"Class that never was" gets commencement recognition
In the final days of their junior year, the members of the Class of 1944 were looking forward to summer break and their senior year at The Citadel. But senior year was not to be. The entire class was called to join the fight in World War II.
The Class of 1944 did not have a senior year, nor did its members have a commencement ceremony. After the war, some came back to finish their degrees and graduate; others did not. As part of the Class of 2008 Commencement, the class received special recognition 64 years after the Class of 1944 would have graduated.
What follows are the remarks of A. Lee Chandler, Class of '44, on behalf of his class and his friend and classmate Robert S. Adden during the May 3, 2008 commencemennt of the South Caolina Corps of Cadets.
The Citadel Class of 1944 is indebted to President Rosa, the Board of Visitors, and the Provost for the opportunity to make a brief comment about our class of ‘44 on the occasion of our classmate Bob Adden’s receiving an honorary degree.
Today, we have a unique opportunity to address an important part of The Citadel’s history which, over the years, has not been well-explained or publicized.
The Class of 1944 was called upon to make a sacrifice for our country which no other class – before or since – has ever been required to make. We had to give up our Senior Year and not receive our diplomas. Instead, at the end of our Junior year we were immediately inducted into the U. S. Army and began training for combat.
For this, our class of ‘44 came to be known as “The Class that Never Was.”
During World War II, with battles raging on all fronts, our armies on the ground were experiencing a critical need for Junior Officers, Second Lieutenants. The quickest and most available source was the third-year college ROTC students throughout the country.
When the order came down, not one single Cadet of our Junior Class ever flinched. We knew it was our duty, though we also knew full well that many of us, with whom only months before had played sports together, studied together, eaten together, laughed together, and on every Sunday morning had prayed together in our sacred Cadet Chapel, would never return.
How true that was! The names of 34 of our class who gave their lives are enshrined in bronze upon the exterior walls of our Chapel. Many more of us received purple hearts for wounds we suffered in combat.
But beyond losing our Senior Year, there is a second misfortune which may easily happen to a class that never graduates. That class might simply become one which went to World War II after its Junior Year and then never saw each other again. That possibility was even more likely at a school like The Citadel where so many Cadets are from faraway cities and states.
At The Citadel, we all know that the camaraderie of Cadets is very special to Seniors, who can reflect with pride that they have stayed the course of a disciplined four years. I know that this fine group of Seniors about to graduate today can identify with, understand, and appreciate what I’m saying here.
But thankfully, one single man was determined to prevent our class from falling apart, never to be heard from again. Because of his unbounded love of The Citadel and of his cherished classmates, Bob Adden, whom we honor today, has been instrumental, first in keeping the Class of 1944 together and then, serving, through the years, as the glue which has held us together. Immediately after returning from his severe wounds in combat, he obtained his BS degree, then his Masters and PhD degrees, and began teaching in the Department of Business Administration.
But he also immediately began writing letters and making calls urging classmates to return and hold together our Class of 1944. He has never stopped for 60 years. Bob keeps us posted on any and all matters which we should know about – special events, deaths, etc. He and his gracious wife, Sue, have arranged get-togethers for us at Homecomings, Commencements like today, and multiple other special events and occasions.
In short, Bob Adden literally saved our Class in a way that makes us feel a part of the Corps, no less than any other Class, no matter that we lost our Senior Year.
Today, we will all witness a special tradition, dear to The Citadel, by which graduates can receive their diplomas from Citadel parents and grandparents. The Class of ‘44 missed that tradition, but we rejoice that it continues today for the Class of 2008. Happily, even at our average age of 85, one Grandfather among us will hand the diploma to his Grandson later this morning!
And now, knowing what you have heard today, would you not feel that the Class of ‘44 is NOT “The Class that Never Was,” but in the hearts and minds and souls of our great Citadel Family, we are “The Class that LIVES FOREVER!” Amen.