Help us solve the Vietnam Ring Mystery
Last year, in 2011, a woman from Virginia contacted Bob Ferrara in the Office of the Dean for Student Life at MIT. Becky Adams had reached out to Bob because he is also an alumnus who is a class officer for the Class of 1967. " “I have an MIT class ring with initials...returned with my brother's (US Marine) effects in 1968,” she wrote. Her brother, Stephen Adams, had no relationship with MIT. How he came to be in possession of an MIT class ring—a brass rat—is a mystery.
Can you help us return the ring to its rightful owner? We've taken several steps to try to identify the owner, but no clear match has emerged. Watch a video to learn more, and read below to find out some background information.
What we know
We know a number of details from the ring's manufacture and engravings. We also can glean information about when the original owner attended MIT through the story of the soldier who ended up with the ring.
Stephen Adams, PFC
Stephan Hamilton Adams was a private in the United States Marines Corps. He was killed in combat on March 16, 1968, in Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam. His specific unit was H Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, III Marine Amphibious Force.
When his family received his effects from the Marines, they discovered the MIT class ring. According to Becky Adams, she and her other brother (who also served in Vietnam) are unaware of any connection between Stephen and the Institute.
Because Stephen died on March 16 and his tour of duty began only weeks earlier, the ring must pre-date March 1968. But who is the original owner? How did Stephen come into possession of the ring?
About the ring
The ring does not have a date engraved on it. (See photos here.) An expert on MIT class rings analyzed this brass rat and said details of its manufacture indicate that this ring is authentic and was produced in the mid-1960s.
The ring shows little signs of wear, which the expert thought indicated the owner did not have the ring for very long. This could suggest that the ring from someone who was at MIT in the years immediately before 1968.
Hand-engraved inside the band are the initials J.T.M. in stylized script.
One side panel bears “S M,” for the recipient of a Master of Science degree from MIT. This indicates that the ring was for someone who pursued a Master of Science degree at MIT.
Our primary goal is to identify the owner of the ring. If this person is still living, we want to return it to him. (For now, we are assuming the owner was a man and a member of the armed forces.) If this person is no longer living, we want to find his family and return the ring to them.
If this soldier died during his service in Vietnam, we want to acknowledge and honor his sacrifice on the wall of Lobby 10, along with the other MIT alumni recognized for their service to the nation during wartime.