Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday photo

Burton Memorial Tower, University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, Michigan, January 2011

Marion Leroy Burton served as the University of Michigan president from 1920-1925, and he had a dream. He wanted a bell tower. The University Library had contained a clock tower with chimes, which rang at 8:00 am and 6:00 pm to mark the beginning and ending of study time - kind of a cross between the bells of a monastery and a factory whistle - but the library was torn down in 1917* and now there were no bells. Burton wanted bells. In a tower.

He thought he had a good plan to sell the idea: it would be a memorial to the UM alumni who had perished in the Great War. But somehow, he couldn't drum up enough interest and the idea languished. And then ... Burton died. He had been only fifty years old and folks wanted to do something in his memory.

So Burton got his tower. With bells, an entire carillon, in fact. And it was a memorial, as he had proposed. I don't suppose he intended himself as the honoree, but that's why they call it irony.

It also shows what it takes to earn a building at UM. Meeting your demise during the greatest war the world had ever known is not sufficient. Were you to cure cancer, invent a cheap and abundant source of energy, bring peace to the Middle East, end world hunger, or discover an alien civilization, it wouldn't be enough to get a building named for you. You have to have been president of the University. Or else pay for it yourself.

As a side note, this also happens to be the first Friday photo from my new camera, a Canon SX30IS. It has a ridiculous 35x zoom capability, but I'm really more excited about its wide angle capacity. My previous digital cameras have had very little in that department and near-far composition has almost disappeared from my repertoire.

* And replaced with a new one, no worries

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