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Why Do STCL Houston Students Ring the Bell?

Home Law School News Why Do STCL Houston Students Ring the Bell?

Since the 1980s, 3Ls at South Texas have rung the replica Liberty Bell that sits on display in the atrium before graduation. But what’s the meaning of this tradition and how did it originate? The history might surprise you.

In 1973, the Whitechapel Foundry — maker of the original Liberty Bell in Philadelphia — was designated as the official bell maker of America’s bicentennial. The Limited Edition Collections Society commissioned the foundry to cast 100 full-scale, exact replicas of the original Liberty Bell, even ringing at the same E-flat tone as the original bell. Two bells were to be given to each of the 50 states.

So how did one of these replica bells make its way to STCL Houston? The law school had the good fortune to receive one of Texas’ two bells as a gift from an anonymous donor in 1976. While the generous benefactor assumed anonymity, it is suspected the donation was made by then-judge and adjunct professor Spurgeon Bell, the namesake of the Judge Spurgeon E. Bell Floor in the Fred Parks Law Library. Judge Bell served on the faculty of South Texas for more than 50 years. Thanks to him, a key moment in the college’s history came in 1974 when the first Spurgeon Bell Moot Court Competition was held. This was a critical step in establishing South Texas’s reputation in advocacy — a reputation that has only grown stronger over time.

Ringing the 2,080-pound bronze casting is a rite of passage for graduating STCL Houston students, but how was it cemented as a 3L ritual? Campus legend is that the Class of 1983 wanted to ring the bell to celebrate finishing final exams. The night watchman on duty unlocked the tower and allowed the students to ring the bell, and a tradition was born.

Since then, after completing exams, each graduating senior takes a turn ringing the bell to commemorate completing law school, often surrounded by friends and family. But don’t give it a raucous rattle! The legend also tells that the number of times the bell echoes determines how many times the student will have to sit for the bar exam. Students are careful to catch the clapper after the first ring!

The bell ringing has wrapped up for 2021 as students finished their last exams.

This year’s Hooding Ceremony for December candidates for the J.D. is scheduled at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 18 on the STCL Houston campus. Livestreaming of the event will be available at www.stcl.edu/grad.

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