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Belltower Bells to be Unveiled

A set of bells destined for the Belltower will be publicly unveiled at 5 p.m. Monday on the Brickyard as part of NC State’s 125th anniversary celebration. Chancellor Randy Woodson will make remarks, and UNC President Emeritus Bill Friday is expected to be in attendance.  Friday is president of NC State’s Class of 1941, the first class to raise money for bells.

An Unfinished Icon

NC State’s Memorial Tower was envisioned in 1921 as a memorial to 34 NC State College men who died in World War I. Its construction was plagued by financial shortfalls during the Great Depression, before its outer shell was completed by the Works Progress Administration in 1937.  Despite the structural completion, the tower’s carillon and interior were never finished, and the tower has stood incomplete since 1937.

Graduating classes during the 1930s and ’40s contributed lights and interior items, but attempts to attain a bell carillon fell short, giving way to the electronic chimes system we hear today.

Students Revive Effort

A student initiated group called “Finish the [Bell] Tower” was started in 2008 after Matthew Robbins, a graduate student in architecture, discovered the original plans for the tower.  Along with Jay Dawkins, the 2009 student body president and 2010 class president, Robbins spearheaded a campaign to raise money and revive the 1941-49 effort to put the intended 55-bell carillon into the Belltower as designed.

The 2010 senior class raised $56,000.00 for the biggest bell in the carillon, a 2,000-pound bronze behemoth to ring the hour note: F below middle C. It was the largest gift a senior class has given to the university. Those who gave at the $210 level have their names engraved on the bell.

Private Donors Help

Additionally, private donors came forward to donate the next two bells in the five-bell Westminster Chime set:

> The Helena H. Gardner bell was given by her husband and their three children in her memory.

> The W.F. Morris Sr. and Jr. Bell was given by W.F. Morris III and his family in honor of his father and grandfather.

To contribute or learn more about the project, visit the Finish the [Bell] Tower site at http://bells.ncsu.edu.

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