All along the bell tower

Sara Purvis

Editor’s note: The following story is the third in a series of articles that highlights some of Iowa State’s most interesting buildings and structures.

Standing 110 feet tall, the Campanile is one of the most prominent and recognized Iowa State landmarks.

Just as noticeable as the tower itself, the playing of the bells at noon each day the university is in session has become a campus tradition for more than 90 years.

The carillon, the actual chimes inside the Campanile, were donated by Edgar Stanton, a member of the first graduating class of Iowa State. Stanton donated the money to purchase the bells in memory of his wife, Margaret MacDonald Stanton, ISU’s first dean of women.

Stanton chose the location for the bell tower with the help of President William Miller Beardshear. The state legislature appropriated $7,500 for the construction of the tower, clock and bells in 1897.

The tower, designed by architect George Hallett, was completed in October of 1898 by J.F. Atkinson & Brothers, and the bells rang for the first time in late 1899.

When Edgar Stanton died in 1920, his will provided almost $26,000 for the purchasing of 26 new bells for the carillon and a new playing console.

The additions to the carillon were installed in 1929, making the Campanile one of the finest carillons in the country.

The trustees of the Stanton Estate joined with others to create the Stanton Memorial Carillon Foundation to further advance the carillon at Iowa State.

The Foundation purchased 13 additional bells and made more renovations in 1956, and added an additional bell in 1967 bringing the total to the present 50 bells.

During 1992 and 1994, the Campanile underwent extensive renovations including the redesigning and repositioning of the bells, new clappers, a new playing console, an air conditioning system, a new roof and replacement of old bricks.

When longtime Iowa State Carillonneur Richard VanGrabow retired in 1991, the music department wasn’t able to hire a new musician to play the traditional noontime concert due to budget cuts.

The Campanile fell silent until one Ames man took it upon himself to find the money for the tradition.

In November, 1991, Kenn McCloud, a DJ for KCCQ of Ames, locked himself inside the Campanile and played “Louie Louie” and refused to come out until $10,000 was raised to hire a carillonneur.

McCloud, who didn’t attend Iowa State and now works for KLYF in Des Moines, raised over $10,000 in five days for the cause.

These funds, in combination with funds raised by the Stanton Memorial Carillon Foundation, provided money for the renovation and continuance of the carillon and Campanile.

The position of full-time carillonneur is funded by a $250,000 endowment by Charles and Ivadelle Cownie, two alumni from Des Moines.

Since 1994, the carillon has chimed the hour with the “Westminster Quarters” which is played by a mechanical system connected to the clock mechanism. While school is in session, the university’s carillonneur plays the bells at 11:50 a.m. for 20 minutes each day.

Tin-Shi Tam, the university carillonneur for nearly three years, plays a wide variety of songs during the noontime concert. She plays everything possible from classical sonatas to an occasional pop arrangement.

“The carillon really adds flavor to the campus,” she said.

Tam said there are only a few individuals who visit the carillon while she plays, as the room where she plays is often either very cold or very hot, even with the air conditioning system.

Tam also plays for special events, such as the Spring Carillon and Organ Festival to be held April 25-27. The carillon also has its own web page, which can be found under the music department’s home page.

Although most of the discussion of the Campanile involves the carillon, the building itself is a huge part of Iowa State’s campus. It has been a tradition for nearly 100 years at Iowa State and will be a continuing part of Iowa State’s personality. So much so, the university has trademarked the figure of the Campanile, which appears on most ISU pamphlets and calendars and even on the front of the Iowa State Daily for each day’s weather report.

Students also owe another tradition to the Campanile — Campaniling, a kiss at midnight to certify one’s status as a true Iowa Stater.

Opportunities to fulfill this qualification arise throughout the year whether it be en masse at Homecoming or at the end of a romantic first date. Yet many seniors find themselves taking advantage of the “Last Chance Campaniling” during the Friday night of Senior Week.

Regardless, when the bells chime at midnight and the moment is shared, the college experience is truly complete.