Photo Credit Jan Garrison
The strength of Culver bonds
May 21, 2020

Jack Chittim’s family ties to Culver goes back five generations. His father, grandfather, and great-great-grandfather all attended school on the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee.

All four share the same first name, James. They have their Culver rings. Jack (above, wearing three of them) is the only one missing out right now; though his ring is in the Campus Store waiting to be picked up. At least the past three generations have lived in East Barrack. And his mother, Christine, is a 1992 CGA graduate.

But there is a special connection – well, maybe, not so special – that only James Chittim, class of 1921, and James Chittim, class of 2021 – now share. Their Culver educations were interrupted by major pandemics. The second wave of the Spanish flu pandemic caused Culver officials to release students early for winter break in December 1918. The COVID-19 pandemic sent Jack home to Boerne, Texas, in mid-March.

“It’s really strange to think that my great-great-grandfather and I would be cadets as these points in time,” Chittim said, who was in Culver to pick up his belongings. “It makes you wonder what happened then.”

Along with his great-great-grandfather’s class ring, Chittim also has his senior scrapbook, a historical staple that all cadets had to complete at the time. “But it doesn’t really contain anything about the Spanish flu (during his third class year) in it,” he said.

But Chittim believes this accident of fate isn’t the only aspect of Culver he shares with his ancestor. He is convinced that his great-great-grandfather also enjoyed the same bonds he does today. It is those relationships with his friends and the faculty and staff that make Culver unique, he said. “The Culver connections last forever.”

And, while he is staying in touch with his friends virtually, Chittim can’t wait for the time when everyone returns to campus because he knows “it will seem like a day has never passed.”

It is these special Culver connections that made Chittim want to find a way to remember “this time together during this time apart.” That is when he thought of a commemorative Culver Spirit pin that students could wear on their Dress A uniforms and blazers. Each member of the classes of 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 would receive it.

A draft of the Chittim’s pin

Chittim sketched out his concept and submitted it with an explanation to Commandant of Cadets Col. Mike Squires, Dean of Girls M. Lynn Rasch ’76, and Head of Schools Dr. Doug Bird.

“We thought it was a great idea,” Squires said. “It is a way of unifying the Culver students during this unusual era.  We received many ideas from students, and Jack’s proposal encapsulates the best aspects of them all.”

 “He wrote of brotherhood, connecting faculty, staff, and students during this difficult time of a pandemic,” Rasch said, “and honoring the students that lost a special time of their lives by not being present at Culver.” 

Squires and Rasch were also impressed that Chittim wrote about how Culver alumni have risen above extremely difficult times in history. “Jack Chittim’s idea for a Culver Spirit pin is a testament to student strength, care and concern for others and the true meaning of the Culver Spirit,” Rasch added.

Chittim’s initial design has been fine-tuned and he is pleased with the changes. “And I’m really happy that it is tied into the Day of Strength,” he said.

The Culver Day of Strength, previously known as the Day of Giving, is scheduled for Wednesday, June 3. It is being renamed for just this year to show the strength of the institution and the Culver network that has so generously supported it since 1894. The online event will benefit the Culver Fund, raising gifts for students, and the mission-critical needs of the Academies and Summer Schools & Camps.

It will also provide an opportunity for alumni, parents, students, campers, staff, and friends to connect through Culver’s social media channels. The day will also include creating a virtual scrapbook honoring the class of 2020 with a compilation of well wishes, advice, photos, and memories from the extended Culver family.

Later this summer, Culver will honor the first classmen from Upper Schools and the Gold C’s from Woodcraft Camp.

Several generous lead donors have come forward with more than $1 million in gifts to support the Day of Strength. These gifts – as with every gift – will ensure that Culver has the necessary resources to continue providing superior educational and camp experiences.

All gifts made between now and June 3 will count toward the Day of Strength total. If you would like to contribute to the virtual scrapbook honoring the Class of 2020 — and enjoy the live Day of Strength updates — visit any of the Culver Academies social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and use the hashtags #culver2020 and #since1894.

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