Benjamin Jenkins, archivist and assistant professor of history, presented “War and Peace At La Verne: Soldiers, Conscientious Objectors, Public Servants, and Brethren Values at the University” at the Quay Davis Executive Board Room on Tuesday.
The presentation examines the University of La Verne’s past affiliation with the Church of Brethren and its philosophy of pacifism during times of war. Jenkins tells the stories of past students who served in the military forces as conscientious objectors and how the University evolved overtime to embrace service members.
“I feel this was kind of interesting because it’s talking about war and peace but also mentions the University of La Verne,” Caroline Guzman, a freshman child development major, said. “I think it’s really cool that (Jenkins) was able to mention those who did attend the University.”
Jenkins’ lecture is actually part of a series of other lectures called the “University of La Verne History Series.” Al Clark, professor of humanities, runs the series and it covers the history of the University and aspects of its past.
“They can expect [the series] outstanding research from our own faculty on topics that are pertinent to the mission of the institution, which feature our commitment to producing knowledge by, for, and with our students” Matthew Witt, professor of public and health administration, said.
The lecture covers nearly a century of history between the University and its pacifist values. The information and stories presented in the lecture were mostly from the archives at ULV, which Jenkins was able to utilize to tell the full story.
“Ben’s research was quite careful and extensive and his topic was very interesting,” Clark said. “[People] can expect to learn more about the history of the University and its various aspects, rethinking it, relooking at it, since it’s changed from being a primarily Brethren serving institution into a Hispanic serving institution.”
“It’s important to know that most of the stuff that I just shared, that [it] comes from the University’s archives, it comes from our own library, that’s not stuff that we’re getting from somewhere else, it’s our internal information,” Jenkins said.
One notable story was about Jesse Brandt and his refusal to take arms. He was a follower of the Brethren Creed and was committed to the church’s pacifist philosophy. Brandt was drafted in 1917, however, he refused to take arms which landed him in Alcatraz, a military prison at the time.
Peers and faculty at the College advocated for his release and to allow him to serve in hospitals and farms instead. They sent letters to the local government and to then president Woodrow Wilson. Brandt was then released and was allowed to have an alternative service.
After the war, he returned to the College as an educator and once had a residence hall named after him. Today, the Ludwick Center stands where the residence hall once stood.
During World War II, La Verne College worked with the government to provide education to service members fighting in the war. Service members who were in alternative service received credits from the College.
That program later evolved into a much more extensive program that created resident centers abroad in places like Greece, Italy, and the Philippines. Under Leland Newcomer, former president of the College, in coordination with the U.S. Military, the program expanded to provide education to service members living on base.
The program was successful and helped the College stay afloat during financial hardships. Despite its success, there was vocal opposition to the program as it conflicted with the College’s pacifist values.
“I think it’s really important to acknowledge our military students, who (have) been overlooked in a lot of ways,” Jenkins said. “You really have to look hard if you (want to) find those plaques that are commemorating them. They’re not as well talked about.”
The legacy of the College’s support for veteran education continues today. Though the overseas residence centers have shut down, satellite campuses in Point Mugu and Vandenburg in California remain in service. Also the opening of the Sara and Michael Abraham Center for Veteran Student Success, which reopened last year after renovations.
Kael Matias can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.