The time-honored junior ring tradition has roots going back to 1937

The year is 1973, a Norwich cadet is a junior and is going to be getting something he had been waiting two-and-a-half years for.

April was right around the corner and it couldn’t come any slower. He had been a part of a committee that worked on it all of sophomore year.

Michael Kelly, an associate professor of civil engineering, received his Norwich class ring that year on the annual junior ring weekend.

Kelley described his class ring in 1973, noting it showed peace with doves, knowledge, Jackman Hall, and the clock with hands that were set to 3 o’clock because that was when their parents had to leave on the day they dropped them off.

“The screaming and shouting started,” said Kelley.

“We never officially got recognized so we didn’t put the month and the date like they (students) do now,” said Kelley. “The ring also had bars at the bottom which represented each semester so there were four bars on each side.” It also had the class year on it.

“We worked on the design during the sophomore year and finished it up in the fall,” said Kelley. “Then everyone found out about them and placed their order.”

In 1923, a senior class ring was adopted to be worn by all graduating cadets and alumni. In previous years, graduating classes designed their own personal rings. However, the idea was standardized in 1923 and became a tradition according to Norwich’s website information on the class ring.

In 1937, the presentation of the class rings was combined with the long-standing junior ring tradition. According to a Guidon edition of 1937, the junior ring concept was borrowed from West Point and the Naval Academy.

The Norwich rings, like the service academy rings, feature a class crest on one side and the school crest on the other, with a bezel surrounding a stone or similar inset on top. Tradition dictates that the cadet wear the class crest facing him/her until graduation, when the ring is turned around so that the Norwich crest faces the wearer. This tradition links the wearer more closely to his/her class until graduation and to all the Norwich Corps graduates after graduation.

Kelley explained that in the Corps of Cadets, one side of the ring always stays the same. According to the Norwich website, each year the Norwich side of the ring consists of:

* Cavalry Sabers – Flanking either side of the shield, they represent our kinship with Vermont’s first cavalry. Today, cadet officers wear sabers in lieu of carrying rifles.

* NUCC Scroll – Flowing on either side of the shield, the scroll distinguishes those who wear the ring as members of the Norwich University Corps of Cadets.

* Norwich Shield – Depicts a cannon and an engineer’s transit in the foreground of a mountain range, with the rays of the morning sun rising above it. The cannon represents the military heritage of the institution; an engineer’s transit represents our academic mission.

* Eagle – Surmounted on the Norwich shield, symbolic of strength and courage in its depiction of both our school and as our national symbol.

* Honor Scroll – Superimposed upon the talons of the eagle, it stands for the fundamental attributes of character. Honor is a virtue which impels loyalty and courage, truthfulness and self-respect, justice and generosity.

* “I Will Try – The motto conveys the spirit of the University and has been adopted as our motto: “I will try.”

The class rings are bigger now than they use to be. The Norwich class rings are all bigger than those of the Army, Navy, and Air Force academies, according to Kelley.

The university side of the ring has pretty much stayed the same, said Kelley. The only change was that ROTC was written on the university side, now its NUCC (Norwich University Corps of Cadets) on the university side.

“My ring cost $100-something dollars,” said Kelley. “And to go to Norwich was $3,000 a year.” Now, cadets pay anywhere from $400 to over $2,000 for the ring.

“The way our ring was designed was that when I’m wearing it, I see the university side, and when I see the word honor written on a ribbon that goes across the middle of it, I can’t tell you how many times I would look at that word,” said Kelley.

“That word always kind of stopped me and asked me to ask myself, are you doing the right thing,” said Kelley. It made me think: “Are you making the right decision or are you thinking about things the right way?”

“That’s the part of the symbolism that is really important to me,” said Kelley. It’s a part of my DNA now, he also said.

Maj. Kristine Seipel, the Vice President of Student Affairs, was a junior in 2003. “I’m very proud of the design they (junior ring committee) came up with,” said Seipel. “The centennial steps, inspirational words, the American flag, the cannon, Paine Mountain, the day of recognition, and the chapel clock of when the rooks were recognized, were all incorporated into the ring.”

“It’s a sense of accomplishment; all those trials, tears, sweat, blood, and everything that you’ve gone through,” said Seipel. “Not just physically and emotionally but also academically and just experiencing college life,” she also said.

On April 15, the class of 2017 receives their class rings at the junior ring ceremony. According to Jostens, the class of 2017 ring includes visuals for:

1. Rising & Setting Sun. The rising sun symbolizes reveille welcoming the new day, new opportunities and new challenges. The setting sun bids us farewell in retreat as we near the end of our time at Norwich.

2. Three Mountains: Paine, Dole, Turkey Hill. The Hill symbolizes the home we have made for ourselves at Norwich.

3. Vinculum Unitatis: “The Bond of Unity.” Through the many trials we have faced during our time at Norwich, we did not succeed as individuals, but as a unit. Our loyalty forged a bond that will last a lifetime.

4. Dog River & American Flag: “The River of Freedom.” The Dog River represents where our journey began on the road to becoming Norwich Cadets. It was our first taste of freedom and our start of Rookdom. It flows into the American Flag illustrating our transition and struggle to become something greater than ourselves. The flag is dedicated to the United States of America and our commitment to this great country.

5. The Sabine Field Scoreboard. As the Class of 2017, we were the first class to score on this field and stand at football games. On the scoreboard it displays the time of our recognition on 1/26/2014 at 2304.

6. Memorial Plaza – Sabine Sally/Anchor/Propeller. On the opening day of the new Sabine Field, Sabine Sally, the Anchor and the Propeller were all refurbished and displayed proudly to represent the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force; all branches of ROTC offered at Norwich.

7. Inverted Sabers: “Echo Taps”. Our experience at Norwich was often punctuated by the solitude of “Echo Taps.” These sabers stand as a remembrance of our time spent standing under the twilight sky in remembrance of the alumni, cadets, and service men and women who gave their lives for our country.

8. Rook Piece. Indicative of the struggles we all faced our freshman year and the experiences that brought us together as a class for the first time.

9. MCV Gates. MCV represents our arrival and completion of Norwich University education earning a degree from The Military College of Vermont. As we entered into Norwich onto the Upper Parade Ground we walked through the Goodyear Gates, modeled after the MCV gates; they welcomed us to the start of Rookdom

“Back then it wasn’t everything, today it’s everything,” said Kelley. “I’ve heard people say it’s more important to get your ring than it is to get your diploma. I don’t think I agree with that,” he added.

“During junior ring weekend, the Corps of Cadets would get their rings in Plumley Armory while the civilian students would get their rings in Milano ballroom. “They take place at the same time, said Kelley.”

“My theory is I take mine off that weekend (junior ring weekend), because it’s the (current) junior’s weekend and I’ve already had my weekend,” said Seipel. “It’s out of my respect for the current junior class for getting their ring.”

“There’s a set requirement for getting the ring,” said Seipel. You have to have a certain amount of credits passed, pass a PFT (Physical fitness test), can’t have too many class ones (discipline record). Also if you discredit Norwich you could be asked to have your ring turned in, she said.

“Someone who has good work ethic, time management, and all those things are good to show behind that ring,” said Seipel. “It represents Norwich.”

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