What’s That? The Sweeten Alumni House carillon

A computerized music system chimes and plays songs along Locust Walk.

Image of a carillon, with knobs and buttons. The screen notes that the machine is playing the Star Wars theme
The Sweeten Alumni House carillon, playing the Star Wars theme.
    • This is …

      An electronic carillon, chiming at 9 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. with a rotating selection of 50 song selections that play at noon.

    • It lives …

      At the Sweeten Alumni House, where the original carillon was installed in 1989, donated by Michel T. Huber, a director of Penn Alumni Relations for nearly 30 years. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Wharton School in 1953 and earned a master’s degree in communications from the Annenberg School of Communication in 1961. The system was upgraded in 2004—from a hulking mass in the basement that used magnetized tapes—to a compact computer system on the building’s top floor.

    • It’s cool because …

      Of its origin story. Huber donated the carillon in memory of his daughter and future son-in-law, both Penn alumni, who graduated with degrees from Wharton and the School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1987. They died in a car collision a year later.

      “I know it was his pride and joy,” says Kristina Clark, director of operations and special programs in Alumni Relations, who used to work for Huber. “I remember walking into his office and the bells were playing and he’d just be looking out the window.”

      Every year, Huber contributed money make sure the equipment was cared for and serviced by “Dave the carillon guy,” Clark says, who would come out a couple of times a year to make sure everything was working and to replace wires if the squirrels had chewed them. Huber retired from Penn in 1995 and died in 2015. A fund was created to continue care of the carillon.

      The 20-year-old computerized technology is no longer supported, Clark says, and the company they purchased the equipment from is now closed. But she’s doing research to make sure the bells will continue to chime long after her own retirement.

      “You know what time it is when you’re running up Locust Walk and the bells are chiming. It’s just beautiful,” she says. “I’ve been on Locust Walk and heard people say, ‘Where are those bells coming from?’”

      To Clark, that’s a delight. “I will make it my business to stop and say, ‘You want to know? That building,” she says, pointing, “that’s the Alumni House. It’s on the roof. It’s a little thing; they’re not real bells. To explain it is so cool.”

Kristina Clark sitting at a desk with Penn pennants, hats, flags, and bag behind her
Kristina Clark of Alumni Relations, who has been working at Penn since her high school graduation in 1982.