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West Point Center for Oral History '61 Classmates Interviews Available


Over the next few weeks the West Point Center for Oral History (COH) will be posting interviews made with some of our classmates (and wives) who attended the mini reunion in Orlando at the end of January.  Two of those are posted now, one with Mike Hale and another with Jerry and Cathy White.  You can also see pictures that they provided on the COH Facebook page.

These interviews were conducted in Orlando by the COH director, Dave Siry and Rick Black, Siry’s classmate (’94) who is also in the History Department at West Point.  Scott Granger, the COH Archivist, also made the trip to coordinate the production.

Last year when most of us were staying at home during the pandemic, I began conducting Zoom meetings with some of my I-2 classmates.  Tom Stone suggested we pick a topic for discussion and since West Point honor violations had been in the news and Stone was our company honor rep, we held a zoom meeting on the Honor System.  We invited Bob Glass, our Honor Committee Chairman, and a few others outside of I-2 to join the discussion and it seemed successful.

The next month I proposed a session on the Center of Oral History as our topic.  I had spent some time watching several of the interviews that were posted and was impressed. I contacted Dave Siry and he agreed to join the zoom.  Thinking this might be of interest to more of the class than just our I-2 classmates, I asked Ed Brown to send an invitation to join to the entire class.  As best I recall the resulting zoom session included Art Downey, Jack McLaughlin, Pete Gleichenhaus, Dave Teal, Bob Glass, Mike Underwood, Tom Stone, Corky Rittgers, Dale Shipley, Jim Mathison, Pierre Titard, Neil Grigg, Jim Struve, Terry Kirkpatrick, Mike Eiland, Al Hokins and Bill Williamson.  Most admitted that they had not known much about the COH since we had made our class donation of one million dollars at our 50th reunion.

Our class should note that although our donation came at a critical time as the COH was starting, subsequent classes have also donated generously to the COH endowment.  The Class of ’65 gave more than three million, the Classes of ’77 and ’94 each gave a million and the Class of ’67 gave $764,000.  Other significant contributors (Vincent Viola and the Don Ackerman trust) had the COH Endowment balance at 11.4 million in 2018, according to the AOG’s Oral History Brochure published that year. (Brochure attached.)

Last fall my wife Ann and I made the trip to West Point to attend the burial service of Dick Buckner and while there had an extra day to spend on post.  I contacted Dave Siry to see if we might visit him at the COH and he graciously agreed.  While touring the office/studio in Thayer Hall I mentioned the fact that our class had scheduled our “makeup” reunion in Orlando in January, 2022 and he said there was a possibility of his team also attending to conduct interviews.  A couple of weeks later I confirmed with Siry that the trip was approved and I reached out to Ed Brown and Bob Glass to suggest potential interviewees from those who had registered to attend the Orlando reunion.  Siry initially suggested nine interviews over Friday and Saturday at the reunion.

Ed and Bob suggested Pat Carroll, Mike Eiland, Pat Hillier, George Joulwan, Bob Kee, Hank Kenny, Phil Mallory, Jim Nicholson and Bill Reno.  I then contacted these nine to see if they were willing and Gary Hyde scheduled the interview times to avoid conflict with activities these individuals had planned at the reunion.  A few weeks later Siry informed me that he could bring another interviewer if we wanted to double the number of interviews.

Without going into details of the subsequent travel cancellations, schedule conflicts that Gary reconciled, and medical emergencies (Pat Carroll) we ended the week with 22 interviews.  They were conducted with Jerry White, Hank Kenny, Mike Hale, Jim Connolly, Ed Jones, Charlie Hansell, Gene Witherspoon, Phil Mallory, Hans Wagner, Paul Vallely, Mike and Chan Eiland, Mick Maus, Bill Williamson, George Kopscak, Al Hokins, Todd Counts, Gary Lord, Jack Veatch, Bob Chelberg, Pat Hoy and Trish Buckner.

As these are posted I encourage you to view them.  You may learn some things about members of the Class of 1961 that you never expected.  Also, take time to watch others interviews that are posted.  There are many by people other than West Point graduates that you will find inspiring.

Jim Oaks












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