Return of bell rings good news for Alma alumnae


It will never ring again to stir sleepy students or summon legions of exuberant young women to the dining hall, however the return of a truly iconic form of primitive communication is being welcomed by the Alma College community.
It has been some time since this corner has focused on the former school for girls, but the invitation to join Donna Robertson, past-president of the Alma College International Alumnae; Stephen Francom, Elgin County Archives manager; and Mike Baker, Elgin County Museum curator, to provide details on the return to St. Thomas of the Alma College bell proved too tempting to resist.
The bell disappeared some years ago, likely commandeered by a former Alma student in order to provide a safe home as the college faced the spectre of demolition by neglect.

As we understand, the bell ended up in the U.S., where it languished for some time before returning to St. Thomas under equally hazy circumstances.
In October of this year, the owners of the Alma College property, George and Jill Zubick of London, received a call from a St. Thomas resident wishing to return the much-travelled bell to them.

Mike Baker, left, Elgin County Museum curator; Jill Zubick, whose family owns the Alma College property; and Donna Robertson, past-president of the Alma College International Alumnae.

Mike Baker, left, Elgin County Museum curator; Jill Zubick, whose family owns the Alma College property; and Donna Robertson, past-president of the Alma College International Alumnae.

“It was exciting,” Jill told us this week. “I didn’t know where the bell was. I don’t think it was taken for destruction. It is very, very precious to the alumnae. It was hanging from the top floor, it was rung for everything.”
Knowing the value of the bell, the Zubicks knew they had only one option.
“It was never our bell. It belongs to the archives, the alumnae, the city. We wanted to make sure it was preserved. And secondly, if we ever have something at Alma, that it would take its rightful place back. Even if it is just for people to see.”
The appearance of the bell after its lengthy adventure was welcomed by Robertson, Francom and Baker, who have developed an energetic partnership to collect and display Alma artifacts.
“We’re pretty appreciative of having a safe place to put everything, instead of going from one person’s basement to another person’s garage,” advised Robertson.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to put the material on exhibit,” added Baker. “We got a nice donation from the alumnae to put the bell in to some kind of shape for semi-regular viewing.”
“That’s just one example of the symbiotic relationship that exists between the Alumnae, the archives and the museum,” Francom pointed out.
“Over the years they’ve given us money with no strings attached, which we direct to the general reserve which we keep for the care and maintenance of the Alma collection.”
In addition to scouring the land for Alma artifacts, Robertson is continually on the prowl for alumnae, seeking info to be added to their database of over 6,000 contacts.
And, for the third year, the alumnae will award a scholarship to a St. Thomas high school student. In this case, to a St. Joseph’s High school student.
The alumnae association’s annual reunion will be held this June in London, with get-togethers planned in July near Toronto for 70’s and 80’s alumnae and September in Toronto for 50’s and 60’s.
For more info on the alumnae association, join the Alma College Facebook group, visit the website at, contact Robertson at 519-471-0855 or by email at
Now, if we could just get some movement on preservation of the chapel and music building, not to mention clean-up of the grounds which remain under a heritage designation, there truly would be cause for celebration.
Which prompts the question: What about the city’s minimum property standards bylaw?

There is never a dull moment on the T-J website or Facebook page, as witness this exchange between two readers this week at the latter venue.
Andrew Eskritt, who by our determination actually appears to live in London, posted this on Friday under a story about Mayor Heather Jackson’s economic outlook for 2013.
“I have interviewed over 100 people who have no confidence in the Mayor. Things like wanting to put a $850,000 flower garden rather than a $850,000 food garden, that could grow a lot of food to help people in the community and neighboring ones. That’s just one of thousands of issues people in this town have reported in so far. We want a REAL mayor, someone who cares about fixing this town.”
We’re at a loss to pinpoint the exact nature of the $850,000 flower garden of which Andrew speaks.
In any event, Dan Vernackt jumps into the fray with the observation.
“Anyone can be an armchair critic…. Get out and actually be involved in the community instead of crabbing about it. Kudo’s to Heather. Nice to have someone running the show that is not a member of the old boys club!”
There’s never a shortage of fascinating dialogue, not to mention the broad scope of opinion.

“Small business is what really drives the economy and people. If you drive around anywhere throughout the county, you’d be quite surprised how many small businesses there are and how much money they’re putting back into the local economy.”
Elgin County Warden Cameron McWilliam speaking this week with the Times-Journal on his economic vision for 2013.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to

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