Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department


Committee Chair/Advisor

Andrew, Rod

Committee Member

Grubb , Alan

Committee Member

Reel , Jerome V


The Clemson graduating class of 1939 entered college in 1935, during the Great Depression. By the time they enrolled, even as teenagers, many of them had encountered the economic hardships and family disruption of the times. When they got to Clemson, they discovered a military school with strong discipline and regimentation. Shortly after graduation these same men were engaged in World War ll. These three experiences, - the Depression, military training and World War ll combat - combined to form a bond among these men that has carried forward for over 70 years.
Circumstance played a role in helping the Class of 1939 gain standing at Clemson. Clemson graduating classes typically present a major gift to the university on their 50th anniversary. Coincidentally, the Class of `39 had its 50th anniversary in the year Clemson was celebrating its 100th anniversary. The class wanted to do something very special to commemorate these events, culminating in the development of the Class of 1939 Award for Excellence and the creation of the Heritage Gardens project. These gifts have set the Class of '39 apart for their ingenuity as compared to many other Clemson classes. The Award for Excellence honors a Clemson faculty member each year and, through its honorary member program, creates a system that sustains the class and actually provides it with new members. The Heritage Gardens project is a multi-part effort to honor Clemson past, present and future. It, too, has an ongoing component that, in conjunction with other Clemson graduation classes, will also project the Class of '39 into the future.
Three things have greatly contributed to the success of the `39ers. First, members of the Class have had three great bonding experiences, the Depression, Clemson military training and World War ll. Second, the Class has also had the benefit of strong dedicated local leaders who have led long lives, creating a continuity of thought and action. Finally, the Class developed outstanding and innovative ideas that captured the attention of the university.
The Class makes no secret of its desire to continue its legacy, even after all of the original members are gone, and has designed its gifts and programs to achieve that goal. The question we are unable to answer at this time is what will happen when all of the original members are gone.

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