Meet the team keeping the UT Tower lit and burnt orange

Mason Carroll

For more than 80 years, the UT Tower has represented what it means to be a Longhorn to students and alumni, all thanks to the Tower’s maintenance staff who keep the legacy going strong.

Neil Crump, project management and construction services manager, is one of the many people who make sure all the Tower’s 356 external light bulbs are working properly to shine with its signature burnt orange and white.

“I check the Tower every night to make sure the Tower is running and the lights are working,” Crump said. “It’s a lot of pride (in seeing the Tower lit), because it’s such a beautiful building.” 

Crump said it costs the University almost $10,000 per year to light the Tower, but this is much lower cost in comparison with electrical costs in the rest of the city because UT has its own generator.

“It comes out to just barely over two dollars an hour to light the Tower,” Crump said. “We’re using less energy than we were 20 years ago, but we’re serving millions of more square feet of space now because they’ve done some really good things for energy efficiency.” 

On nights when the Tower is lit orange and strategically lit windows create a number one on its side, 217 window shades have to be opened or closed, and Crump’s team checks every room to make sure the image shines through brightly and properly. Crump said he can even turn on the Tower lights using his phone.

“You have to check every room and make sure everything is perfect,” Crump said. “But it’s just all in a day’s work. (My workers) like to drive down the road and think, ‘That’s me, I’m taking care of that tower’ because they really like what they do.”

Anthony Tomasello, evening supervisor for the Life Science Library, worked in the Main Building as a student in 2012 and came back years later to work again.

“Working in this space is something special, that’s for sure,” Tomasello said. “There’s nothing like it. I definitely have a historical appreciation for the tower, but mostly it’s just (one of) sheer beauty.”

Tomasello said students can still find messages and marks left from generations of UT alumni before in the Tower, which is why he believes it is important that the Tower is preserved. 

“One of our few links to all of the prior generations of students is the Tower,” Tomasello said. “That means something to us here, that their marks are still in this place.”

Simon Tolman, radio-television-film freshman, said he enjoys studying in the Tower and thinks it is a great place for students to go.

“It’s at the center of campus, and it’s so important to student life,” Tolman said. “I enjoy studying there because the space is perfect for students.”

Crump said he knows what the Tower means to the people of Austin, which is why he takes pride in what he does.

“The pride comes from the fact that the Tower is the icon for the University of Texas,” Crump said. “It’s not just for the students and staff, I think the whole city recognizes that it’s one of the key landmarks in the city of Austin.”