Civitan - U.S.A.T. Dorchester Scholarship

This scholarship will be awarded annually to a second-year student in the Center for Chaplaincy Program at Hood Theological Seminary (HTS). The successful candidate will be a student who aspires to be a military, hospital, hospice, corporate or other professional chaplain, and will be selected by the seminary based on academic performance and financial need without restriction for geographical location, race, ethnicity, gender or religious denomination.

Civitan International is an organization of volunteer service clubs around the world, dedicated to helping people in their own communities. Civitans help wherever the need arises – from collecting food for a homeless shelter, to volunteering at their local retirement home, to building a playground for children with disabilities. Civitans have been helping people since the organization’s founding in 1917 by a group of service-minded individuals determined to make a difference in their community.

In the early morning of February 2, 1943, the USAT Dorchester was crowded to capacity, carrying 902 service men, merchant seamen and civilian workers. Once a luxury coastal liner, the vessel had been converted into a U.S. Army transport ship (USAT). The Dorchester, one of three ships in a convoy, was moving steadily across the icy waters from Newfoundland toward an American base in Greenland. The convoy was escorted by three Coast Guard cutters. Shortly after midnight, a torpedo from a German Submarine hit the Dorchester amidships far below the water line and the ship began to sink.

Through the pandemonium four Army chaplains brought hope in despair and light in darkness. Those chaplains were Lt. George L. Fox (Methodist); Lt. Alexander D. Goode (Jewish); Lt. John P. Washington (Roman Catholic); and Lt. Clark V. Poling (Dutch Reformed) who immediately went to assist the survivors. When there were no more lifejackets, the chaplains even removed theirs and gave them to four frightened young men. These chaplains did not call out for Jews or Catholics or Protestants… They simply gave their life jackets to the next man in line. As the ship went down, survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains—arm in arm, lined, and braced against the slanting deck. Their voices could be heard offering prayers until the ship sunk and all remaining aboard died.

Of the 902 men aboard the Dorchester, 672 died leaving 230 survivors. When the news reached American shores, the nation was stunned by the magnitude of the tragedy and the heroic conduct of the four chaplains. Annually, at their first meeting in February, Civitan Clubs around the world commemorate the heroic and selfless actions of military chaplains aboard the USAT Dorchester by recognizing and showing appreciation to clergy of all denominations in their community. The Civitan Club of Salisbury in its sponsorship of this scholarship seeks to foster the same spirit of brotherhood and cooperation in all chaplains who serve their community or nation in a variety of important roles.

This scholarship is also endowed as a memorial to Alvin and Marjorie Beymer by Dr. Mark & Judy Beymer.

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