Absence of Tolling on Campus Result of Broken Unity Bell

By Alana Wenger, The Weather Vane student newspaper

Many students may not have noticed the absence of the Unity Bell on the bell structure between Hartzler Library and Lehman Auditorium. Campus Ministries removed the cracked bell and hopes to fill its vacancy with a replacement soon.

Brian Martin Burkholder, EMU campus pastor
Brian Martin Burkholder, EMU campus pastor

“EMU needs a new bell that can be actively used for tolling” said Brian Martin Burkholder, director of campus ministries and campus pastor. “Each year I receive requests for the use of the bell related to various kinds of programming, and I have to tell the group that the bell really shouldn’t be tolled for fear of further damage.”

EMU currently does not have funds designated to replace the bell. “I’ve been hoping that a senior class would pick up the vision of providing a new bell, and perhaps enhancing the current bell structure, as a class gift, but it hasn’t happened,” Burkholder said. “My hunch is that most people did not realize that the unity bell was damaged beyond active use [and] therefore did not know of the need for a new bell. An empty bell structure communicates this need much more clearly.”

The Unity Bell has a long and influential history, playing an instrumental role in a 1969 fundraising effort for the construction of the Hartzler Library. EMU had some difficulty raising funds for the construction, so they decided to have an auction. The physics department auctioned an old dinner bell, ringing it every time they received a significant contribution. At the end of the auction, with only the bell to auction off, EMU determined they only needed to receive $800 more in funds, and quickly received the required $800 to applause.

Because of the bell’s history, Burkholder said that it has not been used recently because of its poor condition. “We have not been using it to toll for memorial services, to call the campus community to chapel, or in recognition of significant events,” he said. “There was concern that the bell might be further damaged if it was in active use.”

However, campus ministries hopes to exhibit the bell in Hartzler Library in time for 2009’s Homecoming, along with a display that will retell the bell’s history.

Burkholder said, “The bell structure will remain patient, waiting for another bell to keep it company.”

“Maybe someone has a large bell with a clear tone at home and could bring it back to campus after Thanksgiving? Perhaps someone will step forward to donate toward the purchase of another bell?” Burkholder said. “I’ll keep hoping for a replacement sooner rather than later.”

Full details about the Unity Bell can be found online at: www.emu.edu/crossroads/90years/library/

Read more of The Weather Vane online here: weathervane.emu.edu