Ring Melt for Class of 2020

Categories: Ring Memorial Program, Grad News
Class Years:

A Great Tradition Gets Even Better: Ring Melt 2019

In the May/June 1999 edition of ASSEMBLY magazine, Ron Turner ’58 imagined a new tradition for the West Point Association of Graduates, “…a program whereby graduates may bequeath (or graduates’ descendants may donate) West Point class rings for the specific purpose of incorporating the gold into the class rings of future graduates.” On November 20, 2000, at a foundry in Providence, RI, Turner’s idea became a reality as 29 rings and portions of two others were melted to begin what has become known as the “Ring Melt” tradition. For 18 years, WPAOG continued the tradition by returning annually to Rhode Island to melt a new batch of donated rings, along with a sample of gold from previous Ring Melts, so that the gold could be placed in the rings for cadets of the following year’s firstie class. Then, on Friday, January 25, 2019, WPAOG did what few thought possible: it improved on the tradition. For the first time in the history of WPAOG’s Ring Memorial Program, the “Ring Melt,” was held at West Point. See photos of the event.

Twenty-six donor families, more than a dozen cadets, and representatives from the Academy and WPAOG gathered in Eisenhower Hall’s Crest Hall for the 2019 Ring Melt for the Class of 2020. “There’s no more fitting place for this ceremony,” said LTC Jason Halloren, Deputy Commandant of Cadets. “It is absolutely great for tying the old with the new, history with the future.” CDT Matthew Arnold ’20, the Ring and Crest Chairman for the Class of 2020, also spoke of mixing the past, present, and future when he addressed the legacy of class crests on the walls encircling the audience, noting how the bald eagle for 2020’s crest (“with its dominating figure and pronounced talons”) was meant to evoke the national symbol seen in the crest for the Class of 1970, his and his classmates’ 50-Year Affiliate Class. “Soon, we will have another very tangible symbol of this relationship—our rings,” Arnold said. “Every time we look at our crest on our ring, we will be reminded that while our vision must be for the future, we cannot forget the storied past of the Long Gray Line.”

Fifty-five rings, the second largest number ever donated in a single year, were placed in the crucible for the Class of 2020, each with its own “storied past.” Before placing LTG (R) Jack Norton ’41’s ring in the crucible, his son, LTC (R) John Norton ’70, said, “He made all four of his combat jumps with the 82nd Airborne in World War II wearing this ring.” Trish Johnson ’85, the Class President, who placed Lt. Col. (R) Harley E. Jeans ’51’s ring in the crucible on behalf of his family, told the cadets present that Jeans flew 225 night missions in Vietnam. Two of the rings belonged to graduates who died while on active duty, and one of them was worn by a POW. Ten of the rings were donated by the Class of 1970, the most rings ever donated by a 50-Year Affiliate Class. “Just to think we had a small part to play the Class of 2020’s success, molding them for the future, means a lot to my class,” said Terry Young ’70, the 50-Year Affiliate POC. Counting the Legacy Gold, the sample extracted each year from the ingot of melted rings that is added to the melt the following year to ensure that gold from all Ring Melts is included in the manufacture of rings for the upcoming class, a total of 575 rings will be represented in those for the Class of 2020.

“When I don my ring in August, I’ll be thinking of all the donor families that I encountered today and the tremendous support they showed for our class,” said CDT Joshua Phillips ’20, the Class President, “and I’m going to be thinking about how I have a full generation of West Point graduates behind me who are hoping for my success.” Upon receiving the gold bar made from the melted rings (melted at USMA’s own Bartlett Hall) and handing it off to a representative from Balfour, the company that will make 2020’s class rings, Phillips told those gathered for the Ring Melt luncheon, “We gladly bear the weight of Duty, Honor, and Country that our rings will represent, as they push us to be the best leaders we can be, and not only have pride in ourselves, but to have pride in maintaining everything that those before us worked so hard to establish.”

