Keuka College to commemorate V-E Day May 8

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

Keuka College will commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day) Friday, May 8.

The ceremony, free and open to the public, begins at 4 p.m. at the College’s World War II Monument, located near Lightner Library.

College President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera will deliver remarks along with New York State Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, and Dr. Mike McKenzie, associate professor of philosophy and religion. Rev. Eric Detar, College chaplain, will offer a prayer of remembrance, and Rabbi Ann Landown of Temple Beth-El will recite the Jewish Prayer for the Dead, the Kaddish. Members of the Penn Yan VFW Honor Guard will also take part.

After the ceremony, refreshments will be served in Lightner Library.

V-E Day is celebrated each May 9. It was on this day when the Allies accepted Germany’s Unconditional Surrender in a destroyed Berlin, the German capital. It had been decided at the Casablanca Conference in 1943 that nothing less than the Unconditional Surrender of our foes would be accepted. On May 7, 1945, the Germans surrendered unconditionally at Rheins at the headquarters of the Supreme Allied High Commander, General Dwight Eisenhower.

And Keuka College has a strong connection to the events in Europe nearly 4,000 miles from its idyllic lakeside campus.

When the United States entered the First World War in 1917 two years after the sinking of the Lusitania, some of the young men at Keuka College left school and signed up. Some served stateside while others served on the Western Front or in the Navy. Germany was defeated and signed the Armistice on Nov. 11, 1918. In the 1950s, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day and every year since the erection of the College’s World War II Monument in May 2005, the College has gathered around our monument to salute all who served in past and current wars.

“On the 50th anniversary of V-E Day in 1995, the students of the Political Science and History Club decided to commemorate this day,” said Dr. Sander A. Diamond, professor of history. “A brass plaque and an oak tree recall that stellar day which included a fly-over by the U.S. Air Force out of Syracuse.”

“Ten years later, the Club erected the World War II Monument on the 60th anniversary of V-E Day,” Dr. Diamond added. “It is well used each Veterans Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and Memorial Day. On one side of the Monument, the names of all of the theaters of war are listed; on the other, a salute to our Nursing Cadet Program, setting in stone the connective link between the war and our institutional history. As we did in 1995 and 2005, we honor ‘The Greatest Generation.’”

Twenty-four years after the First World War ended, America was again at war. While Keuka College began its 125-year-old journey as a coeducational institution, it emerged from the First World War as a women’s college. Early in the war, Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the President, visited our campus and suggested to our president ways the College could contribute to the massive war effort. With so many of the young men from this rural area in uniform, it was suggested that the students could help with the harvests.

It was also suggested that the College start a Nursing Cadet Corps Program. Within two years, many of our nursing graduates found themselves in the various theaters of war and some served in the Occupations of Germany and Japan after the war.

“Both the Field Period™ and the nursing program are rooted in the war years, and today are among the central constellations of this fine institution,” said Dr. Diamond.

And according to Dr. Diamond, Keuka College will not be alone in our commemoration.

“World leaders have gathered to commemorate V-E Day and there will be celebrations in Washington, Paris, Brussels, Ottawa, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen,” he said, “We can pride ourselves as an institution that we too have taken time to remember, making another intergenerational transfer of values, which cement the connective links between nations.”