Don’t Wreck Commencement: Postpone Work on the Bell Tower

When alumni and students think of Phillips Academy, they think of the Great Lawn, Sam Phil, and, invariably, the Memorial Bell Tower. For many, it was the first building they saw when they arrived at PA as new students and the very last that sank into the horizon as they left after graduating. For over 80 years, the Bell Tower has been a symbol of the Academy. Since its construction thousands of Andover men and women have graduated in its shadow. To many in the PA community, the Bell Tower and the school are inextricably linked. This year, however, the Class of 2005 will probably not be able to graduate in the presence of this Phillips Academy icon. Plans to be considered by the Trustees this fall call for the demolition of the tower during this coming Spring Term before Commencement exercises for the Class of 2005. Commencement represents the culmination of a class’s time at this school. It is arguably one of the most important days of a student’s life here. If the restoration begins this year, it should start after June 5, when the class of 2005 will graduate. When the administration presents plans to the trustees this fall for the tower’s restoration, we hope that both the administration and trustees will consider the sanctity of Commencement. In the mid-90s, when the Bell Tower became too dangerous for the bells to be played, the Academy suffered a tremendous blow. Now that the Bell Tower is in peril, we cannot thank enough those members of the PA community who, through their generosity, are allowing the restoration of the tower and the addition of new bells. Thanks to them, we can be sure that there will always be a bell tower adorning our beautiful campus. We recognize that the importance of the restoration and the hard work that has gone and will go into planning the project. We especially applaud the efforts and the enthusiasm of David Underwood ’54, the other donors to the project, the trustees, and the Office of the Physical Plant. But the Bell Tower is too important a symbol to come down before the Senior class celebrates its last few moments together. Tradition at a school like Andover is not something to be taken lightly. Over 80 years of graduates have seen the white beacon that towers above the trees as they said their last goodbyes to each other and to this Academy. The Class of 2005 should not be left out. We hope that the Trustees and the administration will consider the importance of the Bell Tower’s presence during the Commencement exercises. That last day on Andover Hill will doubtlessly be the most memorable for the outgoing Senior class – the memories made on that day ought to include the campus’ landmark, the Memorial Bell Tower.