University of Delaware
Office of Public Relations
The Messenger
Vol. 5, No. 2/1996
50th Anniversary: G.I. Bill at the UD
     Some 1,500 veterans flooded the University of Delaware
campus after World War II, many of whom would not have found
their way to Newark without the G.I. Bill. It was 50 years ago,
in the spring of 1946, that the largest wave of war-weary
veterans arrived, eager to absorb all the University had to
offer-including the inspiring beauty of the elm-lined Mall.
     The veterans came armed with educational vouchers authorized
by the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the G.I.
Bill. The act was groundbreaking: Never before had any country
assisted its veterans in readjusting to civilian life through
education and training. The number of veterans returning to
school took higher education by surprise. Wartime surveys
predicted only 8 to 12 percent of servicemen planned to go to
college, according to The G.I. Bill, the Veterans and the
Colleges by Keith W. Olson. At the end of the war, 29 percent of
those eligible used their G.I. Bill entitlement to study at
colleges and universities.
     The G.I. Bill pushed enrollment at Delaware to levels never
approached before-to 1,817 in 1946-47, nearly twice its largest
previous total. The University met this largely unanticipated
demand with a strong commitment to the returning vets. In May of
1946, faced with a huge number of applicants, the faculty adopted
a resolution allowing for the acceptance of all Delaware veterans
and former students qualified to do work at the college level-and
to do whatever it took to accommodate them. The Review reported
that: "Members of the staff will be asked to make sacrifices in
order to provide adequate instruction for our returning
     Class schedules needed to change. In November 1945, a
"double time" schedule was approved for veterans who had not been
able to start classes in September. It allowed them to complete a
full term's work in half the time, while restricting them to only
two courses for the shortened semester. By the next spring, the
faculty approved an extension of hours in which courses could be
scheduled (8 a.m. to 9 p.m.), and the first summer school
sessions were announced.
     "We were in a hurry," recalls Lewis Reign, Delaware '48, an
engineering graduate. "I went straight through, with a full
course load. We had a goal-to get out and get on with things."
The rush by veterans to use the G.I. Bill made economic sense.
Under the bill, each veteran was entitled to one year of
educational benefits of up to $500 per year, with an additional
year of education for every year served. The benefits lapsed if
not used within the allotted time.
     (In 1947-48, Delaware residents paid approximately $240 for
tuition annually; out-of-state students paid approximately $490.)
     The most immediate challenge posed by the sudden influx of
students was where to house them. Although vets received monthly
stipends for living expenses (starting at $50 a month for single
veterans and $75 a month for married veterans, rising to $75 and
$105 by 1948), a survey of vets at the University showed that
most had living expenses in excess of their stipends. Many
supplemented the allowance with income earned by their wives (the
great majority of veterans were men), or with their own part-time
jobs. And, most struggled to find a place to live.
     The Review reported in February 1946 that "the main
problemhas been in providing living quarters for the new
students. To relieve the acute shortage, the University has
arranged housing for some of the single men at Old College, the
Training House, and has even opened the Knoll, formerly the
residence of the president of the University, to 24 men." On the
women's campus, buildings formerly used as the infirmary and for
music classes were turned into dormitories. The University also
obtained former Army barracks, which were erected on the east end
of campus and became known as "King's Row."
     Married students, in particular, had to scramble to find
housing. Some lived in a federal project that had previously
housed workers in local munitions plants. Many married students
commuted to Newark from homes elsewhere. Charles Joanedis,
Delaware '50, remembers: "My new bride and I couldn't find any
housing at all in Newark, so we ended up renting a room in a
farmhouse near Elkton, Md. We shared the farmhouse kitchen, and
Sylvia learned to cook using a woodstove."
