WWI commemoration honors Yalies who served during ‘American Century’

Yale will mark the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I — and honor the important contributions of Yalies to international affairs — with a ceremony on Hewitt Quadrangle at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 6. The inaugural Kerry Conversation featuring former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ’66, Yale’s first Distinguished Fellow for Global Affairs, will follow at 5 p.m.
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The cenotaph on Hewitt Quadrangle, a memorial to the Yale people who served in World War I. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

Yale will mark the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I — and honor the important contributions of Yalies to international affairs — with a ceremony on Hewitt Quadrangle at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 6. UPATE: DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER, THE CEREMONY WILL BE HELD IN WOOLSEY HALL, CORNER OF GROVE AND PROSPECT STREETS.

The inaugural Kerry Conversation featuring former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ’66, Yale’s first Distinguished Fellow for Global Affairs, will follow at 5 p.m.

Yalies in World War I and beyond

The United States entered World War I in 1917, three years after the conflict began. The event not only marked a turning point in the war, but the start of what has been called the American Century of involvement in global affairs. This spring Yale is honoring the faculty, staff, alumni, and students who have helped shape American foreign and military policy in WWI and throughout the last century. (See Yale Remembers World War I.)

Yalies played an important role in World War I. According to a 1917 issue of the Yale Alumni Weekly, approximately 9,500 Yale students and alumni fought in the First World War. A group of Yale students established the First Yale Unit — the nation’s first aviation unit — and the university became home to one of the country’s six original Naval ROTC units in 1916. Joseph Marshall Flint, the university’s first professor of surgery, helped establish the nation’s first mobile hospital unit, also known as the First Yale Unit. Dr. Harvey Cushing, a neurosurgeon from the School of Medicine, developed innovative techniques for wartime surgery — including the development of a surgical magnet to extract shrapnel from patients’ brains. In 1919 pianist Helen Eugenia Hagan, a graduate of Yale School of Music, became the only African American performer to travel to France to entertain black soldiers stationed there after World War I.

During the century that followed, Yale community members helped shape international relations as activists, diplomats, government officials, and world leaders. Since World War I, four alumni have held the U.S. presidency: Gerald Ford ’41 LL.B., George H.W. Bush ’48, Bill Clinton ’73 J.D., and George W. Bush ’68. The Yalies who have led foreign countries include Karl Carstens ’49 LL.B. (West Germany), Ernesto Zedillo ’81 Ph.D. (Mexico), Abd al-Karim al-Iryani ’68 Ph.D. (Yemen), Lee Hong-koo ’68 Ph.D. (South Korea), Mario Monti ’68 M.Sc. (Italy), and Peter Mutharika ’66 LL.M., ’69 J.S.D. (Malawi).

April 6 ceremony

The ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will include a talk by Paul Kennedy, the J. Richardson Dilworth Professor of History; prayers by Sharon Kugler and Harry Baker Adams, the current and former Yale chaplains, respectively; a performance of the national anthem by students at the Yale School of Music; and the laying of a ceremonial wreath on the World War I memorial cenotaph. Members of Yale’s Navy and Air Force ROTC programs will be on hand for the ceremony, which will begin at 4 p.m.

Inaugural Kerry Conversation

The Kerry Conversation, which will begin at 5 p.m., is the first offering in the newly established Kerry Initiative, an interdisciplinary program that will tackle pressing global challenges through teaching, research, and international dialogue. For this first talk, Kerry will be in conversation with PBS news journalist Margaret Warner ’71. The event will take place in Rm. 114 of Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, 1 Prospect St. Attendance is limited to the Yale community only. All those who wish to attend must register at kerryconversation462017.eventbrite.com, and show a valid Yale ID and ticket at the door.

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