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Honoring the Tenth Soldier

A marble engraving at the Berman Museum of Art lists the nine Ursinus students and alumni who died as a result of World War I. One name was missing—until now.

On Friday, May 11, 2018, Ursinus dedicated a plaque in recognition of Merrill Yost (Class of 1915), who died in 1924, one year after the building—then known as the Alumni Memorial Library—opened.

Cpl. Yost served in the 304th Field Signal Battalion of the 79th infantry division of the U.S. Army in France. Born in Collegeville on June 11, 1895, he served in World War I in the battles at St. Mihiel, Verdun and Meuse-Argonne. Yost was wounded on Nov. 6, 1918, in a gas attack and suffered from severe pulmonary problems for the rest of his life as a result of those injuries.

He succumbed to complications from his injuries on Feb. 2, 1924, at the U.S. Veterans Hospital at Rutland, Mass. The new plaque honors Yost’s memory and tells his story as the tenth soldier.

One descendent of Yost, Ellen Matten, and her husband, visited campus for lunch and the dedication event, which featured a champagne toast with members of the Ursinus community and members of the Ursinus Board of Trustees.

“I appreciate what Ursinus has done,” Matten said. “It’s important to recognize all military. I thank you so much.”

The missing name was discovered after some extensive research by Ross Doughty, an Ursinus professor of history who retired earlier this year. A brass plaque bearing the names of the nine Ursinus soldiers is also affixed to a pew in a church in Chateau Thierry in France. The original chapel was destroyed during World War I in 1918 and a new one was built using funds from the Reformed Church Congregations in America and mid-Atlantic colleges, Ursinus among them. James I. Good, a professor of religion at Ursinus, was a major organizer of the effort.

The brass plaque was placed on the newly-built chapel and Doughty was asked to provide information on the “nine valiant soldiers from Ursinus.” While researching them, Doughty discovered that Yost was missing from the engravings because he died after they were created.

The new plaque hangs in the stairwell at the front entrance to the Berman Museum, across from the marble engraving featuring the other nine names.

“Merrill Yost was the son of Ursinus in more ways than one,” Doughty said. “His father, Calvin Yost, Sr., Class of 1891, was a professor and librarian at Ursinus, a position in which he was succeeded by his younger son, Calvin Yost, Jr. ’30. And of all 10 Ursinus men who gave their lives during World War I, Merrill Yost is buried closest to his alma mater—across the street in the Yost family plot of Tritinity United Church of Christ.”

The project was funded by the Hon. Carl V. Buck, III ’84, a member of the Ursinus Board of Trustees. —by Ed Moorhouse