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The NC State Memorial Belltower on Wednesday, March 26, 2020 on NC State University's main campus.

As a very unusual semester creeps to a close, we are reminded to look back at old traditions. Even though it is obvious that this year has been very different from others, it is good to look back at one tradition that will be continuing. 

The annual tradition of putting a class ring in the Belltower will be happening this year, though there will be some alterations due to COVID-19. Tom Stafford, former vice chancellor of student affairs, said the ring tradition began in 2006.

“If you wanted an NC State ring [in the past], you could go anywhere,” Stafford said. “You went to any jewelry store anywhere and [told] them what you [wanted] on the ring, and they would make it and give it to you, and you paid for it. There was no ceremony at all. In 2006, the Alumni Association and the bookstore and Balfour ring company came together and organized this program and started it in the spring of 2006.” 

This tradition quickly became exciting and meaningful to students, who would often bring family and friends to take pictures of them leaving their rings inside of the tower. Stafford said the more recent decision that allowed students to bring their rings to the Belltower by themselves has proved among the most exciting for students. 

“After I say a few words about the Belltower, we would unlock the door and they could put their own ring inside, and that part has really, in my judgment at that point, made a tremendous difference,” Stafford said. “That's one of the reasons that I enjoy this ceremony — this tradition — so much because when you say the student is bringing their own ring inside the Belltower, and most of them have never been in it, and you see how excited they get and how many pictures they want to have taken of them with a ring inside the Belltower; that's what makes it really fun for me.” 

After placing their rings in the Belltower, students are presented with their rings at a special ceremony, which will be online this year and available to the wider NC State community. As part of the ring ceremony, Stafford will reveal to students the mysterious and secretive process that happens overnight to the rings in the Belltower. The story Stafford tells of the ring’s night in the Belltower is intended to imbue the graduating audience with a sense of wonderment and awe for their pack and all past generations of NC State graduates. 

Anna Kate Jackson, a member of the Alumni Association Student Ambassador Program, said past NC State alumni who did not have the ring ceremony can now place their rings in the Belltower as well to participate in the tradition.

“The ring isn’t just a piece of jewelry; it has significance behind it that you attended NC State, and you graduated and were able to receive an education from this profound university,” Jackson said. 

The intense connection and pride that students attach to NC State and the Belltower tradition can be shown beyond the use of class rings. According to Stafford, there have been at least four engagement rings that have spent the night in the Belltower. For students who want to commemorate their graduation during this crazy year, the Belltower ceremony stands as a great tradition to hold fast to during a time of such rapid change and transformation.

According to the NC State Alumni Association, students who are interested in leaving their ring in the Belltower this year can register online for a 30-minute time slot Thursday, April 22 between 12 and 4 p.m. Students interested must register by Wednesday, April 21.

The event will be followed by the virtual ring ceremony on Thursday, April 29 at 7 p.m, which explains the significance and symbolism of the ring. Students interested in attending the virtual ring ceremony must register online by Wednesday, April 28.