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Grabbing the ring: Citadel cadets continue a special tradition

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Citadel Ring Ceremony

The 2018 graduating class of Citadel Cadets received their rings during a ceremony at McAlister Field House Friday. Most cadets leaving the presentation ran across the parade grounds to knock their rings on the door of Summerall Chapel, where the ceremony was previously held. About 450 cadets, veterans and active duty from 42 states and six countries received their rings. Brad Nettles/Staff

The Citadel is marking its 175th anniversary this year, and more than half that time, its senior cadets have received a special ring.

The tradition continued Friday afternoon, as cadets in the Class of 2018 received their rings.

While the school's class rings appeared in 1895, its first ceremony wasn't until 1935, during the cadets' Christmas Hop. Since then, the ceremony has moved to Mark Clark Hall, then Summerall Chapel and most recently McAllister Field House. (Cadets on Friday ran from the field house to chapel to continue the "rings in the chapel" tradition).

Citadel historian Steven Smith called the ring "the most outwardly recognized symbol of a Citadel graduate" and its presentation "is one of the most cherished and anticipated events of a cadets tenure." Only seniors with at least a 2.0 grade point average get the ring (because it's virtually guaranteed they will graduate).

In 2011, a massive ring statue was installed on campus, a gift from ring contractor Palmetto Balfour. Its class numerals are interchangeable and reflect the 50th anniversary class during that year's Homecoming.

The Citadel has had other special rings, including War rings (during World War II), miniature rings (for moms, wives and girlfriends), a female cadet ring (after the Corps of Cadets went co-ed), and a "non-cadet" ring introduced in 1974 for graduates who were not cadets. Two rings have flown in space.

Reach Robert Behre at 843-937-5771. Follow him on Twitter @RobertFBehre.