Ursinus Community Remembers Rev. Charles Rice

A memorial celebration of Rev’s life and legacy was held in Bomberger Auditorium on Sunday, April 29, one year after he suddenly passed away.

The indelible mark that Rev. Rice left on the college and those he came into contact with during his tenure at Ursinus was clearly evident as more than a dozen speakers shared personal memories and stories.

Rev. Rice’s son, Wynton Rice ’09, remembered his father’s presence and the “joyful noise” he brought with him. Wynton lead more than 100 people gathered in Bomberger in a few verses of “This Little Light of Mine,” and music was a theme that recurred in other recollections as well.  

Ed Onaci, an assistant professor of history, recalled that Rev. Rice requested the song, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” one of the first times they met.  He shared the memory that in spite of knowing the song well, he had never listened to the words until he saw what they meant to Rev. Rice. 

Onaci recited, “There’s been so many things that’s held us down, but now it looks like things are finally comin’ around…if you felt we’ve been held down before, I know you’ll refuse to be held down anymore.” 

Later, the student singing group Voices in Praise performed an a-cappella version of “I Shall Wear a Crown.”

“Rev gave to his students his time and his wisdom and brought out the best in every one of them. He had the ability to make sure our students got a running start—and could thrive while they were here,” President Brock Blomberg said.

Speakers also included two members of the Ursinus Board of Trustees, faculty members, friends of Rice, Ursinus alumni, staff and current students.  

Rev. Janel Reppert Rice ’00 said, “He found the special in each of us” and Codi Yhap ’20 recalled Rev playing Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today” and shared how that song poignantly reflects Rev’s spirit and something that is needed still today.

Trustees Wilbert D Abele ’61 and Jef Corson both shared very personal reflections on what Rev. Rice meant to them and on the loss of their own fathers as children.

“The actor Tom Hanks is quoted as saying, ‘Larger-than-life characters make up about .01 percent of the world’s population.’ If that is true—and extends to real life—Charles was as rare as I always believed…because he truly was larger than life—physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally.”

A light reception followed in the Berman Museum and display cases in the lobby and on the third floor of Myrin Library featured an exhibition of Rev. Rice’s books, annotations, and correspondence, coordinated by Patricia Lott, an assistant professor of African American and Africana Studies, American studies and English. —By Monique Kelly