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Staying Connected

Return of the Ring

More than 50 years after it was lost, a 1949 Rensselaer class ring is back where it belongs

In April, Bill Dobbretz contacted Rensselaer’s Office of Alumni Relations to say that he’d found a Rensselaer class ring. Dobbretz was on a layover in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and he passed the time by using a metal detector to search for buried treasures on the beach. He found a 1949 Rensselaer class ring with the name “Juan Gonzalez” inscribed inside.

Dobbretz said he contacted Rensselaer because he had once lost his own class ring from his alma mater. The Alumni Relations team did some searching and was able to locate Juan Gonzalez ’49, who now lives in Miami, Fla. Dobbretz cleaned up the ring and mailed it to Gonzalez, who was delighted to have it back.

Gonzalez’s daughter, Ana, wrote to the Alumni Relations office to express her family’s thanks for the return of the ring. “I just wanted to thank you for contacting my father regarding his long-lost RPI class ring. Although I was not born yet when my father lost it, to me it is an amazing story. My father holds his education at RPI very dear. Since that ring was lost, a lifetime went by, more kids were born, went to college, married, and had kids. The oldest of these grandkids have already finished college to become lawyers, artists, and attend medical school, among others. Thanks, again; we are still in shock about the finding and amazed that this could happen.”

The 1949 class ring has a garnet stone and features the Rensselaer seal on one side and a collage of images that include a transit, microphone, and airfoil on the other side. (Incidentally, a 1949 ring is among a collection of rings featured in the class ring case in the Heffner Alumni House. The case, donated by the Class of 1988, contains alumni-donated rings from 1922 to the present.)

Juan Gonzalez ’49 proudly displays the long-awaited delivery of his Rensselaer class ring, found recently on a beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Juan Gonzalez sent the following note to Bill Dobbretz to thank him, and he sheds some light on the long-lost ring:

Hello, Bill!

I fail to find words to express the joy and amazing surprise you have given me and my family by finding my RPI Class of ’49 ring!

When we were living in San Juan, I used to take three of my children—then 4 to 8 years old—swimming at the Caribe Hilton Hotel beach, and it was during the summer of 1958 or 1959 that, playing around with them, my ring fell off in the water about five feet deep. I dived several times desperately trying to recover it, but it had disappeared in the soft sandy bottom and, even with the help of others, I could not find it. I gave it up for lost.

Since then, 51 years have gone by, three or four hurricanes hit the island, we moved to Mayaguez in the western part of the island, and finally to our present address in Miami, Florida. I have had the opportunity to buy a replica of the ring but did not do it because the old ring represented many memories of my life as a student at RPI, which a new ring could not replace. Now I am 82 years old and in finding the ring you have brought back many of those lost memories.

The ring, thanks to you, is back home, not in the 31-year-old hands of the young man who lost it but in the 82-year-old hands of the old man who received it. A whole lifetime has gone by since it was lost. I am wearing it now all the time, taking great care not to lose it again.

My wife and everybody else were amazed at how well it was preserved and the wonderful cleaning job you did on it. Once again, thank you sincerely for all your interest and effort and I hope that you have many more successful hunts.

I am greatly indebted to you and to Geoff Seber in the RPI Alumni Office for the interest and effort both of you took in locating me. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.

Juan R. Gonzalez ’49
Miami, Fla.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2009 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.