The Roll of Honor at the University Archives

In the Butler Library lobby, to the left of the Athena mural, you will find the War Memorial Plaque. This monument honors the Columbia alumni who lost their lives in conflicts starting from the American Revolution. Unveiled in December 2008, the plaque was accompanied by a dedicated website to collect the names of these alumni in an ever-growing and evolving online memorial. The Roll of Honor is now part of the University Archives and we are honored to be the new custodians of this tribute site.

Brochure with the war memorial design, c2001. Scan 5011. War memorial records, University Archives.

In 1995, James J. Lennon, Columbia College Class of 1943 and a WWII veteran, started a campaign to build a memorial on campus to honor Columbia undergraduates who died in the war. Over the years the scope of the memorial expanded to include all members of the Columbia community, not just undergraduates, and all the wars and conflicts since the founding of King’s College. There was even a proposed monument that would be placed in a central part of campus (by the southwest corner of Low Library) with the hopes that it would offer a meditative space for remembrance. The design for the monument consisted of several short walls made of bronze bricks with names of the fallen alumni. 

The final push for a memorial came from the members of the U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia (MilVets) who made their appeal to Provost Alan Brinkley in 2007. He convened the Working Group on War Remembrance. While the preliminary list published in the Columbia College Today February 2000 issue included about 250 names of Columbians who had died in service,  by the time the War Memorial Plaque at Butler Library was unveiled and the website was launched in December 2008, there were about 460 known alumni. Led by Executive Producer Vivian Ducat and Researcher Minda Novek, the accompanying online memorial was able to provide more context: about the wars, about Columbia at the time, and, for the fallen alumni, more than just a name. The researchers found images of many alumni, mostly in military dress but, for some, from their Columbia days. It is one of the greatest strengths of the site: to see the faces of the fallen, including Civil War soldiers Stephen Richard Reynolds (CC 1859), Captain of the United States Volunteers and Assistant Adjutant General, and Frederick Tracy (CC 1860), a member of the 7th Regiment National Guard, State of New York. And the site features not just the U.S. servicemen, but also members of the Royal Canadian Army, such as World War I battalion runner Robert Lunn Jr. (Engineering 1913).

In addition to photographs, the site also invites family members, friends and others to submit “Tributes”. There are some very special remembrances like the ones for William Melvin Kober (CC 1934), World War II Captain Medical Corps, Army, submitted by his daughter and his grandson. The grandson, who also became a physician, noted “I have now been in practice 26 yrs, he only practiced 9 months. Maybe somehow we do get to live twice.” For Marine Corps Captain James J. Shea (CC 1966), a friend wrote: “All these years I imagined Jim married, enjoying children and grandchildren. Every few years I checked the web but I did not remember his middle initial so I could not find him. So saddened to find out he never returned from Viet Nam.” 

The current Roll of Honor lists over 540 names. We invite you to visit, learn about these Columbia servicemen (and only one woman so far) who died while serving their country. If you have any corrections, comments, tributes or photographs that you would like to share, please contact us at

Roll of Honor homepage, 2008-2021.