Rensselaer is one of only a few schools in the country where the class ring is designed solely by students. In a tradition dating back to the 1960s, students have created rings to reflect the unique history, memories, and shared experiences that are special to the class. For the Gonzalez family, the ring will always be a reminder of time spent at Rensselaer—past, present, and future. Juan Gonzalez graduated from Rensselaer in 1949, and on Saturday, May 28—thanks to the tale of Juan’s long-lost ring—his grandson, Gabriel Kurtzman-Gonzalez ’16, will graduate from Rensselaer with a degree in business and management, and his own class ring.
In April 2009, FedEx pilot Bill Dobbretz was on a layover in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He decided to pass the time searching for buried treasure on the beach, using a metal detector. Dobbretz was surprised to find a 1949 Rensselaer class ring with the name “Juan Gonzalez” inscribed inside. He contacted the Rensselaer Office of Alumni Relations, and told them about the 1949 class ring, which has a garnet stone and features the Rensselaer seal along with a collection of images that include a transit, microphone, and airfoil.
Dobbretz said that he contacted Rensselaer because he had once lost his own class ring from his alma mater. The Rensselaer Alumni Association did some sleuthing and was able to locate Gonzalez, who was living in Miami, Fla. Dobbretz cleaned up the ring and mailed it to Gonzalez.
Afterward, Gonzalez’s daughter wrote a letter to the Alumni Relations Office to express her family’s thanks for the return of the ring. “Although I was not born yet when my father lost it, to me it is an amazing story. My father holds his education at RPI very dear.”
One of Rensselaer’s traditions is the Junior Ring Ceremony, which was established in 2004 to connect students with alumni. As part of the event, alumni speakers are invited to share their personal stories about their student days at Rensselaer and what their class ring means to them.
“The ring marks the transition of the class from students to future alumni,” said Jeff Schanz, assistant vice president of alumni relations. “While the ring is a symbol of their pride, spirit, and memories of Rensselaer, it will also serve as a lasting reminder of their life at Rensselaer long after graduation.”
During the April 2011 Junior Class Ring Ceremony, Juan Gonzalez ’49 was invited to share the incredible story of being reunited with his class ring after losing it more than 50 years ago. “In my youth, the class ring represented a celebration of the fulfillment of a young man’s many ideals,” Gonzalez said. “As time went by, more and more, it became a symbol of the realization of those ideals with all the successes, failures, and memories attached.”
When Gonzalez returned to campus with members of his family for the April 2011 ring ceremony, his grandson, Gabriel Kurtzman-Gonzalez, accompanied him for the visit. It was this visit that inspired Gabriel to apply to Rensselaer. Now, with Gabriel graduating from Rensselaer on Saturday, the tale of the missing class ring has come full circle.
Read the full story and more about Juan Gonzalez ’49.
Read the June 2009 Alumni magazine story.