For many, the bell tower symbolizes graduation. It is engraved on the ring that students may buy to show they are an alumnus of St. Mary’s. Anyone that knows Saint Mary’s will recognize it instantly, for those unfamiliar with the campus, it is the first thing they will notice. It is a center of social and spiritual life for many students on campus. Surprisingly, however, the Bell Tower is a fairly recent addition to Saint Mary’s.
On February 9, 2007 Saint Mary’s held a dedication ceremony to celebrate the unveiling of the Bell Tower. Many people attended the ceremony, including Charles T. and Melissa Barrett, who gave the initial donation of $500,000 that made the creation of the Bell Tower possible. This is around half of the total cost of the tower.. Charles graduated from Saint Mary’s in 1962 before he became a member of the Board of Trustees. He helped create the Bell Tower to serve as a memorial for his mother and his son who had recently passed away. The tower is dedicated to the memory of both of them.
Charles and Melissa hoped the Bell Tower would become an iconic gathering point for students on campus. Saint Mary’s emphasizes community and the campus was missing this kind of central gathering place. Every Wednesday at three p.m. students gather to say the Marianist three o’clock prayer around the Bell Tower. Throughout the year, there are also events where students will gather to eat food and share in community with each other. Every year the university decorates it for the tree lighting ceremony, sororities use it during bid day, and many students take pictures with it for social media.
Saint Mary’s started talking about the creation of a Bell Tower in the 1960s, and the University has looked for a way to create one since then. This Bell Tower is unique in that it does not have physical bell, but instead it has an electronic chime installed that rings at noon, 3PM, and 6PM. It rings at these times as a call to daily mass and three o’clock prayer. The Bell Tower still has a bell installed, but it is just for looks.
The construction of the Bell Tower took around a year to complete and had its bumps in the road. At one point the construction workers accidently hit a power line and created an outage on half of campus. The construction also upset some students as it made it harder for them to get to class. Despite these issues during construction, the Bell Tower is now an iconic feature of Saint Mary’s. The Bell Tower stands proud and tall watching over campus and remaining a symbol for those who come here.