(Edited excerpt from: “From a Grove of Oaks,” by the late George Troxler, professor of history and University Historian)
With students and alumni joining the Armed Forces during World War I, the size of the graduating class declined by as much as 50 percent.
President Harper reported that three Elon students enlisted on the day war was declared and that “within a week after the declaration of war it looked as if our campus would have no adult men students.” The faculty voted to award credit for courses interrupted by enlistment or by draft into the armed forces. At commencement on May 29 some of the men graduated in their uniforms, and others in training camps received their degrees in absentia.
During the 1917-18 school year, three faculty members and an unknown number of current students enlisted or were drafted. On October 31, 1917, Elon men adopted a “College Man’s War Creed.” They pledged to economize personal expenditures and use the funds saved to support the Red Cross and the Student War-Friendship Fund and to purchase Liberty Bonds. The signers pledged to “keep hate out of our souls” and to support the making of a lasting peace, “guaranteeing international good-fellowship as well as cessation of fighting.” The creed concluded with a pledge “that when our country calls . . . she shall receive our unstinted service.” In March the women adopted a similar “College Woman’s War Creed.”
In May 1918 the War Department created the Students’ Army Training Corps. Elon was one of the 11 North Carolina colleges and universities where SATC companies were established. The program was promoted as a preliminary training option for officers, and SATC graduates might be transferred to officers’ training schools, non-commissioned officers’ schools, vocational training sections, or to cantonments as privates. Performance at Elon would determine their assignments.
The war was over before the first SATC class completed the course on December 21, 1918. Although the Armistice was signed on November 11, all SATC units remained active until they were demobilized and the men were honorably discharged a month later.