A ticket to a GW basketball game: $0. GW shot glass: $5.99. Blue GW pennant: $17.99. GW letter jacket: $230. The Watergate room at HOVA: $6,500 a year. Personalized GW class rings: priceless. Or are they?
Every year, juniors and seniors have to decide whether or not class rings are worth the investment. A university is a place where one spends four years of life carving out memories, ambitions and the budding roots of a future. A class ring is supposed to symbolize all these accomplishments made at a graduating institution.
Barbara Hempel, who sells class rings for Herff Jones, stood behind an array of ring choices at a table in front of the GW Bookstore last Thursday. The dazzling gold rings and rainbow assortment of colored stones gleamed under the display lights on the table.
“Students initially buy the rings because mom and dad want them to,” Hempel said. “But many students buy them (on their own). They sell at a pretty high rate.”
Hempel said rings serve as an important investment. At class reunions they can bring back memories of the four years spent at college. They are also good for networking, especially in the D.C. area, she said.
“I hear stories from people that at interviews the employer notices the GW ring and makes a connection,” she said. “It is a good icebreaker and can be an instant `in’ for many jobs.”
Marc and Melinda Atkin, parents of freshman Ashley said class rings lose their significance when students move onto graduate-level work.
“If this is where you stop then I can see where a class ring can be significant,” Melinda said. “But it’s not that important if you go on to get a master’s and then a Ph.D.”
While neither parent bought a ring, both said they have no regrets.
Marc said he would want his daughter to have a GW ring for sentimental value, but that money becomes a major factor in deciding whether to buy one.
“Sometimes they charge too much,” he said. “They should make (the price) so everyone should be able to afford a ring.”
Junior Vikas Gupta said he did not buy his high school ring but would consider buying a class ring next year.
“In high school, the prices didn’t appeal to me,” he said. “Price is a factor to consider.”
Gupta said he thinks the rings have more value as memorabilia than use. He said he does not see many people wearing them.
Pat Hutton and James Holmes, parents of freshman Liz Holmes, bought their high school class rings but not their university rings.
Hutton said that at the University of Wisconsin, where she did her graduate work, bonds between the students and the school were strong. She would have bought a class ring if she had attended undergraduate school there, she said.
“Buying a ring would depend on how important and strong the bond is between the student and the graduating institution,” she said.
James said he thinks buying class rings is a function of age. The younger the person is, the more apt one is to buy a memento to remember the past.
Hutton said many companies offer other options other than rings for class souvenirs, such as medallions and tie-pins.
“I would wear a medallion as a necklace,” she said. “It all depends on the jewelry you prefer.”
Liz said her friend’s parents bought a Harvard Law School chair as a graduating souvenir. The three agreed a chair from Harvard Law school would be a good investment.
Junior Ghessycka Lucien said she is thinking of buying a class ring her senior year.
“It’s a tradition,” she said. “Everyone in my family wears their class rings.”
She bought her high school ring and usually wears it. She said she attended a small high school where everyone bought rings to identify with the school.
“I’d most likely wear a GW ring if I bought one,” she said. “If I find a style I like, something not too big or ugly, I would definitely wear it.”
Fred Kahler and his son Dave, a freshman, said the rings are not worth the investment. Fred said he opted to buy his older son a watch instead.
“No one really wears the rings,” he said. “Not many people notice the rings anyway.”
Karen and Stan Fischer and their daughter Emily, also a freshman, said they the rings are worth the investment. Although the parents did not buy their class rings, they said they would buy them for their daughter and son.
“No one cared (about class rings) in the ’60s,” Karen said. “Material things were different back then.”
Liz said she would like a class ring to remember GW, especially since she did not purchase one from her high school.
One day, while sifting through buried attic treasures, a class ring from 20 years ago will suddenly appear out of a dusty wooden trunk of collectibles. The ring can bring back memories of four rowdy years of college at GW, or the menories can stand without the material possession.
This article appeared in the October 18, 2001 issue of the Hatchet.