Robert Alvey Newton—Close to Home

The “Golden Book” honors members of the Indiana University community who served in wartime.

I received an unexpected email from Robert Newton of Hillsboro, Oregon, on
June 16, 2008.

He wrote, “My uncle by the same name was in Camp 59.”

In a second note that day, he added, “By the way, my uncle was from Logansport, Indiana, and attended IU before he was drafted and trained at Fort Knox.”

From my office window I can see the the tall limestone gates that mark the main entrance to Indiana University. Just beyond is the “Historic Crescent” group of early IU buildings Robert would have known as a student when he attended here in 1938–40.

During my 30 years at Indiana University I have walked daily over the paths he would have traveled as a student. I am very familiar with buildings where he attended classes.

I’ve learned through University Archives that Robert’s presence here is documented in yearbooks.

I like to imagine the excitement he felt on coming to college—an opportunity few young men and women had in the late ’30s. But, I am saddened to think how Robert’s education was interrupted by war and that he never returned to school and the full life that he might have led.

In the Indiana Memorial Union there is a room called the Memorial Room.

It is a chapel of sorts, with centuries-old stained glass windows from Europe and an elaborately carved wooden mantel that supports a large, open book—the “Golden Book.” The volume contains the names of “sons and daughters of Indiana University” who served in the nation’s wars.

The room is dedicated to “remembering that the cataclysm of war has entered into the lives of many members of this University.”

Last week I asked that the book be turned to the page that bears Robert’s name.

The names around Robert’s are those of other men who were killed in action during WWII—in Normandy, Germany, the Pacific, and other battlefields.

The inscription for Robert reads:

Newton, Robert Alvey
Ex 1944
U.S.A. Tank Corps
Killed in Action in Italy, March 9, 1944.

Robert is long gone, and yet here is a reminder that he was once a student—young and hopeful. And here he will ever be remembered as a son of Indiana University.