The Coughlin Campanile was completed on the campus of South Dakota State University (SDSU) in 1929. Costing $75,000, it was a gift to the University from Charles Coughlin, a graduate from the class of 1909, who also became the head of Briggs & Stratton Corp. Those who can summon the energy to climb the 179 steps to the indoor viewing platform can get a good look at Brookings and beyond. Views also are available from lower levels and there is no fee to enter. However, climbs must be made during daylight hours. Lighting within the tower is minimal. Entrance is from the south door. The key can be checked out at Tompkins Alumni Center across the street or the University Police Department across the street and a block north.
The Coughlin Campanile is a chimes tower that rises to 165 feet and is located on Medary Ave. The tower's chimes cover three octaves and can be "played" manually from an organ in the nearby Lincoln Music Hall. The Coughlin Campanile Chimes Tower also appears in SDSU's business logo and on most letterheads. In August of 2000, as a part of "Visions for the Future" campaign over 4,000 alumni and businesses donated a total of $540,000 to have the Coughlin Campanile restored.
This restoration included mortar work and replacement of parts of the limestone base. For many years the Coughlin Campanile was the tallest structure in the state of South Dakota and is the iconic figure for the campus and the city. During the summer it chimes and can be heard across campus. Its distinctive red lamp at the top is a familiar beacon on a dark prairie night that welcomes travelers from tens of miles away.
Charles Coughlin was the first inductee to the South Dakota State University Hall of Fame. He starred in football, basketball, track and baseball between 1905 and 1909. Coughlin was honored as an SDSU distinguished alumnus in 1961 and presented an honorary doctor of engineering degree in 1954. Following his graduation in 1909, Coughlin worked for the telephone company and power plant in Brookings. In 1910, he switched to the Briggs and Stratton Company of Milwaukee before going to Purdue University where he taught mechanical engineering. He was general manager of the Ladish Drop Forge Company in Cudahy, Wis. He returned to Briggs and Stratton Company in 1922, moving through the ranks to become president of the company.