The Storke Tower at the University of California, Santa Barbara stands at 190-feet, with 61-bells at the top that rings every ten minutes before the hour. The height makes it a symbolic representation of the campus. But why is it named “Storke?” How does “Storke” serve as an instrumental presentism?
Who is “Storke?”
Thomas More Storke was born in Santa Barbara in 1876 and he graduated from Stanford University in 1898. After he got his bachelor’s degree, he worked as a cub reporter at a family friend’s business. Even though he had no intentions of working as a journalist, he eventually became the owner of a newspaper business.
As a publisher, he became especially well known after speaking up against the John Birch Society. The John Birch Society was an unjust advocacy group that kept accusing people of being a communist. After his friend, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, got framed, he stepped up to defend him.
Editorials were published for two months that attacked the group. Publications around the community asked Storke to help write more editorials that spoke up against the society, due to the fact that some editors were too afraid to write. As a result, Thomas More Storke won three awards.
In 1969, the Storke Tower was built to dedicate the achievements of Thomas More Storke. The yearbook office, the school’s newspaper, and the radio station sits right below the tower. The tower was meant to remind the community that it is okay to speak up. Storke wanted the community to demonstrate the power of the freedom of speech. He wanted the publications coming from the campus to be “the finest examples of journalism developed on any campus in America-perhaps in the world.” Thomas More Storke wants us to remember that
“there is no end to the fight for civil rights.” -Thomas M. Storke, I write for freedom (1).
Present Day Memory
The original memory of the Storke Tower being a symbol of the freedom of speech has been somewhat forgotten because of the instrumental presentist approach to collective memory. In the present day, people use the Storke Tower and Storke Plaza as a site to hold community events. The purpose of the site has changed over time because of society’s needs. The memory of the power of the voice will only be remembered when people look at the plaque of Thomas More Storke and read the descriptions under it.
Alternatively, the site continues to demonstrate positive impact by gathering people from around the world and sharing ideas. Events such as concerts, fairs, and night markets are hosted yearly at the Storke Plaza. Additionally, from time to time, speakers come to deliver speeches. The Storke Tower continues to attract tourists to come visit UCSB. Positive ideas continue to expand. The intentions of Storke will physically last forever even if we mentally forget it. The 61-bells that spell out “Let There Be Light” will be a reminder to remember the past achievements and goals of Thomas More Storke.
Forty-seven years ago, the tower was built as a time capsule to capture the successful moment that Thomas More Storke had. Forty-seven years later, the tower represents a time capsule that will capture future noteworthy moments.
As a student of the University of California, Santa Barbara, there is one thing that I will always remember; there is no UCSB if there is no Storke Tower because it is an artifact that contains the history of the past, the memories of the present, and the collection for the future.