OUR Clemson

Class of ’39 Memorial Service and Reunion 


Clemson University’s Class of ‘39 marked the 84th anniversary of the original graduates of the Class of ‘39 graduation with a Memorial Service and dinner on May 5, 2023.  

A gathering for a photograph near the beautiful South Carolina Botanical Garden’s Class of ’39 Caboose gave everyone pause and an opportunity for reflection. 

A quiet reflection part of a garden flanked by a landmark red train caboose dedicated to the class of graduates at Clemson University who gave their all both in the service to their country and to their alma mater.

Perhaps when members of Clemson’s Class of 1939 walked across the stage in the chapel on June 5, 1939, to receive diplomas, not one gave a thought to returning 50 years later for a Golden Anniversary Reunion.  

Thoughts that day were likely consumed with starting careers and raising families. Sadly, within 54 months of graduation almost the entire class was serving in the war, and 26 members of class would never return. These 26 graduates are buried in the soil of Europe and in jungles and atolls of the Pacific, and for the survivors, the war would change their lives forever.  

In 1989, to honor their 50th Golden Anniversary Reunion, the Class made a series of commitments to the University including endowments for scholarships, the Faculty Award for Excellence and the South Carolina Botanical Garden. Those commitments have served to enhance the Clemson experience and sustain Clemson’s only perpetual class. The members of the Great Class of ‘39 now include the Faculty Award for Excellence recipients and supporting members elected by the Class of ‘39. 

The May 5 memorial service at South Carolina Botanical Gardens paid tribute to the original members of the Great Class of ‘39 through the tolling of the Guardroom Bell.

Two men dressed in casual clothing stand at the side of an old landmark bell in the SC Botanical Gardens ready to ring the bell.

Judith Melton, recipient of the Faculty Award for Excellence in 2000, passed away earlier this year, and was memorialized as well. The Boy Scouts of America Troop 235 supplied the color guard, and the Fort Hill Presbyterian Church choir participated in the event. 

The service was followed by a dinner at the Clemson Outdoor Lab during which J.C. Cook, Jr. was inducted as a supporting member of the Class of ‘39.  His significant achievements and service to the community were highlighted by his nominator, class member Vince Brawley. It was noted that J.C.’s father was an original member of the Class of ‘39.  Brian A. Powell, the 2022 Faculty Award for Excellence recipient, was also celebrated by class members. 

Otis Pickett, Clemson University’s Historian, was the guest speaker. Wil Brassington, Executive Director of the CU Alumni Association, presented Honorary Alumni memberships to Richard Figliola, June J. Pilcher, Windsor Sherrill, and Webb Smathers. John M. Ballato and Bill Pennington will also receive certificates as Honorary Alumni.