At that time San Angelo College students wanted to do something that would honor those former students who were lost in World War II. By the end of World War II, 700 or fully one-fifth of all the students who had ever attended San Angelo College had served in the Armed Forces. Their classmates and their successors desired to honor them all by dedicating a plaque and planting an oak tree for each of the deceased.
On Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1949, members of the campus and San Angelo communities gathered for the dedication ceremony that culminated a local effort to raise monies for the memorial. On that day when the trees were planted and the marker dedicated, the attendees stood in the sunlight. Today that memorial, shaded by the canopy of the trees themselves, lists “The 29 Oaks” as:
Robert Vance Bennett, Herman L.E. Bierwirth, Douglas Bryant, Clarence Aubrey Coss, Rex Allen Fulghum, Amos Gray, Carroll Henry, William H. Humlong Jr., Henry Douglas Jackson, Ralph M. Jennings, Frank Brooks Landers, Herbert R. Lanford, Lloyd Curtis Mercer, H.C. Mills, James “Wayne” Millsap, Norman G. Ogden, Shed Ragsdale, William C. Rau Jr., Kenneth W. Ripple, E.R. Schindler, Nolen B. Sowell, Finley K. Steele, Elbert O. Stephenson, Franklin Thompson, John P. Treadaway, Frank M. Tubb, Rector E. Whitfield, Thomas C. Wilkinson and Alden R. Witt.
As a tragic footnote, Memorial Oak Grove is one tree short. “The Missing Oak” is Jay Arthur Ryan, whose death on a Japanese prisoner of war transport remained unknown for years after the war and the monument´s dedication.
In 1994, the Memorial Oak Grove was re-dedicated. Today each November on Veteran’s Day, the cadets of Air Force ROTC Detachment 847, one of the nation’s largest and most honored ROTC units, hold an all-night vigil in honor and remembrance of these and other ASU students who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The Oaks Society represents service and generosity and has special meaning at ASU. Founded in 2005, the Oaks Society honors and recognizes people who have chosen to benefit ASU in their estate plans. Members of the Oaks Society share a strong common bond that nourishes ASU’s achievements and ensures the university’s continued excellence in the future. Members’ commitments of today will benefit the university’s students, faculty and programs for many generations to come. ASU recognizes the significant role these planned-giving donors play and is pleased to pay special tribute to their philanthropic leadership and vision. In their own ways, Oaks Society members have opportunities to leave their own legacies at ASU.