NC State’s Memorial Belltower finally lives up to its name with 55 new bells to ring

·2 min read

For about 70 years, N.C. State University’s Memorial Belltower off Hillsborough Street has welcomed students and visitors to the campus in Raleigh. But it’s never had any actual bells to ring.

That all changed Friday afternoon.

N.C. State celebrated the installation of 55 bells and a carillon in the belltower thanks to a gift from alumnus Bill Henry and his wife, Frances. The university also dedicated the plaza around the 115-foot granite landmark as Henry Square in their honor. The family was there to mark the moment and celebrate their son’s graduation from N.C. State this weekend.

At the ceremony, people heard the bells played for the first time since the structure was built. Previously, the bell sounds came from speakers.

Tom Gurin was making fine-tune adjustments up in the belltower Thursday to prepare for the one-hour “concert” he’ll play with the new bells at the ceremony.

“I’ve never inaugurated a carillon before, but I’m very excited,” Gurin said. “One of the most important concerts I’ve ever played.”

Down below, graduating students were taking pictures in their caps and gowns in front of the tower.

“It just tells you how much this symbolizes their community and their traditions and their voice,” Gurin said. “And right now I feel like I am their voice, collectively, so it’s a big responsibility.”

Plans for the monument originated about a century ago to honor N.C. State alumni killed in World War I.

And it’s become “one of the most hallowed places on our campus,” according to N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson.

The Henrys’ gift in 2017 was put toward the purchase of the bells for the $6.5 million project, which also included repairs to interior stairs, stabilization of the tower and upgrades to the plaza.

The renovations, which began in 2019, are part of NC State’s Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign that will raise $1.6 billion for the university.

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