The Citadel's commencement ceremony Saturday embodied the school's cherished legacy of venerating the past, upholding tradition and breaking new ground.
Citadel faculty and trustees celebrated the accomplishments of the 470 graduates of the Class of 2008, which included 448 cadets, 20 active duty students and two veteran students. Thousands of their families and friends packed McAlister Field House to cheer them on, and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wished them well in his address.
But all eyes weren't only on the Class of 2008.
Members from the Class of 1944, known as the "class that never was," were honored for their bravery 64 years ago when the entire Corps of Cadets was called up during its junior year to fight in World War II.
Although 34 members of the class died in the war, their sacrifices are acknowledged in a plaque on the front wall of the college's chapel.
On behalf of the remaining members of the Class of 1944, A. Lee Chandler, a retired South Carolina Supreme Court chief justice, spoke in admiration of the fond experiences they shared while attending The Citadel.
"Today," Chandler said, "... the Class of '44 is not 'the class that never was,' but in the hearts and minds and souls of our great Citadel family, we are the class that lives forever!"
He also congratulated his friend and classmate, Col. Bob Adden, who received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree Saturday. Adden was one of about 152 from the class who returned to the military college and graduated, while others graduated elsewhere or took on jobs.
Chandler also spoke about the school's tradition of letting alumni parents present diplomas to their graduating sons and daughters, who are known as legacy cadets.
The members of the Class of 1944 didn't get to be legacy cadets themselves, but one class member, Richard H. Kellahan, did get to present his grandson, cadet Richard Conrad Kellahan, with his diploma, alongside the cadet's father, Kenneth Kellahan. The Kellahans represent three generations of Citadel graduates.
Eighteen other graduates received their diplomas from their alumni parents and grandparents. For more than 40 years, alumni fathers and grandfathers have carried on the tradition.
That changed Saturday when for the first time a mother made the presentation.
Shirley Campbell Bryan handed her daughter, cadet Margaret Bryan of Swansboro, N.C., her diploma. Bryan's mom graduated from The Citadel's graduate school in 1976. Women weren't allowed to join the Corps of Cadets until 1995, but women were always allowed to attend the military college's graduate school, Citadel officials said.
The mother-daughter pair had to get special permission from the school's Board of Visitors to partake as legacies in the commencement ceremony.
Bryan said her mom has always inspired her to be unique. The cadet was one of 31 women in her graduating class, and the first legacy to receive her diploma from her mom.
"It's nice to be different," she said. "People always remember you that way."
Bryan majored in health, exercise and sport science and wants to be an orthopedic surgeon. She'll begin basic training with the Army in August.