• Happy 75th birthday, Pat Neff bells!

    McLane Carillon at Baylor University

    Something about the sound of the McLane Carillon bells, chiming from atop Pat Neff Hall, elevates even the most routine strolls across campus into something more. They’ve provided the soundtrack to daily life here at Baylor for generations, having played their first hymn (“Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”) 75 years ago this month, in December 1939.

    Originally a 25-bell chime set presented by Trustee Cullen Thomas, the carillon now consists of 48 bells donated by Regent Emeritus Drayton McLane, BBA ’58, in the late 1980s after the original set had worn down. The bells are iconic here at Baylor, but how much do you know about them?

    For instance, did you know each bell is inscribed with Biblical and literary quotations, as well as quotes from every Baylor president up through the 1960s? You can read the quotations on a plaque in the Pat Neff Hall entryway.

    The bells are heavy, but that didn’t stop them from making a long, circuitous journey to Baylor. The current set weighs in at more than 22 tons, with bells ranging in size from 29 to 4,370 pounds. They were forged by the legendary PACCARD Bell Foundry in France and dedicated here on Nov. 4, 1988. Their arrival on campus, however, was delayed a bit — a shipping error sent the bells from France to Mexico, instead of Houston, causing the freighter that carried them to come back to Texas to ensure that they made it to their rightful home in the (then silver, now golden) dome.

    One person on campus knows more about the bells than anyone. Lynette Geary, MED ’75, MM ’82, has served as carillonneur since 2006, and has the honor of playing the bells as they turn 75. Geary, who assisted with the carillon for 10 years before ascending to her current role, plays the bells with closed fists as she operates a foot pedal to produce the bells distinctive sounds and contemplative songs. (Watch Geary play the carillon in the video above.) At more regular times (like on-the-hour tolls), the bells are played by a computer program that operates the levers and pedals.

    They’ve tolled now for 75 years, and Baylor University just wouldn’t be the same without them.

    Sic ’em, McLane Carillon Bells!