An academy rich in history, culture and tradition, West Point is the crème de la crème of the United States Military. This Army academy began in 1801 by order of then President Thomas Jefferson. Named for the surrounding area, West Point sits 50 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River and has since become a visitor’s destination alongside its intended purpose.
Thirty-four years after opening its doors to its first class of cadets, West Point decided to further its traditions by adding a class ring. In 1835, the first rings would be issued, but the following year, the collegiate class would opt for no such adornment. In the years that would lead up to 1917, the classes would continue to opt out, select cufflinks or design their own individual rings. Moving forward in 1917, graduating cadets were no longer awarded the luxury of their own design but they were allowed their pick of a center stone.
Throughout the years, the design has remained consistent with the overall presentation, reminiscent to that of many other class rings issued to other academic institutions. The bulk of the ring is a metal band stating, “West Point” and the corresponding year of graduation circling the center stone. On either side of the band rests the West Point crest, an image of an eagle carrying a banner declaring, “Country, Honor, Duty” along with “West Point” and “USMC”. Additionally, most cadets choose to have their class motto engraved on the inside of the band.
In recent years, alumni themselves or their survivors began donating class rings to contribute to the creation of new. Another option is to have the center stone removed from an alumni ring and set into the upcoming graduates. Both are fantastic options with sentiments that speak louder than words.
Beginning in 1980, a new set of rules and regulations was instated to govern the rings. According to the West Point Association of Graduates website, they are as follows:
“The retention and wear of the Class Ring shall be governed by the tradition of the United States Military Academy as follows:
The (year) Class Ring may be worn upon its formal presentation to the Class of (year).
The family of any deceased member of the class may retain the ring.
The (year) Class Ring may be purchased and worn only by the USMA Class of (year) graduates who graduate on Graduation Day for the Class of (year) or prior to January (following year)”
West Point class rings of any year are, in an understatement, an honor for any man or woman to behold. Through the years, these items have become a testament to the hard work, dedication and determined mindset these exceptional few have displayed.
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