     As the University stretched to accommodate the veterans,
they stretched themselves. Most took full advantage of the
academic opportunities given them.  John A. Munroe, Delaware '36,
H. Rodney Sharp Professor Emeritus of History, writes in The
University of Delaware: A History, "...Most of the veterans...did
better than before the war; the 'C' student of prewar days, now
older and more serious, generally became a 'B' student if he
returned to college after the war." In October 1946, The Review
reported that the majority of those on the Dean's List, both in
numbers and as a percentage of total students, were veterans.
"Contrary to the opinion so oft expressed, that the vets will
have a difficult time getting into the habit of studying again,"
the paper observed, "it is gratifying to note that vets make up
the majority of the list."
     Anna Janney DeArmond, professor emeritus of English, says
she remembers veterans as more serious than the average
undergraduate. "The veterans had lived more strenuously, and
sometimes more tragically, than most other students. I saw them
as survivors. The majority were very, very good students."
     Ralph Newman Jr., Delaware '44, laughs when he recalls his
return to school after four years of military service: "I don't
think the professors recognized me. I was a changed person.
Before the war, I was a terrible student and was threatened with
dismissal several times. As a veteran, I got a 4.0 in every one
of my engineering classes. I was the top student in my class one
     Why? "Partly because of simple maturation," Newman says,
"but, mainly because of the hardship I'd seen during the war. It
gave me a much greater appreciation for the chance to go to
     The determination and maturity the veterans brought to their
studies also gave them an advantage in sports. Delaware's postwar
teams were dominated by ex-servicemen. The most successful was
the football team. This exceptional group of men had played
together under Coach Bill Murray before the war, with undefeated
seasons in 1941 and 1942. After the war, they reconvened as an
older and disciplined team.
     Star halfback Billy Cole, Delaware '49, says he believes the
support the players received during their military service
contributed to the team's later success. "Coach Murray
corresponded with each of us, then combined excerpts from all of
our letters and sent them to wherever we were stationed," he
says. "Getting one of his updates was something we really looked
forward to, and it helped bind the team together. So, once we got
to play together again, we were stronger than we might otherwise
have been."
     The veteran football team stretched Delaware's undefeated
streak to 30 games when it beat Muhlenberg in November 1946.
According to One Hundred Years of Delaware Football by Elbert
Chance, Delaware '52, '59M, the victory was unprecedented, and,
in other years, would have occasioned a day off from classes for
the entire student body. But, the seasoned players rejected the
idea of a day off. They had been out of school long enough. And,
when the Muhlenberg triumph won Delaware invitations to three
bowl games, the team's choice again revealed maturity and
dedication. They chose to go to the Cigar Bowl in Orlando, Fla.,
because it was scheduled during Christmas vacation and would not
interfere with classes.
     Campus life also took on a new, more adult tone. Harold
(Buck) Thompson, Delaware '50, recalls that the seasoned veterans
didn't have much patience for some traditions and activities that
were once a part of college life. "Freshman hazing, for example,
became a thing of the past-a freshman in his 20s who had served
three or four years in the war wasn't about to be hazed," he
     The G.I. Bill has been praised for democratizing higher
education by sending a generation of men to college who would not
have gone otherwise.  One thing is clear: The legislation,
adopted at the end of a harrowing war, was a demonstration of
faith in the individual veterans and of hope for the future.
     The veterans who studied at the University of Delaware
generally consider that they fulfilled that expression of
confidence. "Most of us worked very hard, studied hard," reflects
Reign.  Joanedis agrees: "We went on to do things and participate
in society in ways that we never would have without the education
we got on the G.I. Bill. We contributed to our communities and
paid back the government's investment many times over."
     Lee Perry, Delaware '48     
     After serving as an observation pilot on a heavy cruiser in
the western Pacific, Lee Perry entered the University in the fall
of 1946. It was not a place he would have expected to be just a
few years earlier.
     "I was never a star student in high school," Perry
remembers. "I didn't have the inclination or the funds to go to
college. But, the G.I. Bill gave me the money, and my intensive
pilot training gave me the determination I needed to get the
grades. I made the Dean's List my second semester."
