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MARY FARSON/PROGRESS

By BRIANNA WHITE
progress@eku.edu

A new sense of campus pride will sound off in a matter of weeks after the restored carillon bells of the Keen Johnson Building were hoisted into the bell tower last Tuesday and Wednesday.

In December, the university announced the bells in the Keen Johnson Building were going to be restored by The Verdin Company, the carillon’s original installer from Cincinnati, and would ring once again during the spring.

When this news was released by online sources, many alumni, members of the community and current students shared the exciting news more than 100 times on different social media outlets, said Marc Whitt, university spokesman.

Dedicated as the Memorial Bell Tower in 1970, and being the first cast bell carillon in Kentucky, the bells were used for decades on campus before they were retired almost 20 years ago, due to their condition. 

“As an alum, I can say that while I was here as a student, one of the things that was always great was when you would walk across campus and here Alma Mater playing or My Old Kentucky Home playing,” Whitt said. “It just gave a real good feel to the atmosphere here on campus.”

The $300,000 project included not only the restoration of the bells, but a new master control system containing up to 10,000 musical selections that can be played day to day such as Alma Mater, My Old Kentucky Home, Westminster Chimes and Eastern’s fight song.  A few selections will be timed to play periodically throughout the day.

“I think within time, current students will come to value it as much as those of us who knew it when we were students,” Whitt said.

The use of bells has become a tradition on many college campuses, such as Berea College and a number of prestigious universities. Now, Eastern will become a part of the tradition once again with the carillon’s restoration.

Every university needs to have strong traditions, such as the bells, much like Eastern’s tradition of rubbing Daniel Boone’s foot for good luck, Whitt said.

This project represents one of two phases the university is taking towards the campus’ new beginning, Whitt said.

The first phase is to recognize and appreciate Eastern’s rich heritage, while the second is to move forward with capital projects the university has planned for the future, Whitt said.

“I think it’s a very exciting time to be a part of EKU,” Whitt said.

Although the bells have been mounted, it will be around four weeks before they make their debut tolls. The new electrical systems and structure will be tested in the coming weeks to ensure the bells are ready for use.

2 Comments

  1. The bells would not have been retired because of their own condition, but because of the condition of the electrical mechanism and electronic controls that played them. Obsolete electronics are usually not repairable, while a conventional mechanical action (as Berea has) is always repairable.

  2. This a great news. So many colleges have removed they real bells and replaced them with loudspeakers. Now just keep up the maintenance so they last longer than 20 years.

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