World War I in Lawrence: Seniors at KU excused for military service

Editor’s note: Local writer Sarah St. John compiles reports of what it was like to be in Lawrence 100 years ago during World War I.

Seniors at the University of Kansas were to be excused from the remainder of the school year if they volunteered or were called up for military service, according to an announcement this spring. “Seniors of good standing who have completed at least one semester’s work at the University and who would be able to be graduated at the end of the Summer Session or at the end of the regular school year, will be excused and recommended for a degree if they enlist or are drafted, according to the recommendations of the committee on excuses for military service to the University senate,” a Journal-World reporter wrote in late April. Students leaving KU in late April or early May for farm work were to be “recommended for proportional credit for all courses in which they are in good standing.”

The program for KU’s commencement week, scheduled to start June 1, 1918, was undergoing some changes. “Arrangements have been made so that if the government requires the use of Robinson Gymnasium at the time of graduating, the senior-alumni dinner will not be given. K. U. is to be used as a training school for drafted men who wish to do technical work in the service and they are to be quartered in the gymnasium but probably not until after commencement week.”

Local residents continued to send letters and packages to those serving on the front lines. The Journal-World received a thank-you note from one of the young men serving abroad: “A card from R. B. Stevens, son of Prof. W. C. Stevens, of the university, was recently mailed The Journal-World from ‘Somewhere in France’ in which he said, ‘Your papers have been coming promptly. Please continue as before as it makes the job of cleaning up submarines seem lighter.’ Mr. Stevens is a Radio electrician.”

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