CGCS graduates receive their class rings at the first CGCS ring ceremony

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Family, tradition and values were themes encapsulated in the bestowal of Norwich class rings to upcoming graduates of the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies (CGCS).

Sixty-five Norwich graduates received their class rings Monday night at CGCS's first ring ceremony, which preceded the annual alumni social in Plumley Armory.

Assembled in the armory with students seated beneath the olive green draped parachute, the ceremony features speeches by Bill Passalacqua, director of alumni relations, and Kate Becker, assistant director of alumni relations for graduate studies.

"You're about to participate in another piece of the Norwich tradition, the Norwich ring," Becker told students.

The Norwich ring is rooted in long-standing Norwich cadet tradition. The first rings were designed and obtained in 1923. The ring's design was based on West Point's construction, with the school side remaining constant and the class side reflecting each group of graduates.

The first rings were yellow gold with a ruby stone to reflect Norwich's school colors of gold and maroon.

Over time the rings, which cadets receive at the end of their junior year during Junior Week, have represented a rite of passage and a point of pride for Norwich cadets. To this day, cadets boast their rings are the largest in the country.

Classes over the years have distributed the rings in myriad ways, from non-ceremonial - picking them up in the mail room - to ring dances in the 1950s. Today, both cadets and civilian students participate in ring ceremonies.

CGCS students have been purchasing class rings for years, but this is the first year they've had their own ring ceremony. This gave them a chance to learn the history and development of this Norwich tradition and to be welcomed into the family of Norwich alumni.

"We've completed the triangle," said Passalacqua during his talk. "You're all out there working, and you know what (the ring) means. It's a connection to other Norwich grads."

"It bonds all of us together, whether you're a cop in San Antonio or an engineer in California," said Becker, herself a 2008 graduate of the Master of Diplomacy program.

Those receiving their rings Monday were clearly moved by the sense of tradition and associated history.

David Culp, a Master of Business Administration graduate from upstate New York, said he decided to purchase a traditional class ring because of the significance of the tradition.

"It stands for a lot more," Culp said.

Master of Justice Administration graduate Stephanie Nelson of Virginia Beach, Va., selected a white gold signet ring she described as "dainty." Nelson, a military wife who chose Norwich for its traditions and values, said she believes that Norwich truly is a family, and that is why she purchased a class ring. "Once I put it on, I'll never take it off," she says.