Inside Rensselaer
* A Tale of Two Class Rings
A Tale of Two Class Rings

Juan Gonzalez ’49 returned to campus with members of his family (including a grandson who toured Rensselaer). He shared the story of the return of his lost class ring and told students what the ring has meant to him as a reminder of his days at Rensselaer. Photo by Tom Perlman.

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A Tale of Two Class Rings

Rensselaer is one of only a few schools in the country where the class ring is designed solely by students. In a tradition dating back to the 1960s, students have created rings to reflect the unique history, memories, and shared experiences that are special to the class.

Today, the sophomore class assembles a committee to design the class ring each year. Committee members brainstorm and collaborate with an artist from Jostens to create the one-time design. Earlier this month, members of the Class of 2012 received their class rings during the annual Junior Ring Ceremony.

“The ring marks the transition of the Class of 2012 from students to future alumni,” said Jeff Schanz, assistant vice president of alumni relations. “While the ring is a symbol of their pride, spirit, and memories of Rensselaer, it will also serve as a lasting reminder of their life at Rensselaer long after graduation.”

The Junior Ring Ceremony was established in 2004 in an effort to connect students with alumni. As part of the event, alumni speakers are invited to share their personal stories about their student days at Rensselaer and what their class ring means to them. Since its inception, the annual program has been a joint collaboration between the class, the Division of Student Life, and the Rensselaer Alumni Association.

During this year’s celebration, Rensselaer graduate Juan Gonzalez ’49 shared the incredible story of being reunited with his class ring after losing it more than 50 years ago on a beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “In my youth, the class ring represented a celebration of the fulfillment of a young man’s many ideals,” Gonzalez said. “As time went by, more and more, it became a symbol of the realization of those ideals with all the successes, failures, and memories attached.”

“As you will recognize as the years pass, you have a special bond with all those who have come before you, over the past 186 years — and you, one day soon, will welcome future graduates to this great legacy,” said President Shirley Ann Jackson. “ We treasure this deep connection with our history. Your class ring binds you together as a class, and it joins you to our great alumni tradition.

“The first class ring at any college or university was created in 1835 for the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, but it joins an ancient tradition that symbolizes commitment, connection, and affiliation,” President Jackson said. “When you look at your class ring in years to come, you will remember your time here, your friends, and the responsibility to represent the Rensselaer legacy to the world.”

The Class of 2012 ring is set in a gold or silver antique or natural finish. The ring centerpiece includes a choice of birthstones or genuine stones in mother-of-pearl or black onyx. The ring also includes the Rensselaer seal on one side, while the class ring side features a collage of icons, symbols, and campus venues that serve as a lasting and permanent reminder of campus life, student experiences, friendships, and past and future achievements.

“Years from now, when I’m looking at my class ring, I will remember the times spent at Rensselaer, but mostly events like this,” said Michelle Hennings ’12, chair of the ring committee. “Having a ceremony such as this gives the class ring value and importance, rather than just another item that I’ve purchased. Even now, I look at my class ring and remember the ceremony with fondness, my time on campus thus far, and a nervous excitement for graduation next year.”

To read the full story and more about Juan Gonzalez ’49, read the release: http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2849.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 8, April 29, 2011
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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