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Hidden History Tour of the University of Maine

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This is a contributing entry for Hidden History Tour of the University of Maine and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
This building is named in honor of students who served in World War II from the Class of 1944. Many students put their education, and sometimes new marriages and families, on hold to serve their country. One member of the class, Stephen L. Jacobs, who himself was the recipient of the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, worked diligently to collect the stories of his fellow classmates who served. Read more about this brave class in the Background section below, and check back soon for an extension to this post on women during wartime.

WWII servicemen pictured in front of WWII. Unknown date.

Window, Plant, Building, Standing

Undated image of unidentified UMaine servicemen

Trousers, Military uniform, Headgear, Military person

World War II, University of Maine, men in war training class, Professor Benjamin Kent in center of front row. Professor Kent was the Institutional Representative of the Federal Security Agency, U.S. Office of Education, Engineering, Science and Management War Training.

Footwear, Trousers, Standing, Suit

From the earliest days on campus, students have been involved in the military, including the Civil War, Spanish American War, and both World Wars. Stephen L. Jacobs was a student at the University of Maine and a member of the historic Class of 1944, for which this building is named. In 1943, student enrollment dropped by roughly 40% as most male students enlisted. Jacobs, who had served in the ROTC during the build up to World War II, put his education on pause to answer the call of duty, leaving a new wife, Isabell Ansell, behind. He served in the Pacific theater from June 7th, 1943 to March 30th, 1946. He was awarded a Purple Heart for being wounded by tank fire, and a Bronze Star for heroic service.

After the war he returned to UMaine to finish his education, taking advantage of GI Bill assistance towards tuition and living expenses. Efforts like FERA and larger Works Progress Administration initiatives mentioned in the previous tour stop paved the way for later government assistance programs like the GI Bill. By 1956, nearly 8 million veterans used the benefits to attend colleges or universities, and more than 5 million for other vocational training programs.

He graduated in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in forestry, and pioneered Maine’s first high school course in forestry at Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine. Jacobs earned a Masters degree in education from UMaine in 1963 and went on to teach physics and chemistry at Dexter Regional High School for 17 years. 

As a tribute to the fellow UMaine students he served with, in the last decade of his life Jacobs created a history of the Class of 1944. Despite the likely difficulty in recalling traumatic memories of the war, Jacobs went to great lengths to recognize his classmates’ heroism. He collected stories and service records about his fellow students in service, both those who returned, and those fallen who never had the chance to come home. In total, 69 UMaine alumni lost their lives in the war. Their stories will live on in perpetuity in Fogler Library’s Special Collections thanks to Jacobs’ dedication. 

University of Maine. Class Of 1944 Advanced Infantry ROTC Records, UA RG 0010.005, Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Department, University of Maine, Orono, Maine.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

University of Maine Photo Archives

University of Maine Photo Archives

University of Maine Photo Archives