IT SEEMS APPROPRIATE that when death came for Gen. Lewis B. Hershey it found him on the out-skirts of a college campus. For it was in dealing with youth - wave after wave of young men as they reached that critical status called the "draft age" - that Gen. Hershey became a national figure. The agency he helped plan in the '30s and over which he presided in the '40s, '50s, '60s supervised the induction of more than 14,500,000 of those young men into the armed forces. His names and his policies were as well known to two generations of college students, high-school students and young workers as those of any other government official.

The reputation that Gen. Hershey generated during those long years of government service was mixed. None could fairly doubt his patriotism and honesty, and those characteristics were essential in the man who gave the Selective Service System its credibility. But as the years went on and the kinds of wars this country fought changed, this was not enough. Gen. Hershey's profoundly held belief that young men should willingly and eagerly respond when their country calls them to the colors stood him in good stead in World War II. But that same belief left him somewhat baffled during the Korean War and especially during the Vietnam War. He never quite seemed to understand that patriotism could lead on to question, as well as to flight, a particular war. And his lack of understanding generated those statements and changes in the draft regulations that made him the focus of many anti-war protests.

Throughout it all, Gen. Hershey went on just the same: tough, thick-skinned, blunt and outspoken. But it is important to remember that when it was over, he had left behind a system that, despite its troubles with policy questions from time to time, had shown how to administer a military draft openly and fairly. That, given the experiences of other draft systems in other times and other places, was no small accomplishment.