Holy Cross Honors

The dedicated staff in the Holy Cross Archives and Special Collections curated this assortment of medals, awards, badges and patches for an HCM photoshoot. These items lend insight into how the College recognized members of the community throughout history, as well as which values were prominent in different eras. The Archives serve as the institutional memory of Holy Cross, an important record of where our College has been. Learn more about each of these pieces of Holy Cross history:

1.  U.S. Navy dog tags of Rev. Joseph T. O’Callahan, S.J.
Fr. O’Callahan was the first Navy chaplain to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest decoration for valor, for his service aboard the U.S.S. Franklin during World War II. An aircraft carrier known as “Big Ben,” the Franklin was nearly destroyed by a kamikaze attack in the Okinawa campaign in Japan in early 1945, which killed hundreds of sailors. Fr. O’Callahan organized and led firefighting crews, preventing a potentially fatal explosion, while ministering to the injured and dying sailors. After the war, Fr. O’Callahan served as the Navy Chaplain and a professor of math and physics at the College. Today, the O’Callahan Society is named in his honor. This alumni group encourages and cultivates the traditions associated with the Jesuit, liberal arts education of military and naval officers and supports the Naval ROTC unit at Holy Cross.

2.  Mid-19th Century Temperance Medal
The medal reads, “I promise to abstain from all intoxicating drinks etc. except used medicinally and by order of a medical man and to discountenance the cause & practice of intemperance.” The early days of the College, which was founded in 1843, coincided with the temperance movement across the nation, which discouraged the consumption of alcohol. One of the members of the earliest classes at Holy Cross might have carried this medal as a sign of his commitment to the movement.

3.  Academic Achievement Award, presented to Charles M. Gauren, 1867
Gauren, a member of the Class of 1867, received this medal, known as the Cross of Honor, for his accomplishments in French. Other historical documents from that year indicate that French wasn’t his only strength: The poetry major was also recognized at the commencement ceremony for his achievements in elocution, poetry, English composition and math.

4.  Relic of St. Edith Stein
St. Edith Stein, the namesake of academic building Stein Hall on campus, was a member of the Carmelite Order of sisters in Germany. A convert to Catholicism from Judaism, Stein was arrested by the Nazis when they started persecuting Catholics of Jewish heritage during World War II, and she ultimately died at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942. Prior to her arrest, she was a writer and researcher, while still maintaining her contemplative life with the sisters. Holy Cross is the first American educational institution to name a building for the saint.

5.  Typographic plate for the 2nd seal of the College
The second iteration of the College of the Holy Cross seal, which featured a cross in the sky, was used between 1865 and the 1920s. The seal also featured a hill, to represent the topography of the College, and trains and ships to indicate the commerce of the city of Worcester. A globe, books and a telescope represented the study of the liberal arts. This plate with the seal’s image was used with a letterpress, to imprint the seal on paper.

6.  Class of 1880 Reunion Ribbon Hanger
Believed to be a ribbon holder for a Class of 1880 reunion, this ornate piece features a large, winged bird holding a Holy Cross flag in its beak.

7.  1905 Commencement Ribbon
1905 was the 62nd Commencement ceremony at Holy Cross, and the first to be held on Fitton Field. The speaker and guest of honor was President Theodore Roosevelt. In the Spring 2012 issue of HCM, Loren Cass, professor of political science, wrote about Roosevelt’s visit to campus: “Congratulating the College for its baseball victory earlier that year over his alma mater, Harvard, he went on to commend Holy Cross for its excellence in training the next generation of American citizens. He personally greeted each of the 37 students receiving their B.A. degrees and the three students receiving M.A. degrees that day. Following the event, he planted a commemorative elm tree near what is today the tennis courts, which remains a testament to his visit and the growing national reputation that Holy Cross was establishing at the turn of the 20th century.”

8.  Medal commemorating Rev. William F. Davitt, Class of 1907
Fr. Davitt was the last American officer to die in World War I. He was killed on the last day of the war, November 11, 1918, when the Germans fired one last shell over enemy lines about 90 minutes before the armistice took effect. According to our College historian, Rev. Anthony J. Kuzniewski, S.J., Fr. Davitt played tackle on the football team while he was an undergraduate, then went on to become a priest in the Diocese of Springfield and volunteer as a military chaplain in the war. Fr. Kuzniewski wrote of Fr. Davitt in the Summer 2007 issue of Holy Cross Magazine: “He was cited for bravery after leading a rescue party, under German machine-gun fire, that successfully brought the [40 wounded American] men back to safety.”

This series of medals, awards, badges and patches is just one of many groups of historical items preserved in the Holy Cross Archives. A larger sampling of the small trinkets—including more patches, watches, buckles, ribbons, pins, jewelry and tags—are highlighted on the cover of this issue. We’ll explore more about these items and similar collections in Artifact in future issues.  ■

—Maura Sullivan Hill with contributions by Mark Savolis and Sarah Campbell of the Holy Cross Archives