Gov. Michael Parson Joins Westminster for Museum Reopening Event on Latshaw Plaza

Missouri Gov. Michael Parson joined Westminster College officials at 11 a.m. Friday, July 30, 2021, on Latshaw Plaza to kick off three full days of events celebrating the reopening of America’s National Churchill Museum.

Beginning with History major Stephen Rogers, ‘23, a number of individuals delivered short speeches about the significance of the event, including President Donald P. Lofe, Jr.

“I want to begin by saying there has not been a chapter in a college or museum operational handbook on dealing with a pandemic, operationally or financially … at least until this year,” Lofe said in reference to the Museum suddenly closing its doors on March 15, 2020, during the pandemic. He added that upon reopening, Museum visitors will encounter a number of COVID-19 safety measures.

The Museum remained shuttered for 16 months — the only time in its 52-year-history to close for anything other than standard major holidays.

Lofe also mentioned the Museum secured over $1.3 million in donations during its closure. He also announced the College will invest an additional $3 million in new funding for the ongoing preservation effort of the historic Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury. The new funding is made possible by the issuance of new revenue bonds, a transaction which successfully closed July 29.

Gov. Parson then took to the podium and summarized the local and international impact of Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech. He said, “We are here to celebrate Churchill and what Churchill meant to all of us, and what the Museum means to us and how it’s changed the world.”

Parson also encouraged the approximately 75 people in attendance and those watching through the livestream to spend some time reflecting on history, both local and personal.

Following Parson’s remarks, Timothy Riley, the Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout Director and Chief Curator of the Museum, introduced the rest of the platform party: Victor Pasley, representing Mamie Louise Black Pasley, who was present during Churchill’s visit in 1946; Patricia O’Rourke, representing her husband, Earl O’Rourke, ’51 ΔΤΔ, who was director of Building and Grounds during the construction of the Museum in the 1960s; Fulton City Council member Bob Washington; and Mark Sutherland, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Honorary Consul for the State of Missouri.

Riley also recognized Callaway County with the Museum’s “Special Relationship Award,” which recognized the support the county provided the Museum and other establishments during the pandemic.

“The lights of the beautiful Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, were left on dimly, night and day, as a reminder, a beacon, of our resilience,” Riley emphasized.

He added that during the Museum’s closure, staff members inventoried the facility’s vast collection, digitized documents and other materials, enhanced programs for K-12 students, and developed innovative webcasts for global audiences.

Riley then officially declared the Museum open.

The opening ceremony can be viewed in its entirety on the Museum’s YouTube page.

Weekend activities following the ceremony included special guided tours; a Beacon of Resilience concert by musician and singer Adriel Denae; Mander organ demonstrations; and lectures on various paintings, the “Iron Curtain” speech, and preservation activities at the Museum.

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.