The Drexel Collection’s New Exhibit is ‘A Photographic Voyage’

A photograph of a tree from R. John Chapel's 'A Photographic Voyage.'

Drexel University trustee and alumnus R. John Chapel, Jr. ’67 received his first camera — a Kodak “Brownie” camera — when he was in elementary school, and he has been taking pictures ever since. Now, 44 of the photographs he has taken as an amateur photographer are displayed at his alma mater by the University’s art collection.

The exhibit showcasing Chapel’s work, A Photographic Voyage, will be exhibited by The Drexel Collection in the Paul Peck Alumni Center Gallery from April 29 to July 26.

The pictures displayed will show everything that caught Chapel’s eye, so to speak — from his travels around the world (he and his wife Virginia, or Jinnie, have traveled to 29 different countries, from Sweden to Turkey to Nigeria to New Zealand) to his home on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, where he joined the Kiawah Photo Club. He estimates he takes about 25 to 50 photos on an average day, and as many as 200 to 400 while on vacation; the trick is to keep his cameras (either a Nikon 610 or D810, or both) nearby, just in case he sees something he wants to capture.

The resulting photos include black-and-white and color photography of anything from plants and animals to landscapes and water scenes to people and events — but whatever it is, it’s a snapshot of Chapel’s world.

“You don’t have to be an expert,” he said, “but you do have to have passion.”

That passion — and an ability to keep an eye on the prize and pursue goals — has also influenced Chapel’s education, career and philanthropy.

Chapel first came to Drexel (which was then called the Drexel Institute of Technology) in 1961 as a mechanical engineering student, but he postponed his studies two years later due to financial difficulties and worked several jobs, including one as a design draftsman at Black & Decker. He returned to Drexel and translated his prior engineering credits for his new business majors (he majored in both finance and economics) and used his professional work experience as a co-op. He graduated from the then-College of Business Administration (today’s LeBow College of Business) in 1967.

Now, Chapel is the president and CEO of the private equity investment firm White Hall Capital, LLC, but never forgot where he came from when he had to take a leave of absence from Drexel for financial reasons.

From 2008 to 2014, Chapel and his wife Jinnie donated more than $3.5 million to the LeBow College of Business, where their $2.5 million gift endowed the college’s first dean’s chair in leadership. The Chapels also donated $1 million to name the R. John Chapel, Jr. Dean’s Suite in the LeBow College of Business in 2014 and have also supported Drexel’s Department of Athletics, establishing the John and Jinne Chapel ACHIEVE Center & Dragon Lounge in 2017.

Chapel is also continuing his generosity to the University by making the photographs in A Photographic Voyage available for purchase, and all proceeds will go towards Drexel.

‘A Photographic Voyage’ will be on display in the Paul Peck Alumni Center Gallery (corner of 32nd and Market streets) from April 29 to July 26.