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Big Green: Redeeming the Peal, Pride

Football BellIn 1915, a “chime” of 11 bells was delivered to the front of Elizabeth Hall. However, their arrival was less planned and more coincidence, as a canceled order in Pennsylvania made the set of bells available. Stetson, ever the resourceful university, seized the opportunity to bring the chimes to campus as the perfect addition for the beautiful grounds.

Originally, the bells were housed in the cupola of Elizabeth Hall. However, after many years, the wooden structure began to succumb to the sheer weight of the bells and consistent vibrations of the chimes. Thus, the bells were removed and were without a home until the construction of Hulley Tower in 1934.

Originally standing 116 feet tall, Hulley Tower was the perfect location to feature the “Eloise Chimes,” renamed to honor the wife of then Stetson president Lincoln Hulley. The new location allowed for the bells to be played as well, and the chimes’ peals could be heard across campus daily.

Sadly, in 2005, Hulley Tower was found to be increasingly unstable due to extensive water damage. Failed again by structural integrity, the bells were removed. Some were placed throughout campus and DeLand, but the majority were placed in crates, where they remained for years until a new purpose was given to one.

As Stetson’s first football season in over 50 years approached, the university began developing new initiatives that would contribute to the spirited atmosphere of home games. However, because a game had not been held at Stetson for decades, the university lacked the traditions necessary to cultivate a vibrant game day experience. Thus, the team, tasked with the responsibility of developing such traditions, began considering options and benchmarking what other institutions did. After a multitude of ideas had been crossed out, two staff members jokingly discussed building a massive version of the hand bells that were being given to students during FOCUS Orientation. Over several days though, this joke transformed into a serious initiative, particularly after a phone call to Facilities Management confirmed that the remaining Eloise Chimes were still being stored on campus, awaiting a purpose.

After several weeks of coordinating with the owner of the local metal-working shop, DeLand Metal Craft, a partnership developed between Student Development and Campus Vibrancy, University Marketing, and Athletics. Funding necessary to support the project was guaranteed.

“Big Green,” as it has become known due to its weathered patina, is a one-ton bell from the original set of chimes, and is also the subject of one of Stetson’s cheers, “Let’s go Big Green!” Present at every home football game, the bell rings as the Hatters take the field, after each touchdown and field goal, at the start and end of halftime, and at the conclusion of the game. Big Green also rings once after every first down conversion. The bell is “kept” and managed by a new organization called, “Varsity.” Varsity is a student-led organization focused on maintaining and growing pride, spirit, and tradition within the Stetson community. After being secretly hand-selected by the university, members participate in an initiation process. The organization also leads pep rallies and other spirited events throughout the year.

However, Big Green and her keepers are symbols of a larger story occurring within the communal fabric of the institution. Admittedly, Stetson has not always been known as a particularly spirited university. Nevertheless, the school is redefining itself – taking hold of something new, a new identity, one marked by ubiquitous pride and fervent spirit. Some of the signs of change are small, while others literally weigh a ton. The peal and pride are working together, redeeming one another, redefining a university.

If you have questions about Big Green, feel free to contact Varsity at varsity@stetson.edu.

By Tanner Vickers

Assistant Director of Vibrancy and Tradition