Paul Emerson Hamel

August 8, 1919 -

Paul Hamel, one in a select group of Adventist musicians to have a building named for them, earned the honor at Andrews University by virtue of a long and distinguished career at that institution. For nearly a quarter of a century, he provided crucial leadership at critical moments for not only the music program but also for other aspects of campus life as well.

Hamel was the second of four sons born to Irene Flentie and Mahlon (M.G.) Hamel. He was raised in a musical family where both parents were involved in music, the father as a band director and the mother as a talented amateur musician who played both organ and accordion. All of the children were given music instruction from an early age and three sons - Louis, Paul, and Lyle - would enjoy careers in music.

Paul started playing in the Bethel Academy, now Wisconsin Academy, band, which his father directed, while he was in grade school. By the time he graduated from BA and attended Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, he was an accomplished clarinetist.

He had just completed a three-year elementary education program at Emmanuel Missionary College and started to teach when WW II began. Following service as a medical corps sergeant and a military bandsman playing clarinet in several different bands in the U.S. and England, he returned to EMC, where he served as a band assistant while pursuing a music degree.

When Hamel graduated from EMC in 1948, he was hired to direct the college band. Under his leadership, band concerts became popular and well-attended events. He subsequently completed a master's degree at Vandercook College and a D.Mus.Ed. at the Chicago Musical College, now the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

Hamel became chair in 1957, shortly after completing graduate study. Two years later, the seminary, which had been located in Washington, D.C., was moved to the college. Within four years, EMC's academic program mushroomed to include graduate study in several areas, including music.

Under Hamel's leadership, the department grew from one with a small college faculty and limited undergraduate degree offerings, to one with an expanded and distinguished university faculty working in a flourishing program offering graduate work to large numbers of students. In the first years of the college's transformation into a university, he also served as Director of Admissions for the summer session. During those busy years he continued to serve as band director until 1967.

By the time Hamel retired in 1981, he was a highly respected member of the AU faculty, having transformed the music program, been acting Dean of the School of Graduate Studies on several occasions, and started the AU Honors Program. He was awarded the AU Presidential Citation in 1963, honored with the AU yearbook dedication in 1964, and given the John Nevins Andrews Medallion the year he retired. The music building at AU was named for him in 1995.

He authored numerous journal articles and two books: The Christian and His Music and Ellen White and Music. He also produced a book of instrumental arrangements for the Singing Youth songbook.

Even in his retirement, Hamel continued to work on behalf of the university, serving for two terms as president of the alumni association. In 2000, he was named an honored alumnus for his many contributions to his alma mater and for his untiring work on behalf of the university.


Sources: conversations/interviews with Paul Hamel on several occasions; 1920 and 1930 Census Records; Andrews University Focus, Spring 2000, 20.


A Tribute

Dan Shultz

When Andrews University honored Paul Hamel in June 1995 by naming its music building after him, Dan Shultz was invited to speak on behalf of AU graduates at Hamel's request. The following comments are edited excerpts from the tribute given at that ceremony.

Paul Hamel, like Carl Engel at Union College, Noah Paulin at Pacific Union College, and Harold A. Miller and J. Mabel Wood at Southern College, has earned the honor of having a music building named after him by virtue of a long and distinguished career at one institution. He, like four of those five persons, served as a chairman, providing crucial leadership at critical moments for the music program at Andrews University.

In Hamel’s experience, those moments were in the thirty-five year period of unprecedented growth following the Second World War, a global conflict that, in retrospect, appears to have been the dividing line between the old and the new for many aspects of American life.

Returning veterans and the money that came with them led to a rapid expansion in Adventist colleges - and concerns about the quality and diversity of what they were offering. Those concerns, coupled with the demands of a quickly changing and increasingly more sophisticated society, made it imperative that these music programs improve to meet higher expectations and more challenging standards.

Prior to the war, traditional expectations in most Adventist colleges were that the music department was to provide worship music, to entertain, and to be an effective tool for recruiting students. After the war, however, within the context of increasingly higher academic standards on our campuses, those older expectations had to expand beyond the worship, entertainment and recruitment mindset if music programs were to survive and achieve respectability within the academic community.

Hamel’s career at what was then known as Emmanuel Missionary College began at that pivotal time at the end of the war. When he arrived as an assistant in the band program, he joined a parade of previous directors at EMC such as Louis Thorpe, Williard (Bill) Shadel, and John J. Hafner, men who would emerge as pioneers in the beginnings of Adventist college concert bands. While Hamel would continue their work in that area, he would ultimately make a more far-reaching contribution.

By the time he completed his work at Andrews University, he would have witnessed, participated in, and been a major player in creating the needed transformation in music programs in Adventist higher education. The result is a legacy in the arts that music chairs today struggle to preserve amid society’s ever increasing emphasis on technology.

When Hamel became music department chairman in 1955, EMC was a small regional college with a four-teacher music department and a program that offered one degree. By the time he retired in 1981, he had done the following:

  1. Been a major force in the transformation of EMC from a regional college into a University serving a national and international constituency.
  2. Established substantive undergraduate and graduate music degree programs.
  3. Assembled a distinguished music faculty of teachers and scholars noted for their accomplishments in performance, composition, and/or research and writing.
  4. Achieved accreditation of the music program with the National Association of Schools of Music, a distinction that today can be claimed by only six other Adventist colleges and half of the music schools in America.
  5. Become the father figure within the circle of Adventist music chairs, admired as a gentleman, and recognized for both his accomplishments and his wisdom.

Hamel’s concern for the integrity of the Andrews graduate program was evident in the quality of what was offered, the wide variety of high profile workshops and guest teachers he brought to the campus, and his willingness to work with students in arranging lessons with noted off-campus teachers or performers.

Music graduates over a period of many years have appreciated Hamel’s leadership as chair of the music program at Andrews. His example in personal integrity, vision of what might be, and efforts in making real his dreams for music at Andrews stand as an inspiration and a challenge for today’s and tomorrow's music leaders, teachers, and music programs.