Nothing jingles the heartstrings of anyone who has traversed the Southeast Missouri State University campus like the Academic Hall carillon or chimes.
For one December 2017 graduate, Fred “Chris” Naeter, the carillon holds special meaning. After all, his namesake, Fred Naeter, donated the original carillon that has rung across campus for 55 years.
This weekend, Chris, Fred Naeter’s great-great-nephew, will graduate from Southeast with a Bachelor of Science in corporate communication and a minor in sales management.
Chris, a Jackson, Missouri, resident, says he chose Southeast because it’s like home to him.
“My Mom went here, and I remember being around campus as a kid,” he explained. “It just felt like a good place to be.”
Chris is proud of his family’s legacy at Southeast and in the Cape Girardeau community.
“It’s really neat to me that my family played such a big role in Cape,” he said.
Fred Naeter arrived in Cape Girardeau in 1904 and witnessed the growth of the then Normal School. In his travels, he had heard the chimes of many academic and religious institutions. The University was lacking chimes or bells, and Naeter wanted to correct this. In 1962, he donated a Schulmerich Carillon, at a cost of $12,500, to the University for the Academic Hall dome.
The carillon was dedicated on May 27 and played that afternoon during the half hour preceding commencement. Robert Carwithen, an organist who had performed at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium, performed a recital on an instrument similar to a two-keyboard organ connected to the carillon. The performance included tunes such as “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies” and “The Blue Bell of Scotland.”
The carillon chimed on the hour and quarter hours and played songs at noon and 4 p.m. through the use of a scroll, similar to the operation of a music box or player piano. The initial purchase included 24 songs chosen by the University. Forty additional selections, mostly traditional hymns and Christmas music, were purchased by Southeast President Mark Scully in 1962. On special occasions, faculty played the chimes manually. A switch allowed the melodies to be heard either from loud speakers atop Academic Hall dome or from speakers in Academic Hall Auditorium.
The chimes continued to ring across campus from 1962 until the restoration of Academic Hall in 2010. Today, the chimes are regularly heard in a digitized format, adding a skip to the steps of students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors every day at Southeast. The bells chime on the hour and quarter hour, and a variety of songs can be heard at 7:55 a.m. and 3:55 p.m. Monday-Friday. The Southeast alma mater plays weekdays at 11:55 a.m.
The carillon was not Naeter’s only contribution to the community. In addition to his involvement with the carillon, Naeter was instrumental in co-founding the “Southeast Missourian” newspaper, also in Cape Girardeau.
In September 1904, brothers Fred and George Naeter visited Cape Girardeau and learned that “The Daily Republican” newspaper was for sale. Within a month, the Naeters assumed ownership and their younger brother, Harry, joined them.
As the managing editor, Harry, Chris’s great-great-grandfather, stressed that the newspaper should be an independent voice for the region’s citizens. Following his untimely death, Fred and George renamed the newspaper “The Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian” on March 1, 1918, in honor of Harry.
On July 1, 1924, the Naeters began construction of the Southeast Missourian Building at 301 Broadway, where the newspaper continues to operate today. In 2005, the building was included in the National Register of Historic Places.
“I love hearing stories about the early days of the paper and the things my ancestors did for the community,” Chris said. “It’s definitely very interesting to me, and I love learning about it.”
He says Southeast has given him tools for individual problem-solving and working with groups. His favorite memories are the good times in class, especially classes held in Academic Hall.
“The professors were awesome and made class fun and interesting,” he said.
Chris currently works for a general contractor and plans to continue after graduation.
“I like learning a trade and working with my hands. Eventually, I’d like to get a master’s in history and become a history professor,” he said.