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Corban celebrates the Clock Tower's crowning event

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The long-awaited crowning event finally took place on Monday morning, February 18, 2008. The clock tower on which work began seven months ago finally received the top portion containing the four clock faces and roof, making the tower rise to its full height of 54 feet. A crane hoisted the 10,600-pound “lantern” portion of the tower to its position while pockets of onlookers watched nearby and applauded when the finial was added at last.

The process took a little over 45 minutes. “I like what we’ve accomplished so far in getting the tower height completed,” commented Steve Hunt, Vice President for Marketing and Communications and project manager for the clock tower. “It now has personality!”

The tower and its surrounding Legacy Plaza sit at the center of campus activity, circled by Schimmel Hall, the Library, and Psalm Performing Arts Center. Perfectly true to cardinal directions, its west face overlooks Salem and east face catches the morning sun. Waiting for unique and rare materials slowed the project’s progress over the past two months, but remarkably the final preparations for the lifting event went like clockwork.

The massive crane began raising the clock face portion around 9:45 a.m. In five minutes, it was seated squarely atop the tower. At 10:33 a.m. the small finial – a copper ball attached to the roof’s apex – settled into place, its slight twenty pounds easily accommodated by the crane. Architect for the project, William Ryals, dropped his hat in the excitement. “I’ve never been so nervous about anything in my life as this,” he admitted as he watched the whole process from the Library lawn. “The proportions are so critical. You just pray that you get it right.”

“It’s really too much for any one person to do,” he added. “Steve was a great help. We really collaborated to come up with the design.” Ryals worked closely in the design and planning with Hunt, who shared the dream to build a tower with many others 13 years ago.

When funding was supplied by an anonymous donor in 2007, the wheels were set in motion at last.

Since groundbreaking occurred last July, the tower’s progress has been watched with much interest both on-campus and off.

The story of construction can be read at www.corban.edu/news/construction/clocktowerplaza.html. “The construction phase of this project has been our focus for several months, and some may feel that it has taken a lot of attention away from other things,” remarked Hunt. “I view the time spent working on it as short for an investment in something that will be a landmark for 100 years or more. The process is similar to when your family moves to a new home: after weeks of packing and loading and unpacking, you begin to wonder if it’s worth all the stress and strain to move. But once you’re moved in and settled, life returns to normal.”

More work remains on the tower to add final touches. The inner clockworks, special interior lighting, and bell will be installed while outside finish work on the plaza surrounding the clock tower continues. “I’m dying to hear what the bell sounds like,” Ryals said after the finial was placed on Monday. He explained that the tower was designed to be a resonator, built with structural brick within it to enhance the sound of the bell. As workers began welding to secure the lantern to the tower base, Ryals also noted that the structure is designed to be maintenance-free for 100 years.

The roof and finial are secured with internal fasteners, bolted from the inside. Now and for years to come, Salem-area residents can see a new and timely profile against the eastern hills of their valley. As a headline in the Tuesday, February 19, 2008 issue of the Statesman Journal acknowledged, “Corban College puts on a new face with a nod to the past.”

Dr. Reno Hoff, Corban's President, affirmed the headline, "The clock tower really gives a new dimension to the College's appearance." Hoff added, "Completing the clock tower also signals the completion of our first capital campaign. Now we're moving into the the next capital campaign – Corban 2010/2020 – as we're beginning plans for our new library."

For the Corban community, the clock tower holds special significance of its own, beyond giving students no excuse for being late to classes. Hunt said it like this: “The tower is already accomplishing one of our goals – it’s drawn hundreds of visitors from the community to the campus. Salem is steadily adopting us as a partner they speak of with pride. For Corban, once the tower is in finished it will become a symbol of and destination for the gathering and re-gathering of students, employees and guests. For alumni, Legacy Plaza will be a hallowed place to return home and reminisce about the time spent here.”