Joseph F. Marsh, Jr. was no stranger to Athens and West Virginia when he returned to his native state to become the Collegeīs 13th president. The son of the 11th president of the institution, he lived in Athens and studied at Concord and WVU before completing his undergraduate education at Dartmouth.
He was one of the nationīs youngest presidents when elected to the office in 1959 and was deeply committed to education the provides for the full maturation of the individual. He was dedicated to the highest quality of education and believed only education that strives for excellence can provide the leadership our society required.
After returning to Concord, President Marsh proceeded to carry out plans made by his predecessor for the construction of married couples apartments and new residence halls for men and women, and the College Center Marsh initiated construction of two new additions to the administration building along with the refacing of existing portions.
Joseph Marsh's dream of a world-class carillon on the Concord University Administration Building has a 40-plus-year history behind it. The "Baker Bells" ringing out across the campus of Dr. Marsh's alma mater, Dartmouth College, made quite an impression on the young student and beginning faculty member.
When Dr. Marsh returned to Concord College as its new President in 1959, he dreamed of bringing those "melodious sounds" to campus. He attempted to get funding for a carillon when the Administration Building was renovated in the early 1960s, but was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, he had the roof of the building remodeled in such a way, with reinforced steel and a slot for bell cables, that a carillon could be built "someday."
Fast forward to Christmas time 1995, when Dr. Marsh, now retired, came into the office of President Jerry Beasley. Dr. Marsh had been setting aside money for years so that, as a provision in his will, the University could install his cherished carillon. Instead, he told Dr. Beasley, "I want to do this while I'm still living and can enjoy it."
A contract was let to the van Bergen Company of South Carolina for carillon construction, and to the Paccard Foundry of Annecy, France, to cast the bronze bells. (The committee found no bellmaking foundry in North America capable of the job.) Kreps & Kreps Architects of Charleston, W.Va., were retained to help with design, and Swope Construction of Bluefield, W.Va., went to work turning the blueprints into reality.
The largest bell was cast in February 1997, with Dr. Marsh throwing the switch in Annecy to start the furnace that spewed forth the mixture of virgin copper and tin into the mold. In the centuries-old European tradition, the molds were broken after the bells were cast. By July 1997 the bells had been hand-tuned and shipped across the Atlantic. On July 30 a dedication ceremony on the Concord front lawn revealed Dr. Marsh as the donor, and featured a "blessing of the bells" by the pastor of Concord United Methodist Church.
On October 10 the bells had been hoisted and installed into the handsome bell tower, the installation of the clavier, keyboards, and computer were complete, and over 300 people gathered to hear the inaugural concert by R. Robin Austin, Carillonneur at Princeton University.