Class of 1946, separated by war, comes together for 50th reunion

by Neil Desai | 6/9/96 5:00am

As American involvement in World War II became imminent, 700 Dartmouth men waited in sleepy Hanover, knowing battle might be only days away.

After spending up to three years stationed on the other side of the globe, many of the men returned as Dartmouth's Class of 1946, hoping to pick up where they left off.

Those men return again this weekend, 50 years later, not to study, but to share memories and catch up on the five decades that have passed since they parted.

They return to a campus changed by 50 years of change, but where many of the same traditions endure.

War and peace

In recent interviews with The Dartmouth, members of the Class of 1946 told how theirs was a class divided by war.

Ed Scheu '46, whose first semester at Dartmouth was in the fall of 1942, said "it was a very tough time."

"None of us knew what lay ahead, especially concerning the military," he said. "Most of us had a hard time paying attention and studying."

At the end of the semester, Scheu picked up stakes and went off to war. Bob Kimbal '46, vice-president of the Class of 1946 and former assistant dean of theAmos Tuck School of Business Administration,, was in a similar situation.

Kimbal spent a semester in Hanover, then moved to a Navy base for more than three years.

Although classmates were initially kept together in the military, like in a Dartmouth Air Force squadron, they were later separated.

Even with its students marching off to war, the College remained an active place, since it was chosen by the Navy to train naval officers.

This program ended in 1942, when the College instituted a V-12 program on campus, which prepared students for war,Reginald Pierce'46 said. Pierce said he enlisted in the Navy after three semesters at Dartmouth. He was placed in Dartmouth's V-12 program.

He said that the V-12 officers received an invitation to enroll at the College upon returning home from the war.

About 200 of these V-12 veterans accepted the invitation, expanding the total enrollment for the Class of 1946 to 900, Pierce said.

Scheu said the College allowed him to chose which class to graduate with when he returned after the war. He chose the Class of 1946.

A class divided

Pierce said the class was not the same after the war.

"After the war, the class was very fragmented," he said.

Students and officers alike returned to an isolated campus untouched by war. But they brought back impressions of war they were unable to leave behind.

Kimbal told of a party at which former College President John Sloan Dickey described the difficulty of the years after the war.

Kimbal said, "Dickey said, 'When all the guys came back they were hardened veterans. They weren't your typical undergraduates."

Kimbal said, "It was difficult to engender the College spirit within them.'"

"We were a different breed of cat," he said. "But it was a damn good experience in spite of the war."

Kimbal said a lot of people were grateful to return to a normal life after surving the war.

"One thing we all wanted desperately was to continue our education and go out into the world," he said. "We were anxious to get on with our lives, understanding that you needed a good college education."

Kimbal said he and his fellow veterans were well-equipped to achieve their goals.

"Our post-war experience was characterized by the fact that we were older than the average undergraduates, and therefore, less frivolous and more serious in our studies," he said.

Scheu agreed.

"We were much more mature [after the war] and we knew where we were," he said. "When I came back I had a good idea of what I wanted to do."

Dartmouth in 1946

Scheu said Dartmouth's teaching was top-notch back when he was an undergraduate.

Pierce said he was "incredibly impressed" with the professors when he came here.

"The professors really reached us," he said. "Teaching is one of Dartmouth's greatest traditions."

Kimbal, Pierce and Scheu all praised the "Great Issues Course" once required of students.

Pierce said the course was "the most important course to come to us."

"It opened us to what the world was going to be like," he said.

Scheu rated the course his favorite throughout his Dartmouth career.

The course brought influential speakers to the classroom weekly, Scheu said. Students were required to subscribe to five or six different publications so they could analyze how each treated a particular subject.

"This class teaches you to look deeper into things," he said. "This did a good job to prepare us for the problems of the real world."

Scheu said even though he and his classmates were studious, "that doesn't mean we didn't have a good time."

Members of the Class of 1946 said they were still able to enjoy the best of college life.

Kimbal said he remembers Dartmouth athletics most vividly. "We had guys in the V-12 from all over the country, including the best football player in the country at the time," he said.

During this time Dartmouth teams shined, Kimbal said. He said the hockey and basketball teams were the best in the country.

Scheu, who also has vivid memories of Dartmouth sports, was a three-sport athlete, competing on the soccer, hockey and ski teams.

Fifty years later

Although he will miss the Dartmouth of old, Pierce said there have been changes for the better at Dartmouth. For instance, he said the College has doubled its academic standards.

Scheu said the raising of standards is partly due to the emphasis on undergraduate computing.

Former College President John Kemeny "made an absolutely important step in introducing computers to the College," Kimbal said.

"It put Dartmouth on the forefront of technology and undergraduate education," he said. "Hundreds of colleges learned from Dartmouth."

But Dartmouth still lagged behind other institutions in one respect, they said. The College did not coeducate until 1972.

Kimbal, who has lived in Hanover and witnessed coeducation, said he and his classmates were initally opposed to admitting women.

But Kimbal said he has changed his mind.

If Dartmouth had not gone coed, "it would not be the College it is today," he said. "It just wouldn't be as strong as it is."

Scheu agreed with Kimbal. He said he thinks coeducation was a good thing.

"It has been a real plus for the College," Scheu said.

But Scheu said many of his classmates think the College was better when it excluded women.

Kimbal said his class is mostly made of traditionalists.

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