Campanile stands as a lasting legacy


Heather Mangen

It towers above campus with respect and loyalty. Its bells ring boldly and smoothly throughout the day. At night, blue and gold lights beam with pride from the top. It is the symbol of SDSU.

The Charles Coughlin Campanile became the offical logo of SDSU about nine years ago.

Now it is pictured on alomst everything that is affliated with SDSU. It has become an important and popular part of the university.

In 2001, South Dakota Magazine rated climbing Campanile as the most unique thing to do in South Dakota.

Students are now getting the chance to climb the Campanile and learn more about it.

Vicki Schuster, program coordinator for the SDSU Alumni Association, took four General Studies 100 classes on a tour last week.

The tour included a briefing of the Campanile and climbing it.

Schuster believes this is important. Her goal is that students can provide five facts to friends or family who ask about the Campanile.

“Knowing more about the university will make better students and even better alumni,” she said.

Some students who have climbed the Campanile really enjoyed their experience. Freshman Kim Krugjohn, a nursing major, climbed the Campanile as part of the general studies class. She said it was tiring but once at the top, it didn’t faze her. It was worthwhile, she said.

“When you got up there you could see for miles,” she said.

“I probably wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for the class, so I am glad I did it.”

The Campanile was a gift given to SDSU by Charles Coughlin in 1929 as a celebration of the 20th anniversary of his graduation in electric engineering.

It opened to the public in March of 1930 and was formally dedicated on June 13, 1930. Schuster said that Coughlin gave the Campanile as a lasting legacy.

“He wanted it as a way to hold something that could ring a bell,” she said.

White Indiana limestone, red brick, concrete, and steel are the elements used to make the Campanile. It was built to coincide with the Lincoln Music Hall and the Coolidge Sylvan Theater.

The base is 47 square feet including the approaches. Above each door is a corner stone engraved with the date of important events. These events are the foundation of State College, the Louisiana Purchase, the admittance of the state of South Dakota, and the Land Grant College Authorization.

The Campanile, nicknamed the “Singing Silo” by SDSU rivals, stretches to 165 feet. But people are only able to climb two-thirds of the way up.

That is because a light and the Old Faithful” bell take up the last one-third of the Campanile, said Schuster.

At the very top of the Campanile is the “Old Faithful” bell. “Old Faithful” could be heard all over campus and was rung for graduation and victorious football games. It has since been removed and electric chimes now carry its tradition. It now rings twice everyday.

During 2000 and 2001, major renovations were done to the building. A fourth of the surrounding stone, roof, and windows were all replaced. Brick and mortar were replaced and repaired and brackets were added to the balcony. New light posts were added and benches were repainted to the original color. Schuster said five cubic meters of pigeon dropping was also cleaned up during renovation.

Schuster said it takes most people 10 to 15 minutes to climb the 180 steps to the top. Troy Bouman, a 1994 graduate, holds the record for the fastest climb. He made it to the top in 32 seconds in 1992.

Krugjohn said it took her only two to three minutes.

Approximately 10,000 people have climbed the Campanile since it opened, Schuster said. During the first four days of it’s opening, an estimated 1,500 people climbed the Campanile.

A few famous faces have climbed the Campanile.

The Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court, David Gilbertson has climbed the Campanile several times. Gilbertson said that the Campanile was only opened one day of the year. But that didn’t affect its popularity.

“It was the thing to do … in May,” he said. “It was a great view from up there.”

Anyone wishing to climb the Campanile can get the key from the Alumni Association building Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. On the weekends students can get the key from the University Police Department. Students must leave their name, address, and time they checked out the key.

After the key is returned, students receive a coupon for free SDSU ice cream and a certificate personally signed by President Peggy Miller.