Dub and BJ Riter Milennium Carillon Tower and Plaza, Carillon Tower
About the UT Tyler Bell Tower
The Dub and B.J. Riter Millennium Carillon Tower and Plaza was first erected in the hearts and minds of the Riter family, longtime supporters of The University of Texas at Tyler. The family donated a gift of $1.3 million for the tower's creation, and then the campus community began watching history take shape, beam by beam, brick by brick in front of the UT Tyler Administration Building.
Standing nearly nine stories tall, the Riter Carillon Tower will serve through the ages as the primary icon for UT Tyler, said Dr. Rodney H. Mabry, president of the university. "The tower will be remembered and cherished by all UT Tyler students throughout the generations and will be a lasting testament to the leadership, loyalty, support and generosity of Regent and Mrs. A.W. Riter Jr.,'' Dr. Mabry said. Riter is a member and vice chairman of the UT System Board of Regents appointed by Gov. George W. Bush.
The largest carillon in Texas and among the 20 largest in America, the tower symbolizes the quality and strength of UT Tyler and hopefully will be a source of pride for all students and faculty of the university, Regent and Mrs. Riter said. "We have been very pleased with the quality development of higher education at The University of Texas at Tyler. We wanted to do something of significance on the campus, which would be a lasting reflection of the academic stature of that institution,'' the Riters said.
Every campus of higher education needs an icon or special location where students can gather, they added. "As students of The University of Texas at Austin, we enjoyed the tower, which became the focal point of interest on the campus and remains so today.
"The Verdin Co., in cooperation with Tyler's RPR Construction Co. Inc., began building the tower earlier this year. In August, following the completion of the tower and plaza, a ceremony was held to celebrate the new addition to the campus.
"Because of our outstanding academics, UT Tyler students have always had a reason to brag, but now we have new bragging rights,'' Lana Cain, president of the Student Government Association, said during the Riter Millennium Carillon Celebration, held at the plaza. "This carillon tower not only symbolizes beauty and generosity but it also is a symbol of campus spirit.''
"The ringing of bells speaks directly to people throughout the world,'' Dr. Virginia R. Beidelman, Faculty Senate president and associate professor of reading, said during the celebration. "The Riter Millennium Carillon Tower and Plaza serves as a living song here on campus that speaks directly to minds, hearts and spirits across communities and across generations.''
When the oldest carillon and clock tower company in America, founded in 1842, was hired to build the tower, James Verdin, fifth-generation owner, took personal charge of the project. Verdin said he has a special interest in the Riter Carillon Tower because of its size and significance to the university and the Tyler community. "I thought it was interesting to see this taking place on a new campus and I felt the tower would make a tremendous impact not only on the university but also the community,'' he said.
lighted towerThe Riter Carillon Tower reflects a part of Tyler's history. The tower's four lighted clocks, each measuring 8 feet in diameter, were fashioned after the clock of the old Smith County Courthouse, which occupied the downtown square from 1909 to 1955. "Mrs. Riter had a particular interest in the downtown courthouse,'' said Verdin. "We were able to obtain information from records of the courthouse clock to make the faces of the tower clocks very similar to it.''
From the ground to the main cornice above the clocks, the tower totals 80 feet with a cap section standing 8 feet above that. The tower is surrounded by a circular plaza with walkways, benches and landscaping by David C. Scarborough, ASLA, Landscape Architect.
The tower's 57 clear-tone bronze bells were cast at a foundry in the Netherlands. At Petit and Fritsen, which has been in operation since 1660, the bells were cast in bronze, a mixture of copper and tin, with no re-smelted metal used in the casting. The carillon is anchored by one low-note bell weighing more than 2,000 pounds.
The largest bell bears an inscription that reads "Given to the Glory of God and to the Students, Staff and Faculty of The University of Texas at Tyler by the Family of A.W. Riter, Jr., B.J. and Dub Riter, Whit Riter and Family, Melinda Riter Shoemake and Family."
A Presidents Bell bears the names of UT Tyler's three presidents, James Henry Stewart Jr., 1971-1981; George Francis Hamm, 1981-1998; and Rodney Hugh Mabry, 1998-present.
An electronic keyboard operates the bells from the Administration Building. The bells can be operated by an individual or programmed to play on a scheduled basis. The carillon sounds Westminster chimes on the quarter hour and strikes every half-hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The carillon also plays a morning song and the alma mater at 7:50 a.m. and a miniconcert of two songs at 11:50 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily, as well as appropriate music for most major holidays.
students The carillon also serves as a teaching instrument for UT Tyler students. Doug Gefvert, the third carillonneur of the Washington Memorial National Carillon, recently visited the university to train faculty and students to perform carillon concerts.
Regent and Mrs. Riter have been active in several UT Tyler organizations. Together they have made generous donations to the UT Tyler Presidential Scholarship Program, George F. Hamm Endowed Chair in Arts and Humanities, UT Tyler Patriot Golf Classic, President's Associates, Friends of the Arts, Distinguished Lecture Series and construction of the R. Don Cowan Fine and Performing Arts Center. Mrs. Riter also serves on the Advisory Board of the Cowan Center. She is a past member of the Advisory Board of Friends of the Arts and has served as an Ambassador for the Patriot Classic.
Regent Riter is chairman of the UT Tyler Development Board. He also was honored as a UT Tyler Patriot of the Year for his support of the university.
A mighty musical instrument comparable to the best carillons in the cathedrals of Europe, the Riter Carillon is worth a visit to the campus, Dr. Mabry said. "It is great in the daytime, but at night it is truly spectacular. The bells in UT Tyler's open campanile are lit up with spotlights, and the golden sheen can be seen for miles."