May 22, 2017
Old school: U-M in History
The Burton Memorial Tower stands over the U-M campus during the summer of 1946. (Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)
The first suggestion for a campanile — a usually freestanding bell tower — arose in an editorial in the Michigan Alumnus in May 1919. According to The University Record archives, the editorial writer suggested "a new clock tower 'set high in the center of campus, to be at once a landmark and a thing of beauty.'" In a later commencement address, U-M President Marion Leroy Burton discussed the possible construction of a tower to honor those who had lost their lives during World War I. After Burton's death in 1925, the university's secretary, Shirley W. Smith, suggested the creation of a tower to memorialize the late president. Years later, Charles M. Baird, a former university athletic director and a U-M alumnus, gave the university funds for the purchase of a carillon. The tower was finally constructed in the mid-1930s and formally dedicated on Dec. 4, 1936. Baird's carillon is the crown jewel of the tower that now stands today over Central Campus.
— Adapted from "Tower serves as legacy to former president Burton," by Joanne Nesbit, and Bentley Historical Library materials