      In less than three years, Perry earned his degree in
business and economics, which he later put to use in a real
estate career. "I took classes straight through both summers,"
Perry says. "Most of the veterans took a heavy load, worked hard.
We were in a hurry to get out and get on with life."
     Robert F. Siemen, Delaware '43, '55M, '64M   
     "Coach Murray called to ask if I'd come work for him, and I
said yes," recalls Bob Siemen about his first job after World War
II. After a tour in the Pacific with the 11th Airborne Division,
Siemen came to Newark in July 1946.
     He'd accepted the invitation to work as assistant manager of
athletics, with responsibility for coaching basketball, tennis
and baseball.
     "Our teams were made up mostly of veterans," he says. "They
were exempt from the University's physical education requirement,
but they played on the varsity and junior varsity teams. They
were very responsible and knowledgeable. It was a no-nonsense
thing to coach someone who had spent the last three or four
years, say, jumping out of planes." Siemen says he remembers well
the 1946 football team. "The veterans on that team, and others,
were mature. It was as if they had aged eight or 10 years in the
three or four years they had been away from school."
     It was easy to distinguish veterans from the other students,
according to Siemen. "Lots of the veterans wore parts of their
uniforms, because other clothing was not always available,"
Siemen says. "And the 'Ike' jackets looked better than anything
you could buy."
     Siemen and his wife, Florence, Delaware '61, felt fortunate
to find a place to live when they moved into federal housing,
which had been built for workers in local defense plants. Siemen
studied under the G.I. Bill, obtaining a master's degree in
economics while working in the athletics department. "I think I
probably would have gotten my degree regardless of the G.I.
Bill," he says, "but people didn't really debate whether to go to
school or not. The entitlement wasn't going to last forever, so
it behooved you to get going if you wanted to go to school."
     Walter Kittle, Delaware '49 
     Verdell Short, Delaware '48     
     Charles Griffith  Jr., Delaware '49
     Walter Kittle, Delaware '49, came to the University of
Delaware by way of a promise made in a foxhole in Belgium.
"Verdell Short and Charlie Griffith and I, and one other man who
didn't live, said, 'If we get back home, we'll go to school
together.'" Kittle, a native of Kansas City, came with Short and
Griffith to the University of Delaware, where they had been
students before the war. Having served together in the 104th
Infantry Division in Belgium, Germany and France, the group had
four Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star.
     The fact that Kittle, Short and Griffith played sports
helped them obtain housing. "The three of us were all on teams,
so we lived in the Training House," says Short, who played
basketball. "And, we all had a hell of a good time." Short
studied business and went on to build a career in industry and
real estate. Griffith, an education major who played football and
baseball, recalls a sense of relief on returning to campus after
the war. "I was glad to get back," he says. "It was great to be
back at Delaware." Griffith dedicated his career to teaching
history in Delaware secondary schools.
     "I never would have gone to college without the G.I. Bill,"
says Kittle, who graduated in mechanical engineering and spent
his career with Cities Service Co. Kittle's two sons and a
daughter-in-law also graduated from the University of Delaware.
     Samuel Macrum, Delaware '52     
     "I came to the University of Delaware because my commanding
officer was a Delaware graduate and recommended it to me," Sam
Macrum recalls. "And, I knew I could live with my grandmother in
Wilmington. That was very important, because there weren't many
places to live on campus."
     Macrum, a native of Connelsville, Pa., entered the
University as a mechanical engineering major in 1947, after
serving in Germany and France in the military railroad service.
     Macrum says it took him five years to graduate. "I wasn't
the best student, but I made it," he says. Then, Macrum went on
to a varied career in engineering, including research and
development, production and, eventually, launching his own
     How does Macrum remember the University on his return?
"Smallvery small. And, it was nice. I enjoyed every bit of it.
For veterans, going to school was a transition-a chance to blow
off some steam safely."
                                              -Mary B. Hopkins