A Page to Honor Belknapians Who Served in the United States Armed Forces

In response to the public suggestion that Belknap College existed as a draft dodge, the Belknap College alumni community has herewith expressed itself quite clearly in the correspondences that follow.

Drs. Royal M. Frye and Virginia M. Brigham, along with a distinguished nucleus of talented faculty and administrators sought to establish a small, 4-year liberal arts college after their initial efforts did not work out at Canaan College. The initial efforts of those distinguished educators and scientists largely preceded the major Viet Nam War and draft issues that were gripping the nation in the mid-late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Belknap College closed in 1974 because it was unable to secure HUD funding for the permanent library that was required for regional accreditation, which completes the national recognition of the US Department of Education. The young school simply did not have the alumni base required to create substantive endowment that most schools rely upon to build academic buildings and survive difficult economic times. And Belknap’s prime benefactor pulled out largely due to these factors. Dr. Frye had passed on and despite the herculean efforts of Jim Sutherland, the school could not make ends meet.

Thus these efforts to establish an excellent college in Center Harbor ended in 1974. But for the alumni who still appreciate and understand that experience, the pride in our nascent alma mater remains strong. And when perverse charges such as the draft dodge were recently leveled, Belknap’s military veterans spoke up and expressed our pride in the US Military as well as our own roles.

In addition, let it be known that Belknap College never made any anti-war pronouncements from the administration. The College did not invite anti-war speakers to the campus. If one wanted to see and hear the Chicago 7 live, one went to UNH or elsewhere. Between 15 and 20 students became active members of the local 368th Engineers Battalion, US Army Reserves, in Laconia at the behest of that organization’s Commanding Officer when he was invited on the campus to encourage enlistments in 1967. As a member I can attest to the fact that no student, administrator or faculty member ever criticized me for joining the 368th in Laconia.

Numerous Belknap students came to the school having already served in the military as enlisted personnel and officers – and they were well respected by their peers. And as evidenced by numerous letters that follow, many alumni joined the military after graduation, and not all were males.

In our country any individual is free to make any outlandish or absurd statement they want. Belknap College alumni have responded to this most recent falsehood to the extent that any reasonable person can now ascertain that our school was neither organized to be a draft dodge nor did it behave as a draft dodge – any more or less than any other college in the US at that time. The tumultuous times that characterized America in the 1960’s and early 1970’s threatened to divide Americans sharply, even among families. Belknap College students were integrally involved and aware of our environment in those days and our opinions often differed on the war and politics. Yet we were then and are now true Americans to the core. And our core patriotism does not include Nazi brownshirt style threats to destroy the mutual tributes that Belknap alumni and the Town of Center Harbor recently unveiled.

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