Center of attention: The Elliott Tower stands tall on campus

Every fifteen minutes, Oakland University’s newest icon resonates across campus. Faculty, students and alumni will gather at Elliott Tower Friday, Sept. 19 at 3:30 p.m. for its grand opening. Nancy and R. Hugh Elliott, honorary School of Business Administration alumni, will be in attendance to share a few words.

Located just north of Kresge Library, the tower will be the fourteenth carillon tower in Michigan. The project was designated in 2012 and OU broke ground Friday, April 19, 2013 Nancy Elliott implemented the offer of the gift to OU.

“The idea came about as I was following my son, who played golf for Oakland University. We were at Grand Valley listening to their clock tower chime away, and I said Oakland University has to have one.”

Elliott added that the tower is, in fact, the center of campus.

$6.7 million was funded toward the Elliott Tower project and it is one of the tallest towers in the U.S., measuring 151 feet tall. According to John Harmala, project manager, about 20 construction workers were assigned to construct the tower.

“Compared to the Human Health Building, this project had a lack of space,” he said. “Elliott Tower is a lot more challenging because of where it is located on campus and a lot of precautions had to be taken.”

The weather also contributed to the complexity of the project.

“The whole job would be shut down due to bad weather, including the heavy snow days last winter and amount of rainfall we’ve had this spring,” he said.

Despite the stormy skies, Harmala added that the project is “still following program because scheduling was adjusted with the contractors to work Saturdays.”

The complementary water piece at the base of the fountain is designed by WET, a company located in California known for designing the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas. According to Harmala, the fountain and tower are estimated to be finished by the end of the first week of the fall semester.

While the tower and fountain will be completely finished for the dedication event, Harmala added that the landscaping around the tower will be completed toward the end of October.

Designed by Niagara Murano LLC,  the Elliott tower is small inside, with around 78 stairs, with one way up and one way down. There will be 49 bells, weighing in total 30,000 pounds. The largest bell, engraved with “The true net worth of a person is what he does for others,” weighs 5,000 pounds.

Purchased through the Verdin Company in the Netherlands by Royal Bell foundry Petit & Fritsen, the bells arrived on campus May 9 and the final pieces were lifted into chamber May 14. There is a carillon instrument inside the tower, in which any musical arrangement can be played hands-on. Twenty-five of the tower’s bells have the capability to play routinely.

R. Hugh Elliott is the president and CEO for Elliott Group International founded in 1974 and Nancy Elliott a retired teacher for the Utica Public School System. Nancy said the university has played a significant part of their family’s history: Nancy’s mother used to play with Frances Dodge, daughter of OU’s founder, Matilda Dodge, at Meadow Brook Hall, and also spent weekends at the mansion. Hugh and Nancy’s son, Chad, played golf for the Golden Grizzlies from 2004-2007.

Nancy said that the Elliotts have been supportive of OU since the early 1990s, when Mr. Elliott was first introduced to Golden Grizzly athletics. The Nancy and Hugh Elliott Endowed Scholarship was established in 2000 presented to OU student athletes. Oakland University named the Hugh and Nancy Elliott Room in the Athletics Center O’rena in their honor.

A gift of $2 million was given from the family to the School of Business Administration and because of their support, Oakland University opened Nancy and Hugh Elliott Hall on Friday, Sept. 22, 2000.

“The tower signifies my family made an impact,” Nancy said. “It’ll also be a beautiful gathering place for students to enjoy by the fountain.”

More information can be found at