Digital ding

Elizabeth Rund

From atop the library, speakers broadcast the chimes of Kent State’s quarter hours


Credit: DKS Editors

Edgar Allan Poe may have only written about the “rhyming and the chiming of the bells,” but for most students, it is a very familiar sound.

From 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., the sound of church-like chimes can be heard throughout campus every 15 minutes.

The church-like bells, or the “carillon,” as it is called, is Kent State’s unofficial timekeeper.

Most students are unaware they’re not actually bells, but rather a digital sound system amplified by speakers.

“They are convenient,” said Christina Del Bel, senior fashion merchandising major, of the recurring chimes. “I know how long I have – it’s in tune with when my classes start.”

According to a book titled Kent’s Clocks, the first chime system appeared in 1957 and was housed in the old auditorium building on the front campus.

The donated insurance money of a Kent State student who died in the Korean War paid for the chimes. The first system resembled player-piano scrolls. The cylinders turned and hit a chime that was amplified by a speaker.

In the early 1980s, the chimes stopped working, and for the next 10 years, campus was silent.

Being the highest building in Portage County, the University Library seemed like the natural choice for the location of the re-introduced chimes in 1991.

“It’s the main part of campus,” said James Kurtz, manager of information and electrical systems of Campus Environment and Operations. “You can find your way to anywhere in relation to the library.”

Associate University Counsel James Watson and Michael McDonald, director of Campus Environment and Operations, purchased the new chimes through donations. The new sounds were first introduced at the inauguration of former President Carol Cartwright in the fall of 1991.

In 2003, the university purchased an updated system from Verdin, a bell manufacturer. The current system consists of a clock with a digital disc that is amplified over speakers. A telephone line in the vice president’s office controls the chimes.

“The chimes are located on the top floor in the library, and all the speakers are on the roof,” Kurtz said.

Although the chimes are programmed to ring automatically on a set schedule, they can be muted for special events.

Kurtz said Shelly Ingraham, assistant to senior vice president for administration David Creamer, controls the chimes when they need to be suspended for a special occasion.

“It’s done through the phone line,” Ingraham said. “It mutes the volume of the chimes.”

While some students like Del Bel find the chimes convenient, others find them distracting.

“I used to live in Lake (Hall), and they were pretty annoying,” junior marketing major Jonathon Rougowski said.

And though some students pay no attention to the chimes, there is a group who relies on them.

“When the chimes weren’t working, we got calls from our blind students who use the chimes as a schedule to tell time,” Kurtz said.

Convenient or not, these historical timekeepers continue to leave a ringing sound in students’ ears.

Contact features reporter Elizabeth Rund at [email protected].