After the tragic collapse of Bonfire, one Aggie surrendered their class ring in honor of classmates whose lives were lost.
Thirty-one rings were left at the base of the flagpole of the administration building in an emotional gesture. These rings were returned to their owners soon after, but one other ring, tied to a cross near the site of the collapse, was never returned.
Sylvia Grider, retired senior professor of anthropology, said this ring was kept safely in her possession until Bonfire memorabilia was collected by the Cushing Library.
“The students found the ring when they were collecting the artifacts from the Bonfire site,” Grider said. “I insisted that [The Association of Former Students] take possession of all the rings … and I heard they all got returned to their owners.”
Because the name had been scratched out on the inside of the ring, it wasn’t able to be returned to its owner like the other 31 rings were. Grider said she kept the ring in her office waiting for it to be collected by The Association or Cushing Library.
“The ring stayed under the control of the Bonfire Memorabilia Project in the Anthropology Department until it was finally turned over to the Cushing Archives in 2009,” Grider said. “In 2009, I got a call from the archives inquiring about the ring and I then personally turned the ring over to David Chapman, who was the Archivist at Cushing. He is apparently the one who turned it over to the Ring Collection.”
Julie Scamardo, ring program manager at The Association, said the ring is now on display in the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center on the back of the Aggie Ring collection on the Neely Mezzanine.
Jeff Whiting, Class of 2000, was the first to leave his ring at the base of the flagpole. He included a note addressed to those who died.
Whiting’s letter read: “To our fallen Aggies. I want you all to wear my Ring today since you who have passed away will never get to experience the joy and happiness I was fortunate enough to feel. I want you all to have my Ring for a while. You will remain in our hearts forever.”
Leaving behind an Aggie ring is an especially important display, said Kathryn Greenwade, vice president for communications and human resources at The Association.
“The Aggie Ring symbolizes achievement and an Aggie’s connection to Texas A&M and the worldwide Aggie Network,” Greenwade said. “To me, it symbolized giving of something precious to convey an understanding of the magnitude of the loss.”
Greenwade said to leave behind something with such value is no small act. For someone to scratch their name off of the Ring to guarantee it could not be returned displays something great about what it means to be an Aggie, according to Greenwade.
“This gesture is absolutely emblematic of our values,” Greenwade said. “It demonstrated loyalty and respect, as well as the deep connection Aggies feel for one another. It demonstrates the bonds between Aggies. In a sense, it was a sharing of loss.”
The ring is now displayed and known as a ring for “every Aggie.” It remains for all who never had the chance to wear their own and is a symbol of all that was lost on Nov. 18, 1999.