On October 5, 1892, when the doors of the State Normal and Industrial School officially opened for instruction, the women enrolled were called to classes by the chiming of the University Bell. Originally, the bell stood near the location of the current Alumni House. It was used wake students in the morning, call them to breakfast and other meals, and alert them to the start of the school day. Ezekiel Robinson was typically the person tasked with ringing the bell during the earliest years of the school.
After the 1904 destruction of Brick Dormitory and the construction of Spencer, the bell was moved to a site closer to the new residence hall (across College Avenue from where Jackson Library sits today). When electric bells were installed in the campus buildings, the use of the bell on a daily basis was discontinued.
Then, on a Saturday night in January 1938, the bell was taken down and tucked away in a storage room on campus. There it sat until members of the Class of 1923 decided it needed a more prominent location and a more prominent role in ongoing campus life and traditions.
When the Class of 1923 held their 30th reunion in 1953, the class president implored that something be done to preserve “a certain bell dear to the memory of the alumnae.”
In 1967, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the university’s opening, the student body of 1967 donated $15,000 to build Students’ Anniversary Plaza at the corner of Spring Garden and College Avenue (the site of founding president Charles Duncan McIver’s home). A brick “modernistic arch” was designed by Charles Bell, superintendent of ground at UNCG. The bell was bronzed and mounted under the arch in 1968.
The bell remained in that location until 1987 when it was removed for restoration. It is currently stored in the Alumni House, but the bell is brought out for every commencement. At the end of the ceremony, the bell is rung to honor the new graduates.
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