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Old Main Bell Rings Again

The Old Main bell stopped tolling in 1892, and today it rang again. The dedication ceremony for the restored and now displayed Old Main bell, the senior class gift of 2009, was held at 10.15 AM today at the west side of Old Main lawn. In addition to the bell, two other gifts were inaugurated: the Student Life Promenade, the 2005 class gift which illustrates 150 years of Penn State student life, and the 2008 gift, the Atherton and Curtain Gateway. All three projects were completed within the past month.

Over a century ago, the bell’s clapper (for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, it’s the metal piece that hits the bell’s sides, making noise) disappeared, probably as the result of a practical joke. Unable to locate it, officials in the Penn State community soon forgot about it. Then, in the 1950s, H. O. Smith found a clapper in the attic of an old boarding house he was working on. He wrapped it up, took it home, put it in his garage, and promptly forgot about it as well. Years later, his son Skip remembered it and gave it back to Penn State. Bell experts (yes, apparently they do exist) confirmed that it was part of the original bell. As President Spanier said this morning amidst laughter, “clapper and bell are now reunited.”

In addition to President Spanier, speakers included 2009 Senior Class Gift Communications Overall Avery Peechatka, and Chair for the Annual Giving Advisory Council Martha Jordan. They all expressed great enthusiasm at the completion of the class gifts. “I think that when I graduated in 1976, our gift was something like a park bench”, Martha Jordan quipped. They’ve certainly come a long way–together, the Classes of ’05, ’08, and ’09 raised over $560,000 from 7,500 student donors. All three projects were funded entirely by student donations. Jordan also noted that the day is special, as it marks the start of “For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students,” an effort to fund raise 2 billion dollars for the university.

After the ceremony, we spoke to ’09 Committee Chairperson Peechatka, who talked to us about his excitement for the completion of the gift. He said that the greatest challenge in terms of fund raising for the class gift was informing students of the process and helping  them realize that this is indeed a worthwhile cause. Overall, he said, students were responsive and enthusiastic about the project. In terms of the procedure for selecting a class gift, he emphasized the role of students in choosing a gift; all suggestions come from the community, are narrowed down to 3 options by the university, and then are voted on by the senior class. Peechatka also noted the importance for outgoing seniors of having a legacy at Penn State and of “leaving a mark on campus”.

For those of you already putting on your shoes to run right over and ring the bell, we’ve got disappointing news: the clapper will be removed and reinstated only on special occasions. However, make sure to check out the class gifts scattered across the university anyway: both the bell and the promenade feature seating areas, perfect for enjoying a beautiful day on Penn State’s campus.

[Photo Credit: Chase Tralka]

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