Unswerving Dedication: Paulin Hall Celebrates 50 Years

By Becky St. Clair

Opening Chords

On what was likely a warm, sunny day in Sandusky, Ohio—July 7, 1878—Noah Ernest Paulin entered the world. While many babies were born around the world on this day, this particular little boy has great significance to Pacific Union College, though his parents could not know this at the time.

An early love for music drove young Noah to study the subject at Findlay College (Ohio), until he graduated in 1901. After two years conducting the orchestra for and touring the country with the Henry Minstrels, Paulin moved with his family to Santa Barbara, California, in 1905. He then took graduate courses at what is now UC Santa Barbara, and established a music studio to support himself, which he operated for nine years.

Theme & Variations

Paulin’s path crosses with that of Pacific Union College in 1914, when, after accepting an invitation from C. Walter Irwin, then president of the college, he arrived on the PUC campus with only his well-loved violin, some sheet music, and a few personal belongings. Paulin’s assignment was to establish a music department on the campus, which had only recently relocated to Angwin from Healdsburg, and served a total of 250 students.

Without an official space in which to teach, Paulin began the infant department in his campus home, known for many decades as the Colusa House. However, when he married Mary Louise Plunkett in 1917, the department was moved from his home to Grainger Hall. Here, the issue was that neighboring professors were forced to teach their classes to the accompaniment of band music, heard easily through the thin walls.

The resulting frustration and distraction of this situation led to another move for the music department, this time to West Hall, then home to the campus’ Health Services, where Mary McReynolds, staff physician, noted with some consternation that the music decreased her ability to count pulse rates and heartbeats on her patients. Demonstrating his easy sense of humor, Paulin responded, “What’s a heartbeat to a drum beat?”

Noah Paulin and his wife, Mary, in front of their campus home in 1919. Prior to their marriage, Noah taught music lessons and classes from this home.

Third Movement

After a successful proposal by college administration in 1932, a more permanent space for the music department was erected in the form of the building currently known as Stauffer Hall. Popular student vote proclaimed the building would be named in honor of Professor Paulin, and he continued teaching there until his retirement in 1944.

The original Paulin Hall boasted 13 practice rooms and three studios on the lower level, and a small auditorium upstairs, which also served as a rehearsal room and classroom. The department of music finally had a home. As a result of the new dedicated space, as well as the growing reputation of Paulin’s successful and enjoyable program, the department grew quickly in the years that followed. Not long after Paulin’s retirement, a larger space was required, and a new music building—the one currently in use—was completed in 1966, to which the name Paulin Hall was transferred.

Plans for the new Paulin Hall, expected to cost a grand total of $400,000, were drawn by an architectural firm in San Bernardino called Armstrong, Ulmer, and Tenney. Willard Bresee, a contractor from Angwin, managed the building’s construction. The fountain that still stands in front of the building’s main entrance was not included in the original design but was added during construction of what was called the Paulin Hall Mall a year or so later. The building itself came to a total of $627,000.


The new Paulin Hall opened in May 1967, in a ceremony officiated by Floyd Rittenhouse, then president of the college. Faculty, staff, students, and community members celebrated the new building, as Paulin himself spoke, and Pro Musica, now Vox Pro Musica, provided music prior to the ribbon cutting.

Noah Paulin (right), alongside F.O. Rittenhouse, then president of the college, cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the new Paulin Hall in 1967.

Of the new space, Paulin said, “I cannot praise it too highly. It is arranged well and has good acoustics. They did not forget a thing.” Lyle Jewell, then choral director and associate professor of music, stated that the new Paulin Hall was “tremendous, beautiful, and functional,” and George Wargo, then chair of the department, claimed the building was “perhaps the finest and most elegant music building in California,” and expected the facilities to encourage the faculty to “do the very finest in their work.”

Built to handle a continuous and expected increase in music students at the college, the new Paulin Hall was designed in three sections. The North section contained a choir rehearsal room, choral library and studio, instrumental rehearsal room, orchestra and band library, and an additional studio, in addition to six practice rooms, a kitchen, a recording room, and several storage rooms. The Middle Section comprised the main entrance, a student lounge, and a fully carpeted auditorium with theater seating for nearly 500. The South section was split into two levels, and included general offices, 22 practice rooms, 12 studio rooms, ten listening rooms, and classrooms.

Instrumental Interlude

A 36-rank Casavant pipe organ was installed in the auditorium, with provision to add three more in the future. As it proved desirable to have more, Del Case, then professor of music, installed an additional 12 with the help of two students and a colleague in the early 1970s. In addition to this large organ, two other tracker pipe organs—a Bosch, installed in 1968, and a Phelps, installed sometime during the 1970s—now occupy two practice rooms, as well as four harpsichords, 25 grand pianos, 25 upright pianos, two electronic pianos, and a five-octave handbell set.

On Sunday, May 7, 1967, at 8 p.m., the department of music hosted the very first concert in the new Paulin Hall. It was a candlelight concert, the second of the year, and the program included “Quintet in E flat for Horn and Strings, K. 407” by Mozart, “Vier Ernste Gesange, Op. 21 (Four Serious Songs)” by Brahms, and “Quintet in E flat for Piano and Strings, Op. 44” by Schumann. Performers were Joyce Staddon (violin), George Wargo (violin), Julien Lobsien (viola), Wesley Follett (cello), Lyle Jewell (bass), Carlyle Manous (horn), Morris Taylor (piano), and Merrill Barnhart (piano).

The grand opening of the new Paulin Hall on April 23, 1967, brought faculty, staff, students, and community members together to celebrate the state-of-the-art space for PUC music students.

Students enjoy the open space and fountain in front of Paulin Hall during the 1970s.

The brand new Paulin Hall foyer let in plenty of natural light and welcomed visitors to the 500-seat auditorium for concerts and recitals.

D.C. al Fine

Today, 16 students are studying as music majors at PUC, and an additional 60 participate in the numerous ensembles which rehearse and often perform in Paulin Hall. These ensembles also regularly tour to places across the country and around the world.

Paulin Hall is also home to Paulin Center for the Creative Arts, a community music program which debuted in the early 1980s, started by Lois Case, now professor emeritus after teaching at PUC for 41 years. Once as large as 200 students, with 20 contract and student teachers, the PCCA continues to offer voice and instrument lessons to community members, allowing a greater number of people access to music performance experience, and PUC music students the opportunity to develop their teaching skills.


In 1968, at the age of 90, Noah Paulin was the recipient of PUC’s first doctorate, an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. Rittenhouse commended Paulin for his “unswerving dedication to the highest standards of musical excellence, faithful adherence to Christian principles, penetrating insight into the wellsprings of human conduct, consistency, dependability, unfailing kindness, scholarly tastes and ideals, persistence and patience in difficulty, and an unfailing and delicious sense of humor.”

These characteristics, loved and respected so much in Noah Paulin, are still embodied by PUC’s department of music today, as it serves and trains musicians from around the world for successful careers in the performing arts.

In honor of the anniversary of Paulin Hall, The Beatitudes, a cantata composed by Asher Raboy, resident artist at Pacific Union College, will be performed in its entirety for the first time on Saturday afternoon, April 21. The performance will feature the PUC choir and orchestra, both including alumni and community members, and will highlight guest soloists. Composed in a mere four months at the end of 2017, the 40-minute cantata is based on the eight blessings recounted by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. The Beatitudes concert will take place in Paulin Hall Auditorium at 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 21. Admission is free. For a map of the campus, visit puc.edu/map.

Paulin Hall today.

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