“This was an emotional and beautiful ceremony,” said Darlene Wilson, widow of CPT Robert Wilson II ’85, whose classmate and best friend’s son is in the Class of 2020. “I know he was here today, and I know he’d approve of donating his ring.” CPT (R) Sara Marks and CWO4 (R) Fred Marks agree that their father, Mr. Simon S. Marks, who died in 1986, well before the advent of the Ring Melt tradition, would have also approved of donating his ring. “Every one of my father’s eight kids agreed that this is what dad would have wanted,” said Marks. “Of any tradition that perpetuates and strengthens the Long Gray Line he would approve.”

Class of 2020 Ring Memorial Donor Listing

1916 COL Raymond P. Campbell USA, Retired
1918 BG Edward W. Smith, USA, Retired
1923 LTC Walter B. Tully, USA, Retired
1925 Gen Charles P. Cabell, USAF, Retired
1931 MG Van H. Bond, USA, Retired
1936 BG David W. Hiester, USA, Retired
1937 COL John L. Powers, USA, Retired
1941 LTG John Norton, USA, Retired
1942 MG Charles W. Ryder Jr., USA, Retired
1944 Mr. Simon S. Marks
1945 COL John M. Forbes Sr., USA, Retired
1945 Ltc Edgar W. Nichols, USAF, Retired
1945 LTC Frank A. Smith, USA, Retired
1946 COL James E. Coleman, USA, Retired
1946 COL Joe B. Flores, USA, Retired
1946 COL Harlan W. Tucker, USA, Retired
1948 COL Garland R. McSpadden, USA, Retired
1949 MAJ Alexander B. Culbertson, USA, Retired
1950 COL Lyman H. Hammond Jr., USA, Retired
1950 BG Roswell E. Round Jr. , USA, Retired
1950 COL Samuel W. Smithers, USA, Retired
1951 COL Bruce B. Bailey, USA, Retired
1951 Ltc Harley E. Jeans, USAF, Retired
1951 LTC Donald T. Sheridan, ANG, Retired
1952 Col Ercell C. Hamilton Jr., USAF, Retired
1954 Mr. Robert J. Morris
1955 MG Joseph P. Franklin, USA, Retired
1957 LTC Wayne B. Nicoll, USA, Retired
1958 COL Robert E. Lindquist, USA, Retired
1958 LTC Douglass A. Sedgwick, USA, Retired
1958 COL Donald E. Wilson, USA, Retired
1959 LTC Warren J. Warren, USA, Retired
1960 Mr. Harold A. Brownfield Jr.
1960 Mr. Richard J. Holleman
1960 Mr. Grafton Jhung
1960 LTC Dyson Ramsey Conklin Miller
1962 Mr. Denne A. Sweeney
1963 John S. Waller
1965 LTC John M. Deems, USA Retired
1966 Col Daniel J. Coonan III, USAF, Retired
1969 Mr. Douglas C. Fitzgerald
1969 Mr. Bruce L. Helmich
1970 Mr. William Y. Arcuri
1970 Mr. John C. Brenner
1970 MAJ Randall A. Carlson
1970 COL Roland W. Carter, USA, Retired
1970 MAJ John M. Forbes Jr., USAR, Retired
1970 COL John W. Reitz, USA, Retired
1970 LTC Randall C. Rutler, USA, Retired
1970 Mr. Brian M. Smith
1970 Dr. Jeffrey R. Troxell
1970 LTC Lawrence B. Wilkins
1984 COL Warren C. Olson, USAR, Retired
1985 CPT Robert B. Wilson II, USA
1986 LTC Richard L. French, USA, Retired

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Ring Memorial Program

In 1999, LTC(R) Ron Turner ’58 submitted an article with the suggestion that “We, as graduates of West Point, should establish a Memorial Class Ring Program… whereby graduates may bequeath (or graduates’ descendants may donate) West Point class rings for the specific purpose of incorporating the gold into the class rings of future graduates.” Turner’s idea became a reality as 31 rings were melted at the Herff Jones company, and the Class of 2002 became the first to receive the gold from this historic undertaking in their rings. A small portion of each year’s gold ingot is preserved and added to the rings that are being melted for the following year’s Ring Melt. The gold shavings are known as the Legacy Gold because it contains gold from every ring that has been donated over the years.

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