Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


John S. Umble Center

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Institution Name: Goshen College
Original/Historic Place Name: John S. Umble Center
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction:
1976-1978original construction Pries, Weldon
Designer: Weldon Pries
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Contemporary (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete
Walls: structural steel, masonry block and brick
Roof: Duro-Last single-ply, metal deck
ca. 1976-present (2006)theater

The John S. Umble Center for the Performing Arts exemplifies a change in the cultural attitudes of Mennonites as a result of education. At the college's founding, "theater" was generally suspect throughout the denomination. However, literary (and soon dramatic) events soon entered into campus life. The work of English professor John S. Umble, beginning in 1924 and continuing with his son Roy (also a professor at the college), paved the way for wider acceptance and use of drama within the denomination.

The center is one of several tangible extensions/interpretations of the college's enigmatic motto "Culture for Service." Architect Weldon Pries designed a theater building with simple lines and a functional use of space that meshes well with the practical needs of a Mennonite liberal arts setting. The performance hall was consciously and successfully designed for small and medium size performing groups: drama, lecture, and music. The architect was also involved in campus master planning in the era the center was constructed. This smaller size hall was seen as the first of several other performance spaces (for larger theatrical and larger musical performances). The larger music hall (Sauder Concert Hall) has recently been realized. The theater in Umble Center continues to receive praise from visitors.


Miller, Susan Fisher. Culture For Service: A History of Goshen College, 1894-1994. Goshen, IN: Goshen College, 1994.

Talaske, Richard H. et al., eds. Halls for Music Performance: Two Decades of Experience, 1962-1982. New York: American Institute of Physics for the Acoustical Society of America, 1982.


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Last update: November 2006