My Special Class of ’39 Ring

Although I am only sixty years old, I wear the great class of ’39 ring – the only woman to do so. Members of this class are now in their early 90’s and are all men.

I was truly honored to be asked to be an honorary member of this great class in 1998. I treasure this invitation highest among my Clemson University memorabilia and am so very proud to be a part of this great class.

At a reunion celebration honoring the recipient of the class of ’39 award for excellence that year(Larry Bauer, Professor of Applied Economics), I was also honored. It was during that celebration that Larry showed me his ring that he had especially made for him that exactly depicted the ring that the members of this great class received back in 1939 (it even said “Clemson College.” I immediately knew that I wanted to do the same for me.

I went to the clemson bookstore and the staff helped me with the same exact design but made it smaller for a woman’s hand and added an “H” for the honorary designation membership.

Several weeks later, Dr. Taze Senn, former faculty member and department chair of horticulture, spokesman of the great Class of ’39 and dear friend of mine came to my office (the faculty senate office located in the library at that time) and made a very personal, formal , dramatic presentation of my ring to me. Needless to say, I was very moved. Frankly, in the clemFUN spirit of the great class of ’39, we both wanted to celebrate with a cold beer!

You must understand that I grew up in columbia, sc and graduated from the University of South Carolina, having never, ever been on the Clemson campus until my husband accepted a professor position in the department of sociology. when I was inducted into the class as an honorary member, I informed the great class that my blood ran burnt-orange with just a tinge of garnet!

I wear my ring with such pride, honor and love for the many ’39ers I have met over the years; those with whom I have become very close; for those who have passed through and for their widows. I also wear it for my faculty brothers and sisters who have won the ’39 award for excellence and now for professor of biology Jerry Waldvogel who passed away in May, 2009 and for the honoraries present and future.

Upon my death, I plan to leave my ring to Ann Mcmahan, my former graduate student who is now a faculty member and librarian in the Clemson University libraries, who is also an honorary ’39er and who will carry the ’39er spirit into the great future of Clemson University.

To quote Dr. Senn: “Let us roll back the walls of ignorance that surround the human race and provide the shoulders upon which the future generation can look into the great horizons of the future,” Senn said. “That’s my sermon for the day.”

— Cathy Toth Sturkie

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