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Class Gifts Through the Years

Symbols of Devotion to our Alma Mater”

Approximately 100 years ago, returning alumni and visitors to West Point could view gifts that classes gave to their alma mater in one of two places: among the stained glass windows of the Cadet Chapel nave and on stone markers in front of certain trees that lined the Plain and Trophy Point. Today, by contrast, the impact of class giving to West Point is everywhere. Over the last six decades, the classes of the Long Gray Line have transformed the Academy and supported the leader development of the Corps of Cadets through both tangible and intangible gifts.

The first class gift given significant attention, beyond the class windows of the Cadet Chapel and the various class trees dotting West Point’s landscape, is the Class of 1915 Drinking Fountain. Presented on November 2, 1957, the fountain was located across Jefferson Road near the Clock Tower (close to where Eisenhower Statue stands today). Roughly 10 feet from the fountain, the Class of 1915 erected a 4.5-foot marble cube displaying the seals of the United States, War Department, and the U.S. Military Academy on three sides and the words, “Presented by the Class of 1915,” on the fourth side, a memorial that General Henry Saylor, Class Vice-President, called, “…a symbol of our devotion to our Alma Mater.” Accepting the gift in front of President Dwight Eisenhower and some 30 members of the Class of 1915, Lieutenant General Garrison Davidson ’27, the 44th Superintendent, said, “Practically every day most of the members of the Corps pass this spot, [and]…this [class gift] will serve as a…reminder to the present-day members of the Corps of the proud and endless heritage that, in their turn, they are dedicated to preserve.”

Following “the Class the Stars Fell On,” every subsequent class has presented at least one class gift to the Academy, totaling more than 400 class gifts to date. While the practice of class gifts became the norm during the 1960s, it was not formalized until the mid-1980s. At that time, the Association of Graduates initiated the Reunion Giving Program, which was designed to match a class’s ambition to give with one of USMA’s unfunded needs. Three decades ago, as part of the program, classes were asked to consider making a progressively valued gift at their 10th, 25th, 40th, and 50th reunions. SEE IF YOUR CLASS HAS A GIFT PLANNED

Today, the blueprint for class giving is a well-defined and documented process (and it includes reunion gifts at the 20- and 30-year marks as well). WPAOG’s Class Giving Office leads the initiative and educates classes on the unfunded priorities of the Academy. After learning of USMA’s approved needs, the class works closely with the WPAOG Class Giving team to select a gift to consider giving at its milestone reunion, which is typically five years out at that point. The class then votes on the project and starts raising money for it. The Class Giving Office also works closely with class leaders and campaign volunteers in reaching the financial goal set, and WPAOG’s Finance Department pools and manages the class’s donations into an allocation fund, which earns interest until ready for use. Finally, at its reunion, the class presents its gift to the Superintendent, who accepts the gift on behalf of West Point or recommends its  acceptance to the Secretary of the Army.

Over the years, this process has resulted in significant support for projects such as the Tronsrue Indoor Marksmanship Center, the Lichtenberg Tennis Center, Reconciliation Plaza, the Cemetery Columbarium Wall, the Frederic V. Malek West Point Visitors Center, and numerous other facilities and memorials—gifts that have transformed the landscape of West Point. Classes have also helped maintain and enhance existing West Point structures (Thayer Gate, the First Class Club, Herbert Alumni Center, etc.) or added to facilities built with appropriated funds (Jefferson Hall Cadet Library & Learning Center, Arvin Physical Development Center enhancements, Mess Hall ornamentations, etc.). Class gifts are also transforming learning at the Academy with the establishment of key research centers such as the Center for the Rule of Law, the Cyber Research Center, the Combating Terrorism Center, the Modern War Institute, the Center for Oral History, and the Army Cyber Institute. Finally, class giving has improved the knowledge and leader development of cadets with dozens of speaker series, academic and activity endowments, cultural immersion and semester abroad programs, conferences, and scholarship funds.

No matter how big or how small, each class gift is, as Saylor said, “…a symbol of [a class’s] devotion to [its] Alma Mater.” Furthermore, paraphrasing Davidson, cadets feel the impact of class giving every day and in a number of ways. Whether it is through a lesson by an endowed Chair in the Professional Military Ethic, studying in a team room for a corps squad sport, or taking a short break on one of the many class benches in Central Area, cadets are constantly reminded of those who came before and established the standard to which they themselves will be held and “dedicated to preserve” upon graduation. Through class giving, the legacy of each class, West Point, and the Long Gray Line grows and shines, much like a class tree along the Plain or like a class window in the Cadet Chapel reflecting the rising sun.

Appearing in the West Point Magazine, Summer 2019 edition. By Keith J. Hamel, WPAOG Staff



See Also

WPAOG Class Giving Officers


Elena Ivanova '99 845.446.1536




Megan Dill

Megan Dill



Rebecca Dougherty


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