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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ring Melt Ceremony

     There is a remarkable, if not unique, tradition involving the content of West Point's class rings.  By West Point standards fifteen years are barely enough to constitute a tradition, but this one is or will be.  There is an outfit in Warwick, Rhode Island called Pease and Curran that,for a hundred years, has provided foundry and assaying services to users of precious metals.

     It is very much a niche business, but key to this tale is their ability to provide ingots of gold to the manufacturer of class rings.  Fifteen years ago a Colonel working for the Association of Graduates (AOG) suggested that the old, donated rings from previous classes could be melted into the gold for the rings of the upcoming classes.  So, each year there are donated rings that are dropped into a crucible and melted.  After the ingot is cool, a "core sample" of this ingot is set aside to be incorporated into the next year's melt, thus insuring that at least a trace of all previous rings are used in future rings.  This year 53 rings were added, bringing the total of donated rings melted into the mix to 410. 

     This is a picture of Senator Jack Reed '71 placing the ring of General John Galvin into the ceramic crucible.
     I flew up for the ceremony because one of the rings to be melted was that of my eight-semester roommate, Dick Daniel.  Dick's ring, minus the stone which will be part of a granddaughter's necklace, was added to the crucible by his daughter, Debbie.  I presented the ring from a Col. Denno '40 whose family could not be present.  After retirement Col. Denno got a Masters in journalism from Missouri and eventually got corralled into being a speech-writer for the Secretary of the Army and a number of generals.  One of those four stars was Lyman Lemnitzer who delivered the graduation speech at my graduation.  So, thinking that perhaps Col. Denno wrote that speech, I placed his ring in the crucible, took one step backward and saluted.
     After all the rings are placed into the crucible, it is taken to one of the foundry's kilns to melt the rings.  As the years go on, the gold to be used for the class rings will contain an ever-increasing number of the rings of fellow graduates who have gone before, thus providing a real, and tangible link to the "long gray line". This year there were ten rings from the class of '67 as there was a drive to get '67 gold into the class of '17 rings.  Each class now has a strong affiliation with the class that graduated fifty years earlier. In several cases the ring's owner himself placed the ring in the crucible.  In a noteworthy contribution, Greg Voight '82 donated his own ring so that its gold would make its way into the ring of his son who is a member of the class of '17.
     When all the rings are in the crucible, it is time for the actual melt.

      When the gold is melted, it is poured into a mold to become an ingot.

     In the last shot you can see the upside down crucible pouring the last drops of gold into the mold.  When the mold has cooled, a small section is removed to be added to the next year's melt.
     The 53 rings were placed on a one-page biography which was read by a cadet.  Here is a picture of Dick's ring and biography.


     Dick's ring was placed in the crucible by his daughter Debbie Husak, whose husband is an instructor at the local Naval War College.
     It was an event fraught with emotion.  In my case the weekend was made possible by classmate, Ted Bierman, and his bride, Rene, who not only provided me with room and board, but picked me up at the airport and brought me to Pease and Curran.  Thanks, guys.


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