Patriotism at Geneva - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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February 19, 2016

Patriotism at Geneva

In 1940, the Selective Service Act (SSA) was passed as the United States entered World War II. The SSA brought men into the battlefield, and Geneva became the first college in Western Pennsylvania to lose a faculty member to the draft (Pro Christo et Patria, 85). Edwin Clarke, who would later become the president of Geneva college, also went to war. Enrollment at Geneva dropped dramatically as more and more men were drafted into the service.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the campus began to lose students, faculty and staff to the help the war effort. A record was kept of Genevans who were drafted to support the war effort either in industrial factories or in overseas combat. The total record of Genevans helping the war effort totaled 835 men and women. Injuries, decorations and deaths were recorded as the war waged on.

The college offered services to the U.S. government to use its facilities. In February of 1943, the Army Air Force began to train cadets for service on the Geneva grounds. Over 300 cadets were housed and trained at Geneva between 1943 and 1944.

Geneva Veternas

As the war came to an end in the summer of 1945, discharged troops sought an academic career at Geneva and were funded by the G.I. Bill. The student body doubled in size, and over half of Geneva’s students were war veterans. Most were older than traditional college-aged students and had families or wives. Having such a large amount of older, experienced students on campus influenced the college’s spiritual life in dramatically positive ways.

With the growing student body, the campus was in dire need of more facilities. As the government dismantled its wartime facilities to house the cadets in training, Geneva built two structures that would later house the Fieldhouse and the Brigadoon.

Enrollment continued to climb and on Geneva’s centennial in 1948, the campus celebrated the college’s history through the reliving of historical events that happened on campus since its opening. In the fall of 1948, President Pearce passed away suddenly, leaving behind a legacy of perseverance and leadership of over 25 years through the great depression and war.

Looking back on the history of Geneva through the war and the struggles of losing enrollment during the draft reveals God sustaining and providing for the campus in a multitude of ways. Something that hasn’t changed since 1848 is the incredible presence of God on this campus and in the people who spend their time making the college what it is today.

Geneva’s activity in assisting in the war effort during WW II should inspire the college community today to be aware of what the men and women of Geneva have sacrificed. These sacrifices were made so that we might have an incredible, Christ-centered education. For the veterans studying alongside us in the classroom, thank you for your service and for being a part of the history that makes Geneva proud to continuously support the armed forces. 

–Celia Harris ’16

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