- Devon Mayse
Olivet bell continues to toll
Comets hear its call almost daily, coming from the center of the college square. It is more than 150 years old. It is infamously known as "The Bell".
While the ringing can be heard throughout campus, it raises the question: "Why do we have a giant bell in the center of campus?".
According to the October/November 1981 edition of Shipherd’s Record, the Olivet College alumni publication, the bell was returned to campus to be rung on special calendar days. In addition, the bell’s call would sound for Olivet sports victories instead of the church bells, which were not always accessible after sporting events.
Initially, the bell came to Olivet after it was cast by the Holbrook Bell Foundry in 1865 and put in the Colonial Chapel (which was located where Dole Hall is today) during renovations during the same year. Colonial Chapel was torn down in 1932, and there are no existing sources of information on where the bell resided from 1931 to 1949. By a stroke of luck, in 1950, the bell was found in a small closet in Dole Hall.
But, if the bell never really left Olivet, how did it return?
The answer comes in the story of the bell’s recovery. In 1977, Jim Hay, a professor of Visual Arts at Olivet and a sculptor, took the bell to his personal studio to repair defacements and other aging of the surface. Enter the President of Olivet College at the time, Donald Morris. In 1978, Morris founded the History and Artifact Society of Olivet College, and gave it the job of bringing the bell back to the campus, to be showcased under the oaks. The society then entrusted Burt Swan of the Physical Plant to transport the bell from Hay’s studio, and stonemason Greg Gallas to construct support for the bell to be safely displayed.
Home at last, the bell was added to Olivet’s campus around Homecoming 1980. As mentioned in the Oct. 8, 1980 edition of the Olivet College Echo, the bell is around 650 pounds and has a volume similar to the bell in the Congregationalist Church.