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Wittenberg Doors Return to Messiah over 20 Years After Door Heist

Maddie Conley
Student Writer

Over 20 years after the doors were stolen from Eisenhower Commons, the Wittenberg doors have been returned to Messiah in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

When a large door arrives as a package in the mail, you question it. When this large door happens to be the Messiah-famous Wittenberg door, it’s just crazy. When you get an email about yet another stolen door, you have a story. Yesterday morning, the two missing Wittenberg doors were unveiled in the Alumni Office.

Recently the SGA office found themselves in possession of one of the three Wittenberg doors that hung in Eisenhower Commons in the 1980s. The Wittenberg doors were hung to resemble the door of the Wittenberg Castle church that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to in 1517. It was used for posting Luther-esque complaints, concerns and discussions for debate by students.

From left: Randy Ness, Wes Bower, and Glen Pierce reminisce with a Clarion yearbook during the unveiling of the Wittenberg doors in the Alumni Office.

J.T. Long, ’89, had stolen one of the doors as a prank when he was a student at Messiah.  In honor of the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day, Long’s former roommate Jeff Kramer, the student body president of ’89, sent the door back to Messiah. Soon after, an email was sent by Tim Fenchel, ’96, saying that he had the third Wittenberg door and was willing to return it for the anniversary of the Reformation as well.

Director of Archives Glen Pierce, ’70, remembered the doors clearly. “Eisenhower Commons was the place to come,” Pierce said. “You couldn’t walk through without seeing the doors.”

Anonymous and signed comments were placed on the door to spark conversation. Senior Admissions Associate Randy Ness, ’77, said, “This was pre-social media, so this was our outlet.”

However, comments sometimes got out of hand when students would write negative replies in the margins of others’ letters. The negativity is what led Long and Fenchel to steal the doors. Kramer stated, “It was presumably an act of ‘civil disobedience’, the sense being that postings on the door had become insipid and banal. Turns out it was my roommate J.T. who stole it. I never knew he had it until recently.”

“In what I must admit was an amazing and incredible heist, we pulled it off,” said Fenchel. “We never really figured we would pull it off let alone think about what we would do with it afterwards. So here we are in 2017 and it is still in my possession.”

The Alumni Office is now home to the two, returned doors while the first door is held in Messiah’s archives.

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