At last, a graduation ceremony

by Bob Miller | 6/12/94 5:00am

Cincinnati, OH -- The Class of 1944 returned to Hanover this weekend for its "Commencement That Never Was." Back in June of 1944 there was no Commencement at Dartmouth.

And for good reason.

Most of the intended honorees were not there.They were in Normandy, Saipan, Italy or Burma; on the high seas, in the wild blue yonder or and in fox holes far, far away from Hanover.

The class had been together for less than 16 months when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, shortly after which the class was completely broken up because so many members went off to serve in World War II.

But this weekend, as they celebrate their 50th class reunion and lead the Class of 1994 in its Commencement procession, surviving members of the Class of 1944 will hold their own Commencement.

During a class banquet on Saturday, Richard Morse '44 who gave the valedictory address at the 1946 Dartmouth Commencement, reviewed his remarks in light of events since.

Then, at the conclusion of the evening, Leonard Rieser -- a member of the Class of 1944 and provost of the College from 1967-82 -- donned his academic robes and presented to outgoing Class President William Hale a certificate signed by Dartmouth President James Freedman. Jim Elliott '44 of will preside over the activities.

The certificate declares that because the class "was denied a Commencement exercise by the exigencies of war," each member "is hereby given his college's special recognition and appreciation for a half-century of patience, forbearance, loyalty and support. Given in Hanover, New Hampshire on this eleventh day of June in the year nineteen-hundred and ninety-four, being the fiftieth anniversary of the Commencement that never was."

Class members in attendance each received a copy of the certificate immediately after the banquet.

The Class of 1944 returns with some rather impressive credentials, especially when recalling the short time they it was together.

More than 200 members of the class were expected to return to Hanover this weekend, which is more than 50 percent of the living graduates in the class and is an attendance record for a 50th reunion at Dartmouth. With guests, they were expected to total more than 450, also a record for a 50th reunion at Dartmouth. They have given the College the largest Alumni Fund gift to date by a 50th reunion class, a gift 30 percent larger than the record set six years ago by the Class of 1938. And they are among the classes which have given the College the most financial support in history.

The class will be further distinguished today when two of its members, John Berry and Walter Burke, will receive honorary degrees. This is believed to be the first 50th reunion class with two recipients of honorary doctorates.

As an additional note to their record of accomplishments, Bill "Ezz" Hale, president of the Class of 1944, was named "Class President of the Year" at the Class Officers weekend this May.