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#99 The Class of 1917 Graduated Ten Years Late

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, Fun Facts & Stats

The 1927 commencement ceremonies at Norwich included the 53 members of the Class of 1927, plus 22 alumni ten years their senior.  Graduation ceremonies for the men in the Class of 1917 were delayed ten years because they left Norwich for war service before they completed their studies.  Norwich President Charles Plumley declared that the ceremony for the Class of 1917 would be held just prior to the regular commencement ceremonies on Saturday, June 16, 1927.

The United States entered World War I by declaring war on Germany on April 6, 1917. That same month, the Norwich trustees voted to empower the president, Ira Reeves, to grant diplomas as he saw fit to seniors who were called away for service and unable to formally complete their degree requirements. By the time June rolled around, the entire senior class had left the university in this way. All received their Norwich degrees, but they didn’t have the opportunity to march proudly in a graduation ceremony.

That changed ten years later, in June of 1927. In addition to being honored in a Norwich commencement for the first time, the Class of 1917 was also able lay their class step leading up to Jackman Hall, another tradition they had missed because of their service. The commencement address was given by Marine Corps Commandant John Lejeune. His stirring words to the classes of 1927 and 1917 included the following sentiment: “From 1819 until the present day this institution has been, as it were, a beacon light of patriotism; the light has been kept brightly burning and its rays have gradually grown more and more powerful and have illuminated an ever increasing area.”

The Norwich Record gave a detailed account of the 108th commencement held in 1927, which can be read here on the Norwich University Archives’ website. You can also visit the site to search articles about the 1917 decision to grant seniors’ degrees in absentia.

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