I Wonder: UT Tower lights

I Wonder: UT Tower lights

Credit: Marsha Miller

Photo courtesy of Marsha Miller.

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by REBEKAH HOOD / KVUE.com

kvue.com

Posted on May 20, 2011 at 4:41 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 3 at 4:02 PM

What is the history behind the UT Tower's lighting combinations?

This weekend marks the 128th spring commencement at the University of Texas, and as part of the annual festivities, the UT Tower at the campus' Main Building will be bathed in burnt orange light.

While Robin Gerrow, the Assistant Vice President in the Office of Public Affairs at UT, says the university tries to keep some mystery around the Tower’s lighting rituals, we do know there is an established lighting system used to announce university achievements.

The system was devised by UT graduate Carl J. Eckhardt Jr. who supervised the Main Building’s construction in the 1930s. Several years later, under the watchful eye of architect Philippe Cret, the UT Tower was built and was soon on its way to becoming, in Cret’s words, "the image carried in our memory when we think of the place."

Though the 307-foot tall Tower was completed in 1937, Eckhardt did not create its lighting guidelines until 10 years later.

According to UT’s website, “A number ‘1’ on all sides highlighted by orange lights signals that the university won a national championship. The full Tower glowing orange alone represents a victory over Texas A&M, Commencement and other occasions the president deems appropriate. The Tower top bathed in orange symbolizes other victories or a conference title in any intercollegiate sport.”

In 2001, the guidelines were revised. Click here to see a complete list of all the Tower’s colored lighting combinations.

Though the iconic Tower was closed after several unfortunate events – a deadly shooting rampage in 1966 and several suicide jumps – it is open for escorted tours up 27 stories to the observation deck.

The 2011 spring tour schedule is now available (be aware the site takes a few moments to load), and tours start on May 26. Click here for more information on Tower tours.

Send Rebekah your I Wonder questions here.

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