
Malcolm Dalglish (1952-), OC 1975 is a renowned choral director, choral composer and presenter of programs based on folk music. While a student at Oberlin he designed and built hammer dulcimers. He devotes most of his time to performing and conducting choral projects worldwide. “Carpe Diem” includes his arrangements of folk hymns and spirituals.
Alice Caldwell (), OC 1978 was an organ performance major in the Conservatory. For the PhD in historical musicology (NYU) she researched the development of Moravian liturgical music. Her articles on that topic were published in the Moravian Music Journal (1989-1990) and in Communal Societies (1989). The first complete edition of Christian Gregor’s Liturgies of 1791 contained texts for congregational singing which Caldwell subdivided by their hymns and choral treatments. She points out the importance of hymns and chorales to the Moravian liturgy from its beginning.


Moses Hogan (1957-2003), OC 1979 came to Oberlin as a graduate of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He later studied at the Juliard School of Music and Lousiana State University. His choral style and high musical standards were praised by critics worldwide. His contemporary settings of spirituals are much loved. The Moses Hogan Singers, organized in 1998, produced several recordings of songs of faith as well as spirituals with renowned Oberlin alumnus Derek Lee Ragin.
Amanda Udis-Kessler (1965-), OC 1988 is a member, lay preacher, and lay musician at High Plains Church Unitarian Universalist in Colorado Springs, CO where she accompanies services and plays in the house band. Amanda has a PhD in sociology from Boston College and a Certificate in General Theological Studies from the Iliff School of Theology. Her hymn “Once Jesus Loved a Rich Man” was winner in 1996-1997 of a hymn writing context on the theme of social justice sponsored by the Hymn Society. Her hymn "Mother Earth, Beloved Garden" has appeared in Unitarian hymnals in the US and the UK, and her hymn "Proclaim the Acceptable Year of the Lord" is published in four hymnals.

Nolan Williams, Jr. (), OC 1990 served as minister of music at Mount Zion Baptist Church while he was a student at Oberlin and went on to earn an MDiv from Howard University and to be ordained a Baptist minister. He has served as Minister of Music at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He was the music editor of the African American Heritage Hymnal, and now leads a production company called NEWorks and directs the Voices of Inspiration. He and his choir Voices of Inspiration led the Northern Ohio Hymn Festival at Oberlin College on October 10, 2010.

Chloe Maher (), OC 2003 was a music major in the college. She was born and educated in Philadelphia where she participated in folk singing and community singing. When she worked at Pinewood Camp near Plymouth, MA she studied shape-note singing as well as dancing and folk singing. As a student in Oberlin she joined the shape-note singing group that sang not only from Sacred Harp and Northern Harmony but fearlessly tackled singing from new sources, including their own compositions. Chloe now continues working on composing new tunes. She was the co-editor with Charles Wells, OC 1962 of Oberlin Harmony, a 2003 publication that includes old favorites as well as texts and tunes by many Oberlin students and alumni.

Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music has a proud tradition of having graduated many alumni who have pursued vocations in sacred music, back to our earliest years and continuing to today. This circle includes prolific and creative hymn writers and composers, congregational music professionals and choral conductors, editors of hymnals, and hymnologists.

The exhibit below was curated by Mary Louise VanDyke, OC 1947 who has served as Director of the Dictionary of American Hymnology Project. It is presented here both for general interest as well as to facilitate further study and research on Oberlin hymn writers. Please see Mary Louise's article on this topic from The Hymn: A Journal of Congregational Song.

With the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Mary Louise also coordinates Northern Ohio Hymn Festivals at Oberlin College, and serves as librarian of The Reverend William Watkins Reid, Jr., OC 1945 Memorial Hymnal Library at the Multifaith Center. (Photos courtesy of the Oberlin College Archives.)