Class of ‘39
The Story of the Great Class
The Clemson College Class of 1939 is a unique class. After graduation, not only did almost all of its members serve in World War II (with 26 making the ultimate sacrifice), but they also made a series of commitments to the University at their 50th Golden Anniversary Reunion in 1989 that have both served to sustain the class into perpetuity and to enhance the Clemson experience as a whole. The class contributes to student scholarships, has endowed a Faculty Award for Excellence, and supports projects in the Heritage Gardens, part of the Clemson Botanical Garden. Membership to the class increases each year with the induction of the Faculty Award for Excellence winners as well as the induction of other members who support the class. A Leadership Committee has been established for the honorary members to work with the remaining class members to perpetuate the memory, ideals, and goals of the original members of the Great Class of ’39.
A Message from the Class Historian
When the members of the Clemson Class of 1939 walked across the stage in the College chapel on June 5, 1939 to receive diplomas, it is probable that not one of us gave any thought to returning 50 years later for our Golden Anniversary Reunion. The thoughts that day were thoughts of embarking on a career and spending the rest of our lives working and raising a family.
It was not to be. Two and a half years after graduation almost all of the class of '39 went off to war. All too many of our classmates made the ultimate sacrifice and were buried in the soil of Europe and in the jungles and atolls of the Pacific.
When the war was over, we returned home to resume our lives. We became architects and engineers, teachers and farmers, doctors and lawyers. Most of our class have now retired and are enjoying golf, fishing, spectator sports and spoiling our grandchildren.
Looking back on the past fifty years, we see changes in the world that we could not have imagined in 1939. Television, jet planes, men on the moon and great advances in medicine.
Clemson has also changed. The cadet corps are gone. Clemson Agricultural College became Clemson University. Women were admitted and now make up a sizeable portion of the student body. The football team won a national championship.
One thing has not changed and never will. That is the affection and pride we have in our school. We feel a part of the advances made by the University. As long as any of us live, we will always stand proudly and say, "We are Clemson men, from the Class of 1939!"
Benjamin O. Cantey, Jr.
Reunions & Archives
Reunion programs have been digitized by the Clemson Libraries and are now available online. View Archives
Other records including archived scrapbooks and the Class Chronicles can be found online as well. View More Records
Special thanks to Tee L. Senn for his book “Nothing Could be Finer than to be a Thirty-Niner: A Short History of the Clemson College Great Class of 1939” (1999). This material can be found in full on the Clemson University TigerPrints website.
Additional thanks to Donald McKale and his article, “Class of ‘39 gave so much back to Clemson” written in 2016.