Jan and Scott Bittner of Cedar Falls have pledged a leadership gift to support the renovation of the Campanile, an iconic structure that has stood at the center of UNI’s campus for nearly a century. The Bittners say their $250,000 gift honors the impact the university has on the community while preserving the UNI experience for future Panthers.
Scott, a past president of the Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce, said the university plays a critical role in driving the economic vitality of the region. Jan likened the reach of the Campanile’s music to the impact of the university on the broader Cedar Valley and state of Iowa.
“The Campanile is a special symbol of the bond that unites the university and the larger community,” Jan said. “The Campanile’s sound doesn’t stop at the borders of campus. The music spreads throughout the community and is a special part of what makes Cedar Falls the college town that it is.”
Jan and Scott are retired owners of the Cedar Falls-based Hawkeye Corrugated Box Co. and have been longtime supporters of UNI. Jan was the assistant coach for UNI’s volleyball team from 1982 to 1997. In 2017, the couple received the distinction of honorary alumni.
The Bittners say their affection for the Campanile is best represented in a singular image: that of their two young children sprinting toward the tower as the late Bob Byrnes, the university’s longtime carillon player, serenaded the campus following a UNI volleyball home game with Jan on the sidelines.
“They would always rush to Campanile, particularly if Bob left the door open,” Scott recalled. “That was a free invitation for our kids to go up and watch him play and get closer to the bells… That’s such a special memory for us.”
In the fall of 2021, the couple approached the university about stepping up with a lead gift to support the Campanile.
The Campanile renovation is a project of the university’s Our Tomorrow campaign. To date, alumni and friends have given $1.7 million toward a $2.2 million goal to support a two-phase renovation of the Campanile. Phase one of the project was completed with the restoration of the carillon, the instrument contained within the belfry of the tower. Phase two of the project centers on renovating the Campanile Plaza to create an environment for the community and campus to gather.
The UNI Foundation said the goal is to complete fundraising for the project in time to begin the plaza renovations in the summer of 2024. The university plans to celebrate both its sesquicentennial and the 100-year anniversary of Campanile in 2026.