Grantham University Rallies to Honor G.I. Bill Author Harry W. Colmery

On its 70th anniversary, Grantham University leads campaign to posthumously recognize "father of the G.I. Bill" Harry W. Colmery with Presidential Medal of Freedom Award

Jul 28, 2014, 13:52 ET from Grantham University

LENEXA, Kan., July 28, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It's been heralded as one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever produced by the federal government. Since it was first signed into law in 1944, the G.I. Bill of Rights has provided millions of veterans and dependents education and training programs. Now Grantham University, an accredited online university serving working adults around the world, is on a mission to ensure that the bill's principal architect receives the posthumous recognition he so rightly deserves.

Seventy years ago, Topeka attorney and World War I veteran Harry W. Colmery wrote the first draft of the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944, more popularly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. Colmery was a tireless advocate for veterans his whole life, serving in leadership positions with the American Legion at the local, state and national levels. Writing the bill in longhand at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., Colmery was determined to help WW II veterans avoid the desperate unemployment and poverty that his fellow World War I veterans faced when returning home. On June 22, 1944, he was honored to witness President Franklin D. Roosevelt sign the bill into law. The bill helped millions of veterans pursue higher education with tuition, books and living expenses for enrolled students, purchase their first homes and successfully readjust to life in the civilian world.

This month, Grantham University is launching a grassroots campaign to nominate Colmery for the nation's highest civilian honor – the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award. With enough support, Grantham hopes that Congress and the White House will recognize Colmery's significant contribution that assisted generations of veterans, their families and ultimately the economy of the United States.

The comprehensive campaign includes an informational website with tools to support a letter-writing campaign and social media, videos, mailings, grassroots speaking engagements and public relations efforts.

"With more than two million veterans preparing to enter the civilian workforce following the draw down from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Free, the G.I. Bill and its benefits are as crucial now to the success of our veterans and our country as it has ever been," said Joseph McGrath, president of Grantham University. "For his life-changing work, Grantham University urges everyone to join our efforts to honor Mr. Colmery's memory with this distinguished award."

Today the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian award; however initially it was conceived by President Truman in 1945 to recognize notable service in the war. In 1963, President Kennedy reintroduced it as an honor for distinguished civilian service in peacetime. Past recipients include Arthur Ashe, Jr., the tennis professional in 1993; General Colin Powell, solider in 1993; Robert Dole, public servant in 1997; Rosa Parks, civil-rights leader in 1996; Maya Angelou, poet 2011 and many others.  The medal has been presented to more than 500 individuals who have made especially "meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Supporters can engage at the campaign's online information hub at The site's Action Center features tools to learn more, get involved, and spread the word. Elements of the site include:

  • history and background information on Colmery's contributions
  • sample letters and online form to write the White House and elected officials, urging them to gather constituent support for the bill and recommend Harry W. Colmery as a 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient
  • social media features to proliferate the word through social media networks
  • an option for students and individuals who have benefited from the G.I. Bill to share their stories

"This piece of legislation written by Colmery opened the doors of opportunity for veterans. Recipients saw their educational and occupational dreams come true," McGrath said. "In turn, this increased social mobility and enhanced earnings, which strengthened the middle class and the nation's economy. As the platinum anniversary dawns on this momentous piece of legislation, it is the perfect opportunity for Mr. Colmery to finally receive this award that he so rightfully deserves."

Colmery's ties to the State of Kansas run deep. After his service in World War I, he practiced law in Topeka. The Colmery-O'Neil Veterans Administration Hospital in Topeka, Kan., is named for him. His granddaughter, Mina Steen, lives in Mission Hills, Kan. Colmery died in 1979 at age 88.

Grantham University has been meeting the educational needs of service members, veterans and their families for more than 60 years. The University believes every service member, veteran and member of a military family should have the opportunity to pursue a college degree. In honor of those serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, Grantham offers scholarships for active duty military, guard, reserve, veterans and military family members.

References and more information:
About Harry W. Colmery

About the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944 (G.I. Bill)

About the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award

About Grantham University:
Established in 1951, Grantham University specializes in accredited online associate, bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as certificate programs. Grantham's program offerings include: Accounting, Business, Human Resources, Criminal Justice, Computer Science, Cybersecurity Concepts, Engineering Technology, Allied Health, Information Technology, Performance Improvement and Nursing. Accredited since 1961 by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council, Grantham University has a distinguished record as a respected and accredited distance learning university spanning six decades of service to education. The Mark Skousen School of Business at Grantham University has been awarded the status of Candidate for Accreditation by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).

Megan Neher

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SOURCE Grantham University