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The most obvious symbol of the grandeur that is The University of Texas is The Main Building, or the Tower as it is commonly called. In actuality, the Tower is considered part of the Main Building, and is truly the focus of this great campus, but do you know the rich history behind it?

With its completion in 1937 came a structure 59 square feet and 307 feet tall that supersedes the State Capitol, even though the capitol stands at 311 feet. The land elevation of the Capitol is 600 feet, whereas the Tower’s elevation is 606 feet, granting UT’s icon a two foot advantage, despite a city ordinance prohibiting any building from towering over the "centerpiece" of Austin.

The Knicker Carillon, named after Hedwig Knicker, a Phi Beta Kappa and one of the first women graduates in geology, sits at the pinnacle of the Tower. A full carillon consists of 35 bells, but UT’s, being the best of course, has 56—the most in Texas. The bells are played by a carillionneur on either a manual or electronic keyboard, and the first song ever produced by the chimes was, appropriately, The Eyes of Texas.

Today, the Knicker Carillon is played every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the hourly chimes ring out a specific poem: "Lord, through this hour, Be Thou my guide, For in Thy power, I do confide."

Over time, the Tower has served as the backdrop for Commencement and other special occasions, but some events in its history are not so flattering. The most notable occurred on Aug. 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman, an architectural engineering student, killed 16 individuals from his perch on the observation deck, and wounded thirty-two others. Finally, after a 90-minute standoff, a police officer killed Whitman. He was one of the first mass murderers in U.S. History.

Today, the Tower typically symbolizes the athletic triumphs of the University. Even though we have not seen too much orange this year, it is lighted in four different ways, and not just for sporting events.

First, a completely orange Tower with a number one displayed occurs when the president determines a tremendous accomplishment of the University, or when an NCAA championship is won by any varsity sport.

Second, a completely orange Tower occurs at commencement, football triumphs over Texas A&M, a basketball National Invitational Tournament or the National Women’s Invitational Tournament championship, Texas Independence Day, and July 4th.

Third, just the top of the Tower is lighted orange for football wins, a Big XII conference championship in any team sport, basketball or baseball victories in Big XII tournaments, a victory in NCAA tournaments so long as the national championship can still be obtained, basketball victories in NIT or NWIT, April 21st, Easter, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Finally, the top of the Tower is lit orange and white for a tie in an NCAA tournament in any varsity sport, or a Big XII conference tie.

Hook ‘em horns!

D’Agestino is a government senior and Morgan is a business sophomore.

Daily Texan. March 26, 1998.
Article by: Joshua D’Agostino and Erin Morgan

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3 May 1999
Send comments to evpp@www.utexas.edu
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