The Ruth and Ron Blatchley Bell Tower is the most prominent feature of the Bearkat Plaza. It stands at the top of the hill on the western edge of the Plaza behind the Marks Administration Building and has quickly become a symbol of the university.
The 50-foot tower marks the quarter and half hour by ringing the bells. The SHSU Alma Mater, Bearkat Fight Song, and other music is played by the bells on the hour. The bells can perform more than 200 songs including holiday music and even special songs for rainy days.
Before the bells tower was constructed, time was marked on campus with a system of tuning forks, called a carillon, through speakers mounted on top of the Bobby K. Marks Administration Building. As the Farrell-Wright Carillon system and speakers grew older and began to malfunction, the university began the search for new chimes. In 2003 Ruth and Ron Blatchley, who were students at Sam Houston State in the late 1960s, had donated a smaller clock tower which stands in the Alumni Garden west of the Lowman Student Center. They also provided a sizeable donation for construction of the Bell Tower. The Bell Tower was dedicated on Oct. 15, 2005. The Raven's Call monument was installed Apr. 20, 2011.
“We love that university, we can’t tell you how pleased we are about contributing to a part of campus, said Ron Blatchley.
According to former university president Dr. James F. Gaertner, campus administrators wanted to create a gathering place with the construction of the Ruth and Ron Blatchley Bell Tower. “We were searching for a focal point in the center of campus,” said Gaertner. “We wanted to hear folks say, ‘I’ll meet you at the bell tower.’”
Since the contribution of the Bell Tower, the mall area has added sitting areas, beautifully maintained gardens, and a large plaque featuring the university’s motto: The measure of a Life is its Service.
“It has been a delight to hear from somebody not knowing that we had anything to do with the bell tower say, ‘I’ll meet you at the bell tower when we get over to Huntsville,’ or, ‘I took my graduation pictures at the tower,’” Blatchley said. “That is exactly what we had in mind and it is so gratifying to hear. It makes Ruth and I feel really humbled about our contribution.”
Even though the Blatchley Bell Tower has only been on campus since 2005 there are already superstitions surrounding the fixture of the Bearkat Plaza. It has been said that any undergraduate who walks directly underneath the tower before graduation will add a semester or two to their graduation date.
So, if you want to graduate on schedule, be sure to never walk directly under the bell tower and warn your fellow undergraduate Bearkat friends to walk around the outside, at least until graduation.