Building The Bell Tower

Image courtesy of the University Archives at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

An idea that took form in the mid-1980s to create an identifiable structure on the Highland Campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato resulted in the 80-foot Ostrander Bell Tower, which chimes every quarter hour from behind Trafton Science Center.

According to Joe Farnham, former Vice President for University Advancement, it was a way to connect alumni who had graduated from “a school with a different name, at a different location and with a different athletic mascot” to their alma mater as it currently existed.

Farnham suggested something similar to the Coughlin Campanile, a 165-foot-tall chime tower at South Dakota State University. The Student Association had money from the sale of an inter-campus bus to contribute; the rest was sought from a small number of donations.

Farnham and University President Margaret Preska used a trip to the annual NCAA meeting in San Diego to visit Lloyd and Mildred Ostrander, who lived nearby. The Ostrander name had been attached to the CSU auditorium with no accompanying gift, so they seemed likely donors, says Farnham.

After a casual pork chop dinner and conversation, Lloyd Ostrander said he liked the bell tower project that Bob Goldberg, director of planned giving, had mentioned during an earlier stop. After hearing it would require a gift of $175,000, Ostrander “called out to Mildred in the kitchen, she said yes, and the project was underway,” Farnham remembers.

The carillon was ultimately funded with $138,000 from Lloyd Ostrander, a 1927 alum, and his wife; $131,400 from the Student Association; and gifts from others. Arches from the Old Main building were incorporated. 

The tower was dedicated Oct. 11, 1987, during Homecoming festivities. Mildred Ostrander was present; Lloyd, unfortunately, had passed away a couple of weeks before.

Michael Lagerquist (’84).