William & Mary

Freshman follows in footsteps of his great-grandfather

  • Back in the Day
    Back in the Day  Armond Caplan at 21-years-old poses for a picture on campus while showing his school spirit in a W&M sweater.  Photo by The Caplan Family
  • Passing the Torch
    Passing the Torch  Caplan is ecstatic that his great-grandson, Ryan, decided to attend W&M.  Photo by The Caplan Family
  • Something to be proud of
    Something to be proud of  Even though 78 years have passed since Caplan graduated from the College, his diploma is still on display in his office. He is very proud that he got an education and graduated while getting through the hard times of the Great Depression.  Photo by Erin Kelly
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Armond Caplan ’33 recently received an extra special gift, one that made him swell up with pride.  Just before celebrating his 99th birthday, he learned that his great-grandson, Ryan Cleland ‘15, will be the first in their family to follow after Caplan and attend his beloved alma mater. 

Armond Caplan's yearbook photo


Cleland was certain he wanted to carry on his great-grandfather’s legacy.  So certain, in fact, that William & Mary was the only college he applied to.   

“My advisors in high school told me William & Mary would be a great fit, and they did not even know the connection I had to the school,” said Cleland.  “I just knew it was the right school for me.  I really like how small it is and I am looking forward to keeping good relations with friends and teachers because of the small size.”

Cleland is no stranger to a small school.  He is a recent graduate and valedictorian of Virginia Beach Friends School, a Quaker high school whose graduating class consisted of 15 students.

Since graduating in May, Cleland has been keeping busy while preparing to start college.  After returning from his high school’s senior trip, he came home to Virginia Beach to work a summer job, spend time with friends and family, and prepare to leave for a vacation to China.  

In the meantime, he is getting his fair share of advice and old college memories from his great-grandfather. 

A lot has changed in the 78 years since Caplan graduated from W&M.  The birth of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel in 1957 will allow his great-grandson to travel home whenever he desires.  “Coming home is good because you get to eat good food!” he laughed.

“I didn’t come home a lot when I was in school,” said Caplan.  “I was from Portsmouth, so to get to Williamsburg I had to take a ferry to Norfolk, then a ferry to Newport News, then a train to Williamsburg. This was before there was a tunnel.  It would take me over three hours to get to school, so it was very difficult to come home.”

While at W&M, Caplan majored in chemistry, was the manager of the basketball team, and  lived in Monroe Hall.

Although Cleland is very excited to follow in his great-grandfathers footsteps, his interests differ when it comes to what he wants to major in.

“I have not declared a major yet, but I love film,” said Cleland.  “I am hoping to find something I can get involved in that deals with film.  I would love to learn about editing and stuff like that.”

Cleland loves hearing all of his great-grandfathers stories, and Caplan loves to tell them.

“I have a lot to tell, and so will Ryan one day,” said Caplan.  “I hope he will live longer than I have.  I’ve been so blessed, and so has my family.”

During his time at W&M, Caplan met the love of his life, Cleland’s great-grandmother, Rose, who was a freshman when he was a junior.  “She was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen,” he glowed. 

Caplan had planned to go to medical school after he completed his degree at William & Mary, but decided to settle down in Norfolk.  “I wanted to be a doctor, but I got married instead,” he laughed.

Cleland is excited to move to Williamsburg and immerse himself in college life. “I am looking forward to sporting events the most,” said Cleland.   As for Caplan, he hopes to come visit more.

“I have not been to Williamsburg since my 75th class reunion in 2008,” said Caplan.  “But I will come more now that my great-grandson will be there.  I love Williamsburg.  I have too many memories there to count.”

Cleland is still waiting to hear which dorm, and roommate, he will be assigned to.

“I came to Williamsburg to visit the campus and we went on a walking tour,” he said.  “We got to tour Barrett Hall, which was unique because that was my great-grandmother’s dorm.”

Cleland, who is one of Caplan’s 16 great-grandchildren, can’t wait to get the school year started. And while he will be missed by his great-grandfather, he will only be a short drive away.

Caplan hopes that his great-grandson will enjoy his time at the College as much as he did.

“Maybe he will meet the love of his life,” Caplan smiled.  “That wouldn’t be bad!  I had a lot of luck there.”