A hearty welcome to the Bucknellians in World War I blog. This site, so kindly put together for the BinWWI group by Jesse Turri, will serve as a site where the participants in our two planned field research projects to retrace the steps Bucknellian particpants in World War I took in France and Belgium, can share their experiences as they travel. The participants in the first trip, which will occur Monday, 22 May 2017 through Thursday, 1 June 2017, will include five students (Amy Collins ’18, AJ Paollela ’18, Dante Fresse ’18, Julia Carita ’20, and Julia Stevens ’20), two faculty (David Del Testa, Department of History and Adrian Mulligan, Department of Geography), and Sherri Kimmel (Editor, Bucknell Magazine). The participants in the second trip, which will occur in mid-October 2018, have yet to be determined.
The Bucknellians in World War I project got its start within earlier courses that I taught at the beginning of my career at Bucknell University. Several times between 2005 and 2012, I taught, with ample help from the Bertrand Library’s staff, introductory history courses that focused on one of the United States’ major military conflicts of the 20th century, using the course as a vehicle to teach good historical methodology while connecting students to veteran alumni who had served in those very conflicts. I ran a World War II-focused course twice and then taught the Vietnam War-based course three times. The World War II-themed courses also resulted in students describing and posting facsimiles of World War II-era posters from the Bucknell’s Special Collections (with thanks to Abby Clobridge, Isabella O’Neill, and Nancy Frazier with their help for this project) In the case of the two courses, the Office of Alumni Relations helped me connect my students with veteran alumni. I didn’t continue those versions of the course because I either ran out of appropriate volunteers or the volunteers who remained could no longer help my students because of age or infirmity.
During Spring Semester 2013, I proposed a Bucknellians in World War I project that could accommodate up to two students from the Presidential Fellows program in order to help me with the refinement and completion of the Bucknellians in World War I database. Two excellent students, Melissa McCarter (Biology-Environmental Science, ’18) and AJ Paollela (Biology, ’18), stepped forward, and we worked during the 2014-15 academic year to do so. The next year, McCarter left for a different project, but AJ stayed on, and received help from my Dalal fellow, Amy Collins (History and Poli.Sci., ’18), who had heard about the project from friends and wanted to help out, but research different aspects of the consequence of the conflict for Bucknellians specifically and Pennsylvania in general. They worked together to continue to fill in vital data about the Bucknellians who served. Finally, this academic year, I received an extraordinary level of support and now have AJ and Amy continuing in their work augmented by two additional Presidential Fellows, Julia Carita (’20) and Julia Stevens (’20), have greatly augmented and enhanced the ability of the research team to achieve its goals. I also had the students in a History 100 courses use the database.
Currently, the students have developed vital, educational, and military-related information for the database for about 400 of the 750 individuals about whom we know. In May 2017, this research team will travel to northern France and southern Belgium to follow up on the stories of some of those Bucknellians who served in the war, visiting the battlefields where Bucknellians fought and the cemeteries where some of the 40 Bucknellians who died as a result of their participation in the war rest today. In addition, the group intends to visit locations special Bucknellians, including the part of a French orphanage named after Katherine Baker (Academy ’93) who worked herself to death in France, and the site where Dwite Schaffner (’15) earned his Medal of Honor. During the 2017-18 academic year, should my Presidential Fellows continue working with this project, we will develop a short book based around the lives of several prominent Bucknellians that the students will research in greater depth.
And now, let the adventure begin!