Civitans establish endowed scholarship at Hood Seminary

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 6, 2018

Hood Theological Seminary

SALISBURY — The Salisbury Civitan Club branch of Civitan International, through the generosity of Mark and Judy Beymer, has established a new scholarship at Hood Theological Seminary: the Civitan USAT Dorchester Endowed Scholarship Fund, in memory of Alvin and Marjorie Beymer.

This scholarship will be awarded annually to a second-year student in the Center for Chaplaincy Program at Hood who aspires to be a military, hospital, hospice, corporate or other professional chaplain. STudents 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 since 1917.

The title for the scholarship is inspired by the story of the USAT Dorchester tragedy and the sacrifice of its chaplains during WWII.  Once a luxury liner, the vessel had been converted into a U.S. Army transport ship (USAT) and was crowded to capacity, carrying 902 service men, merchant seamen and civilian workers. In the early morning of Feb. 2, 1943 the Dorchester — one of three ships in a convoy moving steadily across the icy waters off Newfoundland — was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine and began to sink.

Through the pandemonium, four Army chaplains brought hope in despair and light in darkness. Those chaplains were Lt. George L. Fox, Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Lt. John P. Washington and Lt. Clark V. Poling. The four 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.