When the original GI Bill took effect in 1944, it was touted as one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever produced. It had a huge social and economic impact on the nation, and changed millions of lives.
Before World War II, college education for the average American for the most part was unattainable. However by 1947, Veterans accounted for 49 percent of college admissions. When the original GI Bill ended on July 25, 1956, 7.8 million of 16 million World War II Veterans had participated in an education or training program.
Pennsylvania native Thomas J. Glessner was one of the millions of Veterans who took advantage of these benefits.
Glessner enlisted in the Navy on April 18, 1944.
“I just asked the gentleman at the front desk to put me near airplanes, which was what he did,” Glessner said.
After being discharged in June 1946, Glessner felt driven to get a college education. Using his GI Bill, Glessner enrolled in extension courses at Penn State College to study Building Construction Lessons – a five year program. It was the first time the program was offered to the public.
“Twenty-three guys signed up for the program and half way through, guys were quitting,” said Glessner. Eventually, he was the only one left in the program.
“For two and a half years, I was with a teacher every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. – only me and the teacher in a big