Bells ceremony featured in the news

The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette and KCRG-TV9 recently produced stories on Cornell College’s Return of the Bells celebration held on Thursday, Jan. 16.

Maintenance Technician Johnny Olshewsky, who many know as the “Keeper of the Clock,” shared his excitement.

“To some of us, there’s something magical about the clock,” Olshewsky told the Gazette. “It’s hard to explain. … It was a dream come true to hear the bells ring for the first time.”

The bells have a rich history on campus. Four were installed in 1882, but the college stopped ringing them in 1950 after engineers noticed their vibrations were contributing to the structural deterioration of the King Chapel tower. An electronic carillon began marking the hours. Eventually, one of the bells was moved to the top of College Hall, but that bell was later destroyed by lightning. 

A grant allowed the college to purchase a replacement. Following the reinstallation of that bell, crews re-established the connection between the bells and the tower clock. Now the college is happy to hear all four ringing again. 

The King Chapel tower project, including work on the bells, the tower structure, and the historic Seth Thomas clock and its faces, was made possible through a generous gift from Trustee Linda Webb Koehn ’66, and her husband Tom. Other contributors include the State Historical Society of Iowa, the Stockman Family Trust, the Linn County Historic Preservation Commission, and the Nina E. and Victor D. Merveaux Endowed Fund for Historic Preservation.