There’s no landmark more symbolic to NC State’s history than the Memorial Bell Tower. Standing tall in memory of those alumni killed in World War I, the Bell Tower continues to represent NC State’s unwavering commitment to military service and the sacrifice it entails.
But the story of the Bell Tower is a 30-year narrative, culminating on this day in 1949 when the landmark was dedicated.
The idea for such a memorial first evolved when Vance Sykes, a member of the Class of ’07, wrote into Alumni News in 1918, upon hearing about an alumnus killed in combat, according to a commemorative pamphlet put out by the Alumni Association called “A Legend in Stone.”
“I hope that a movement will be put on foot to perpetuate the names of our alumni who have given their lives in France that the world might live in peace,” Sykes wrote. “I know that the alumni would subscribe liberally to a fund to be used for this purpose, and it is nothing more than due our heroes.”
And the alumni did start to give, but just not enough. “After two fund-raising campaigns failed to yield sufficient funds for the projected monument, the committee voted in June 1921 to erect the first eighteen feet, and then finish the structure as funds permitted,” writes Alice Elizabeth Reagan in North Carolina State University: A Narrative History. And the cornerstone was laid in November 1921.
But it would be another 28 years, another world war and a great depression before enough of the $200,000 was raised for the Bell Tower to be completed in full. And on this day 63 years ago, the landmark towered over its dedication ceremony.