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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Activities & Organizations

Religion Center director among those mourned at Day of Remembrance

The Day of Remembrance is an annual event held at the Bruce A.D. Religion Center commemorating University of Houston alumni, students, faculty and staff who have passed away during the year. | File Photo/The Cougar

Tissues sat at both ends of every pew in the A.D. Bruce Religion Center. As light shone onto those in attendance, organ music began the annual Day of Remembrance honoring University alumni, faculty, staff and students who died in 2018, in addition to the Religion Center’s director, who died Monday.

The Day of Remembrance is held in the A.D. Bruce Religion Center on the first Tuesday of every March to honor members of the UH community who died in the previous year.

“As we gather together today, try to remember a fun memory of someone you’ve lost and a smile may come on your face. Smiles are welcome here,” said the President of the Campus Ministries Association Shannon Rutherford. “You might also remember that person and be pulled into the depths of sorrow. Tears are also welcome here.”

More than 500 individuals, many of whom being alumni, were listed in the event’s program, but just one was mentioned by name: Religion Center Director Bruce Twenhafel, who had worked at the University for 20 years.

“He’s been in this building managing it since 2010,” said Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs – Student Life, Keith Kowalka. “He is an amazing spirit he really transformed the (Campus Ministries Association). CMA was always here, but they didn’t have somebody here that knew their world, being a spiritual person and a faith leader.”

Twenhafel may be remembered throughout campus for his years-long crusade to repair the Center’s roof, which had leaked and not been updated since the ‘60s prior to this summer’s renovations, but he will be remembered by his coworkers and friends for his lively personality and upbeat attitude.

“He was joyful. He always had jokes,” Rutherford said. “He was quick witted — but professional — and loved people well, and that was seen a lot towards the end of his life, just the people who came out and loved on him and cared for him in his last days because of how much he loved other people and how much he made them feel welcomed and part of his family here.”

Twenhafel served as director for two years and had been manager since 2010. He was formerly the associate director of Campus Activities, according to his Linkedin profile.

Today, the UH community showed how interconnected and well supported we all are, despite the director of the Religion Center, Bruce Twenhafel, passing away the day before,” said Student Government Association President Cameron Barrett. “The ceremony was just as respectful and well-organized as if Bruce was there himself.”

During the ceremony, speakers took to the stand to read poems and light memorial candles in honor of the Cougars who had passed.

Four candles were lit to represent students, faculty members, staff and alumni, respectively. Barrett lit the first candle, followed by Faculty Senate President Raul Ramos, Staff Council President Emily Merrell and UH Alumni Association President Brent Chinn.

“It was one of the greatest honors of my presidency, and one of the most somber moments, to participate in the UH Day of Remembrance,” Barrett said after the memorial.

The Religion Center’s bell tolled 27 times at the end of the ceremony in honor of the year the University was founded, 1927. Before attendees were let out to congregate in the lobby for snacks, the University’s Alma Mater was played on the organ. Though, no one sang.

The Center, though religious, is non-denominational; it is open for anyone’s use, no matter their religion, or lack thereof. Students may come to the Center to work on homework on the couches upstairs, attend one of the many events held each day, or, of course, to pray.

The annual UH Day of Remembrance will be held again next year to honor those who passed in 2019, no doubt including a prepared eulogy and time for Twenhafel, who helped modernize the A.D. Bruce Religion Center physically and spiritually.

“He was a great partner from the University supporting these folks who aren’t part of the University officially but are people of interest which, I think, one of his greatest accomplishments,” Kowalka said. “He was just an amazing guy, the remarks are him, quick witted, just a very caring soul, and funny.”

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