One of the most iconic landmarks on campus is also one of its most mysterious.
The Clock stands on Wilkins Plaza at the intersection of the Johnson Center, Horizon Hall, Fenwick Library, and David King Hall. The number "1999" appears on the clock’s face, as it was a gift to the university from Mason's Class of 1999. Its estimated cost, according to the only Broadside article written about the Clock from September 20, 1999, was $15,000.
The establishment of the Clock as a physical part of the Fairfax Campus began as a project led by John Butler, Student Government President, from 1998-1999. Butler wanted the Student Government and graduating class of that year to give back to the university and leave a lasting legacy. The plaque on the clock’s base lists the names of 113 students from the Class of 1999 who contributed toward the purchase of the clock. According to some members of the Class of 1999, they did not recall hearing about the clock and thought it suddenly appeared one day. Jimmie Foster, Jr., a Broadside photographer, took the earliest known photographs of the clock on May 1, 1999.
In December 2018, the clock was removed and stored in a warehouse to allow for the expansion of Wilkins Plaza as part of the Core Campus Project. While the clock was away, its manufacturer, Verdin, fully refurbished it. Students previously noticed that the clock’s time was a few minutes off. The clock now has digital controls that eliminate the need for it to be manually programmed and ensure that it displays the correct time automatically. Verdin also thoroughly cleaned the clock and gave it new scratch-resistant lenses. The clock was reinstalled on Wilkins Plaza in December 2020.
Today, the clock remains an important landmark and gathering place for students due to its central location on the Fairfax campus. Students conduct club activities like fundraisers and recruitment near the clock, where they can catch the attention of students leaving the Johnson Center and Fenwick Library. In addition, the clock serves as a meeting point for protests and emergency evacuations. Finally, it has become a tradition for graduating students to take photos with the clock.