A badly needed fieldhouse was among the proposals for a commemoration to honor members of the university community and alumni who died in World War II. Chancellor Deane Malott and others were determined to build a structure that was purely a memorial and was not designed to fill a need of the university, as had been done after World War I with the stadium and the union.
A bell tower was decided on, and a fund drive began as World War II ended. The campanile was dedicated May 27, 1951. Engraved on tablets in the Memorial Room at the campanile's base are the names of 277 KU alumni, students, faculty and staff who died in World War II. The ornamental bronze doors are by sculptor Bernard “Poco” Frazier.
Designed by architect Homer F. Neville, a student in the 1920s, and Edward B. Delk, the bell tower is 120 feet high and built of Kansas limestone. The carillon, played by keyboard-operated hammers, has 53 bells cast by an English foundry established in the 1360s. The bells chime the quarter hours and hours; concerts are performed by the university carillonneur, students and guest artists. A major renovation of the bells, the campanile and the grounds was completed in 1996.