Each hour of the day the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower rings to remind students and faculty of the generosity of two families associated with the university since its earliest days.
John Motley Morehead, Class of 1891, and Rufus Lenoir Patterson II funded the bell tower’s construction. The university dedicated the bell tower on Thanksgiving Day, 1931. Rising 172 feet, the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower is surrounded by a hedge and lawn designed by William C. Coker, botany professor and creator of the campus Arboretum. The tower’s belfry once contained a carillon of twelve manually operated bells; now there are fourteen mechanized ones. The largest bell is inscribed “Governor John Motley Morehead,” the tower creator’s grandfather, and the second largest bears the name of William Lenoir. Both men played prominent roles in university and state history.
Seniors traditionally have the opportunity to climb the tower’s steps and savor the view a few days prior to May commencement.