“People describe the inauguration as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity type event,” vice president for enrollment Phil Cook said. “I think it was a one time in history event.”
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander extended the invitation to Lee President Paul Conn. The college president accepted on the spot.
“Out of 10,000 college choirs in the country, it got narrowed down to Lee University being the only college that had a choir at the inauguration,” Cook said.
A public announcement was then made during a chapel service at the college.
Choir members Caitlin Groves and Cody Turner said they were excited when they heard the announcement.
“It was just madness. We couldn’t believe it,” Turner said.
As excited as he was to be headed to the inauguration, Turner’s excitement increased when he heard that the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir would also be there.
“They are my superheroes,” Turner said. “So I was just beside myself.”
Cook said a senior U.S. senator from the college’s state has to be on the inauguration committee and recommend them in order for them to participate.
“That may never happen again,” Cook said.
Alexander had first heard a student from Lee sing 37 years ago, according to Cook.
He said there was a lot of media coverage that covered the choir’s performance and discussed the college.
“There were hundreds and hundreds of references around the world and around the country to Lee University and Bradley County that day,” Cook said.
Groves said the experience was exciting for her because she loves history.
“I have such a passion for this country and I love to study its history,” Groves said. “When I heard the words that we were going to be singing at the inauguration — it just meant so much to me.”
She said it also gave the students the opportunity to share the message of Jesus Christ through music.
Turner said he has been many places and experienced many things through the traveling choir he is a part of at Lee.
“This is the experience that really tops them all,” Turner said.
He said it really sank in that this was for real when he saw the U.S. Capitol Building for the first time.
Both students said it was a good experience to be a part of the tradition of the inauguration.
Lee University did not receive funding from the inauguration committee for travel expenses. This was something the college had to work out.
Lee had a contingent of 250 people in Washington, D.C., for the event.