The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights, was passed a year before the end of the World War II. In September of 1945, when the war ended, veterans returned home and many took advantage of the education benefits offered by the GI Bill of Rights. At its peak in 1947, Veterans accounted for 49 percent of college admissions. By the time the original GI Bill ended on July 25, 1956, 7.8 million of 16 million World War II Veterans had participated in an education or training program.
Colleges saw this as an incredible opportunity and created unique advertising materials to appeal to the newly returned soldiers. At Howard College, now Samford University, special bulletins were produced to encourage veterans to apply. The Special Collection is lucky to have two of these bulletins from 1945. In 1945, Howard College was still housed on the East Lake Campus. There had been a great deal of success on campus with the Navy's V-12 training program, so Howard College was happy to welcome veterans onto campus.
Our two bulletins focused on the benefits of the GI Bill and their unique situation including providing options for students who had not graduated high school or whom could not produce a high school diploma. There is even a letter to other veterans written by Lieutenant, Junior-Grade, William Badgeley of the Navy. Badgeley wrote, "When Johnny comes marching home will he take his old job or will he go to college? I feel strong we veterans ought to supply our quota to the professional fields."
The school also offered accelerated programs of study for students, allowing older students to complete their degrees at a more rapid pace. The true value of these documents is not just in the details of college aimed at a unique audience, but the photographs of campus life in the 1940s. While the Special Collection has many photos from the 1950s forward, earlier photographs of student life are much harder to locate.
Rachel Cohen is a former User Engagement Special Collection Librarian for Samford University Library.
- US Department of Veteran's Affairs. “History and Timeline.” Education and Training.
- US Department of Veteran's Affairs, n.d. Web. 31 October 2016. ‹http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/history.asp›.
- “Educational Opportunities Offered to Veterans at Howard College,” Pictorial Bulletin 4, November 1945.
- “Educational Opportunities for Veterans Offered by Howard College,” Pictorial Bulletin 3, April 1945.