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MEMORIAL GETS ITS VOICE Grassroots movement delivers bells to NC State bell tower By Kristy Stevenson

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ince its dedication in 1949, NC State University’s Memorial Bell Tower has stood as a symbol of the university as well as a memorial to alumni who gave their lives in WWI. But not many know that construction based on the original bell tower blueprint was never completed – and this vertical icon actually has no bells in it at all. The design architect likened the tower to a sentinel lighthouse that would help NC State’s lost soldiers who died in the war find their way home. Because of the Depression, however, funding dwindled and the full design potential was never realized. Items that never made it to the current tower include: bells, a bell playing console, glass clock faces and a staircase to the belfry. Falling back on a ‘plan B,’ students and the Alumni Memorial Committee raised enough money to install a temporary speaker system to ring in the tower until real bells could be financed. Fast forward to 2008 when Matthew Robbins, a graduate student in architecture,

shares his zeal for completing the structure by founding the FINISH THE [BELL] TOWER movement on campus. The campaign’s website (bells.ncsu.edu) features an extensive history of the memorial as well as a fly-through side-byside rendering of the tower as it was designed in 1920 compared to the one that exists today. To students, the Bell Tower is a landmark – to alumni it’s a memorial and sacred ground – but to Robbins, it’s a passion. “The memorial is incomplete as it stands,” he says. “People are moved by the story; it never stops being fruitful.” Already entrenched in the tower’s history as part of his thesis project, Robbins launched the initiative and the Traditions Commission (part of the executive branch of NCSU’s Student Government) adopted it shortly thereafter. The Commission was put into place to study the university’s traditions and history, and By Christa Gala to actively promote and preserve the things that define the NC State experience. Chandler Thompson – current head of the Commission

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Profile for Midtown Magazine, Cary Living Magazine

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September/October 2010

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September/October 2010

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