The Tradition of Excellence Gets Passes On
The 12th Annual West Point Memorial Class Ring Melt was held at Pease & Curren, Inc. in Warwick, RI, on Monday, March 5th. During the ceremony, 42 rings donated by graduates and their families ranging from the Class of 1915 to the Class of 1969 were melted, along with shavings taken from a sample containing gold from all the past Ring Melt ceremonies, to form a single gold bar. This bar is now on its way to Balfour’s manufacturing facility in Austin, TX, where it will be added to the gold used to make West Point rings for the Class of 2013.
Keith Edwards ’85, a perennial Ring Memorial Program Volunteer, has seen the event grow in size over the years. The number of rings donated for this year’s ceremony more than doubled the average number (19) of rings donated in past years. Edwards also feels that the event has become more personally significant. He says, “If we had this program back when I was a cadet, receiving my ring would have meant more to me.”
Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Ken O’Sullivan ’63, the 50 Year Class Affiliation Liaison, agrees: “The meaning of my ring is much more vivid in my mind today because of what I have experienced as the chairman of the Class of 1963 Affiliation Committee. As I watched the preparations for and the execution of the Ring Melt, I’ve grown more attached to my ring.”
Dr. Tom Gibbons ’79, a Rhode Island resident, tries to attend the Ring Melt each year. “It’s great to see classmates and other folks who have graduated from or were related to someone with ties to West Point,” Gibbons says. “It is also important to support the families that have donated the rings as well as the tradition that is passed on to future generations.”
As a graduate, Gibbons is often invited to place a donated ring into the crucible. This year he deposited that belonging to Colonel James Michael ’43 Jan, and after the ceremony he plans on writing a “thank-you” note to the Michael family for donating the ring and sending them the plaque detailing Colonel Michael’s decorations and accomplishments. When he has done this in the past, he’s received cards back from the family describing how meaningful it was to have a fellow graduate deposit their loved one’s ring into crucible and how wonderful it is to get their biography plaque as a keepsake.
In total, fifteen graduates from the Classes of ’59, ’63, ’69, ’70, ’72, ’73, ’79, ’81, ’85, ’86, ’91, and 2005 participated in the ceremony.
With the gold from this year’s rings, mixed with the gold extracted from Ring Melts of the past eleven years, the Class of 2013 will have some gold from a total of 258 rings added to each of their own class rings, allowing a tangible and symbolic link within the Long Gray Line to continue.
Cadets receive gold made from 258 rings for 2013 Class Ring.
The members of the Class of 2013 received a precious gift on Monday; precious not just because it was made of gold, but rather because that gold came from the rings worn by 258 West Point graduates who came before them.
At the 12th Annual West Point Memorial Class Ring Melt, held at Pease & Curren, Inc. in Warwick, RI, 42 rings (along with shavings taken from a sample containing gold from all the past Ring Melt ceremonies) were melted in a 2,300 degree furnace to create a single gold bar. This bar was then passed from representatives at the refinery to Nadia King ’91, Director of Class Support at the West Point Association of Graduates. King then presented it to Cadet Timothy Berry, President of the Class of ’13. Finally, Berry handed the bar over to Jayne Roland of Balfour, the jewelry company charged with making the rings for the Class of 2013, which the cadets will receive in August of this year.
Upon receiving the gold bar, Berry expressed his gratitude on behalf his class to the donors and all in attendance: “The fact that you all gave something to our class that had so much institutional value that went back so long is humbling.”
The oldest ring from this year’s ceremony was worn by Lieutenant Colonel Layson Enslow Atkins, Class of 1915, who participated in the Punitive Expedition into Mexico in pursuit of Poncho Villia and served with the British as part of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. The oldest ring donated over the past eleven years belonged to Colonel Percy Myers Kessler, Class of 1896, who fought in the Philippine Insurrection.
Reflecting on the event, Cadet Stephanie Wangeman ’13, Ring and Crest Chair, said, “To see these families who have really been influenced by their loved ones and to hear what the grads have done in their lives, it puts so much symbolism into the trust that the nation places on us and the morality and virtue to which we bind ourselves for the rest of our lives.”
The idea for the Memorial Class Ring Melt was conceived in 1999 by Lieutenant Colonel Ron Turner ’58, who felt that such a program would provide a tangible as well as symbolic link between the members of the Long Gray Line. “It ensures that the tradition of ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ will remain with the Class of 2013 as they proudly wear their class rings,” as King read before shavings from the sample were added to the 42 rings already placed in the crucible.
At the end of the ceremony, Berry echoed these sentiments. “To me, this Ring Melt ceremony just goes back to show you that the ideas of ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ don’t just happen by accident. It’s taught. It’s really been passed on from generation to generation.” Indeed, the Class of 2013 understands it received a precious gift; physically a bar of gold, but symbolically so much more.
Class of 2013 Ring Memorial Donor Listing
1917 COL William Sackville
1918 1LT Benjamin R. McBride
1920 MAJ Robert Edwards ’20
1922 COL George E. Mitchell
1932 COL Meyer A. Braude
1934 COL James W. Snee
1935 COL John K. Brown Jr.
1936 LTC Hilwert S. Streeter
1942 COL Robert G. Brugh Jr.
1943jan COL James R. Michael
1944 MG Harold I. Hayward
1944 COL David L. Silver Jr.
1945 LTC Ralph F. Croal Jr.
1945 COL James H. Elkey
1945 LTC James L. Henshaw
1945 LTC George F. Smith Jr.
1946 COL Harrison H.D. Heiberg Jr.
1946 COL Benjamin R. McBride Jr.
1947 COL Wayne O. Hauck
1948 COL Walter B. Schlotterbeck
1948 LTC Kenneth E. Webber Jr.
1950 LTC Tarlton F. Parsons II
1952 LTC Joseph F. Santilli Jr.
1953 COL Donald F. Davis
1953 LTC Elbert E. Fuller Jr.
1953 MG Robert M. Joyce
1954 LTC George W. Kronsbein Jr.
1955 LTC Elisha L. Gallup
1955 Mr. John T. Hamilton
1956 COL George J. Stapleton
1957 MAJ Jesse Ruder, Jr.
1960 COL Robert J. Castleman
1961 Mr. Clinton H. Coddington
1961 COL Thomas H. Magness III
1962 BG Thomas E. Buck
1962 MAJ Robert G. Hufschmid
1963 COL Charles H. Kinsey Jr.
1963 Mr. Lynne M. Patten
1967 Mr. William M. Langlois
1969 LTC Frame J. Bowers III