Armstrong's Greatest Generation, 1939 - 1950
In May of 1939, Armstrong Junior College coed Maree Helmken captured the sunny mood of springtime Savannah for a Life Magazine feature on cool cotton dresses. Three months later, on September 1, Nazi Germany invaded Poland and Europe was at war.
World War II affected both the curriculum and the enrollment at Armstrong. New courses appeared in the catalog: navigation, map-reading, aerodynamics, military terminology, nautical astronomy, wartime French. A new science building provided state-of-the art equipment.
Flight instruction launched students into the skies over Savannah before they headed to the Pacific. Armstrong's boys took off their Big A sweaters and turned into men in leather flight jackets.
The great exodus occurred in the spring of 1943. Enrollment plummeted, and the campus became almost totally female. The 1944-45 Armstrong Bulletin listed the alumni serving in the armed forces: 147 men, 12 women and 8 faculty members.Eleven additional names listed those missing in action.
At war's end the veterans returned. They brought their G.I. Bill paychecks and added a lively presence to the campus. They organized a veterans' club, published a salty news sheet, and pushed hard against the social conventions expected by the college administration. A Psychological Guidance Center offered personal and vocational counseling.
Enrollment climbed and Armstrong acquired the tall building on the southwest corner of Bull and Gordon Streets for additional classroom space. In due course, the ground floor, which used to be the Veterans Guidance Center, became a student hangout known as The Dump. The library moved into Hodgson Hall, home of the Georgia Historical Society, whose director Lila Mills Hawes was on husband-and-wife terms with Armstrong President Foreman Hawes.
Some of the wartime students returned to enter baccalaureate programs without ever completing their course of study at Armstrong. Other students from that "greatest generation" never returned from the war at all. The Memorial Student Center on the present campus honors their memory and their service.
Read on to the next years in history... Expanding Horizons, 1950s.