Liberty Utilities donates to SBU's "Light the Way" project

BOLIVAR, Mo. – Southwest Baptist University’s “Light the Way” project, which features the iconic bell tower on the Bolivar campus, recently received a $15,000 donation from Liberty Utilities – Empire District toward the bell tower renovations.

People gather at SBU's bell tower“Since 1980, the Kate Stamper Wilhite Bell Tower and the 1970 Spurgeon Carillon have been an important part of campus life,” said Dr. Brad Johnson, vice president for institutional advancement. “As the primary anchor monument on our campus, we are grateful to restore this important landmark to its former glory and light up the featured cross atop the tower as a reminder of the centrality of our faith in everyday life of the campus.”

May 2021 graduate and current MBA student Chance Bedell led an effort during the 2020-2021 school year to raise money for renovations to the bell tower, primarily to make the carillon play once again. The project grew to include additional components: 

  • A new digital, WiFi-enabled carillon
  • Color-changing LED lighting
  • Frosted glass panels to magnify the cross
  • A deep cleaning of the exterior

Initial fundraising efforts provided enough money to purchase the carillon. The bell tower was cleaned and new speakers were installed the week of June 21. Faculty and staff enjoyed hearing it play “Amazing Grace” the morning of June 23 and the bell tower now chimes on the hour every day.

“Southwest Baptist University extends special thanks to Mike Hayward, Business and Community Development Manager for Liberty Utilities, for his support,” Johnson said. “With the help of community partners like Liberty Utilities, we are pleased to refurbish and renovate this campus icon and add lighting to further enhance the Bolivar campus’ interior.”

For more information about the project, contact Johnson at

PHOTO: SBU faculty and staff enjoyed hearing the Kate Stamper Wilhite Bell Tower and Spurgeon Carillon play “Amazing Grace” the morning of June 23 after the bell tower was cleaned and had new speakers installed. The bell tower now chimes on the hour every day.

*Published: 12-9-2021