While the ringing in as first-year students and ringingout as graduates is a relatively new chapter in the story of traditions at Loras, the tale of the bell itself is a historyof travel, neglect, loss and, ultimately, victory.
The bell was originally cast in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Charles G. Coffin Foundry around 1840. BishopMathias Loras brought the bell to the Mississippi River Valley, where it was installed in the bell tower of Mount St. Bernard Seminary in Key West, Iowa, just south of Dubuque. Following the bishop’s death in 1858, the building was left dormant and fell into disrepair. Over time, the building began to collapse, and the bell was buried until it was found at the site 30 years later by a local historian. It was then taken to St. Raphael’s Cathedral in Dubuque, where it was stored and eventually forgotten again.
It wasn’t until the next century and after World War I when the bell was rediscovered and moved to Dubuque College. After the school changed its name to Columbia College, the bell was settled in at the school’s museum.
In 1940, the senior class at now-Loras College took the initiative to give the bell more prominence. They built a limestone courtyard to the north of Hennessy Hall and hung the bell so it could ring after all athletic victories, earning the name “The Victory Bell.” It would prove to be a short-term home, as it was removed shortly after the completion of Christ the King Chapel in 1947.
Instead of going back into storage, however, the bell was put into a frame on wheels so it could be moved out to the Rock Bowl during football games. It tolled for every Duhawk touchdown for decades until it transitioned into its new role in 2005, as graduating seniors rang it to signal the end of their final exams.
Through its nearly 180 years, the Victory Bell has found a true home at Loras College, ringing out the arrivals of Duhawks and celebrating the achievements of graduates.