One would be hard-pressed to find two people more enthusiastic about Wheaton College than Duane ’76 and Jill Mitchell Rommel ’77.
Duane, a pre-med chemistry major, and Jill, a Christian education major, met at Wheaton College. They have fond memories of snowball fights, conversational dinners, and youthful antics including a time the women shaved the men’s beards, blindfolded.
“I felt terrible because I cut Duane up a bit,” says Jill. Not only did the promising pediatrician-to-be forgive her for the spotty shave, but he also attended Jill’s Concert Choir performances and grew to love the music as much as she did.
The couple married in 1977 and eventually settled in Minneapolis. But they paid frequent visits to campus, especially during the attendance of sons Mike ’02 and Jeffrey ’04.
Over the years, Jill has put her Christian education major and musical training to use as a choral singer, church worship coordinator, and children’s ministry leader. In 2007, she created a curriculum based on the Gospel of John that she and Duane presented to teen residents of a Tampa Bay correctional facility.
The Rommels wholeheartedly support the From the Heart, For the Kingdom’s new Armerding Center for Music and the Arts. Jill serves on the Performing Arts Campaign Cabinet, and both she and Duane continue in faithful prayer for the center’s full funding.
“The quality of what Concert Choir Director Dr. John William Trotter and Women’s Chorale and Men’s Glee Club Director Dr. Mary Hopper ’73 are doing with students is beautiful,” says Jill. “I know the music reaches people. And I love that Wheaton students are immersed in the truth of what they are singing.”
A number of fellow Concert Choir members, including Donna Oerth Johnson ’76 and Larry Shackley ’77, have joined the Rommels in encouraging Concert Choir friends to fund a room in honor of their beloved former choir director, Mr. Rex Hicks, who served as a Wheaton professor of choral music and director of the Concert Choir and Women’s Glee Club from 1963 to 1981.
With memories of practicing in Pierce Chapel’s cramped basement and performing in Edman Chapel’s auditorium, Jill is excited by the prospect of a completed Armerding Center that will offer students a centrally located, state-of-the-art practice and performance space, complete with an acoustically perfect concert hall.
In today’s media-driven culture, ensuring that Wheaton’s vibrant artistic and musical community continues to thrive is important to the Rommels.
So is honoring the significant impact of the College on their life trajectories.
“A Wheaton education is life-changing,” says Jill. “We want to support Wheaton College so that it can continue to be the kind of life-giving place for others that it was for us.”