Philanthropist Dan Dipert was in his early 20s and serving as the youth minister at First Baptist Church when he faced the grim task of telling two boys ages 10 and 13 the devastating news that their dad had died. Dipert says he has never forgotten the emotion of that experience more than 50 years ago in the Arlington Memorial Hospital chapel as he comforted the boys and the profound effect it had on their life — and his.
So when Dipert learned recently that plans for a new chapel at Texas Health Resources Arlington Memorial were in the works, he was interested and supportive of the idea of creating a place of solace from the chaos of life.
“During the eight years I served as the youth and recreation minister, I spent a lot of my time at the hospital as did other ministers from all over town,” Dipert said. “Hospital visitation is a very important function of churches as they minister to families who may be in crisis. Helping the family of Mark and Lynn Strickland all those years ago when I had to tell them their dad had passed away had a huge spiritual impact on me then and still to this day.”
Not surprising then is Dipert’s announcement that he will be the lead donor for the $500,000 chapel project to be managed by Texas Health Resources Foundation.
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Plans for the project call for construction of a nearly 600-square-foot chapel adjoined by an additional 550 square feet for two chaplains’ offices alongside a waiting area. The new space will be situated off the main lobby of the hospital’s main entrance that faces south on Wright Street. The small existing hospital chapel space will be repurposed once the project is complete. The new chapel facilities will be named the Dan Dipert Family Chapel.
“As a faith-based hospital, it is a priority for us to improve this important part of our facility,” hospital President Blake Kretz said. “We thank Dan Dipert and his family for their generous donation to make our desire to upgrade our chapel a reality.”
Dipert recently wrapped up an eight-year stint on the hospital board of trustees and will now turn his attention to the chapel project. Although details of the chapel construction will be up to the hospital and foundation, Dipert said he is pleased to have some input into several of the design and architectural elements being considered.
“We’re planning a beautiful gilded ceiling in the chapel,” said Dipert who is a novice apprentice gilder and enjoys gilding and restoration as a hobby. The Society of Gilders have agreed to work on the chapel project when they are in Arlington for a conference in June. Dipert is on the society’s board.
“They are the premier gold leaf craftsmen artists in America,” said Dipert, citing work they did on the Georgia Dome, Union Station and the oval office at the George W. Bush Library in Dallas. “The beautiful gold leaf features we hope to have in the chapel window and ceiling will be the focal points of the chapel,” Dipert added.
With the announcement of the project, which will take up to six months to complete, the foundation hopes other donors will come forward. There are multiple naming opportunities in the project such as the art glass window, gilded ceiling, the pastoral care offices, kneelers and benches. A donor wall will be installed showing donors whose gifts are $5,000 and above.
“We’ve met with numerous ministers and church groups about getting involved, and they were most positive,” Dipert said.
A departure from education-focused projects that Dipert and his wife, Linda, most often choose to support, Dipert decided to fund the chapel project because he believes it will be another important way for the hospital to remain relevant in the community.
“Having this front and center will be a game changer — it will be a place of peace, a place to meditate, a place for healing your spirit and soul, to find your core and begin again.”
Foundation and hospital officials say the chapel will likely be used not only by patients and their families but also be a place for quiet reflection and meditation for hospital staff as they cope with the daily stress of caring for those experiencing serious health issues.
“The idea for the chapel started with Jim Dorsey, who has been a chaplain at Texas Health Arlington Memorial for 19 years,” said foundation spokeswoman Jessica Kaszynski. “This has always been a dream of his, and after discussions with the hospital president to move forward with this project, it truly is becoming a reality thanks to Dan Dipert’s lead gift.”
Dipert said, “I’m proud to be associated with the names of others who have donated to this hospital — people like Carter, McRae, Vandergriff and others — and I hope people won’t miss out on this window of opportunity to be a part of this because it’s really going to be special.”
Twitter: @Faye Reeder