Like a great many others, the walls of my office in the Liberal Arts North Building on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus are decorated with plaques, certificates, and other flotsam of a life involved with professional and civic organizations. They are there because I don’t know that else to do with them.
What DOES one do with such? Mostly, when you receive them, someone is thanking you for serving on some board or in an elective office and the plaque or certificate is evidence that the job is completed. You hang it there pridefully; hoping visitors will take notice of your previous achievements and importance. For a while, a few might comment, if the plaque is unusual, or what it commemorates is of sufficient significance. After that, they just gather dust, take up space.
Viewed altogether, one can track a career through them. Here are a couple that testify to my service for the Nacogdoches County Rodeo, sponsored by the Jaycees. These bring back good memories of a little work and a lot of watching budding community leaders take hold and run a major enterprise.
This one says that I helped give away a good deal of grant money during my tenure with the Texas Committee For The Humanities; here is a medal that my mother had sufficient influence with the UDC to convince them to give me the Jefferson Davis Award became I came to Lake Charles to sing Civil War songs for her chapter; and here’s another that proves that the Sons of the Republic of Texas let me be an “honorary” member even though my ancestors weren’t native Texans.
On another wall there are a couple of certificates from the Texas Historical Commission that say I am a pretty fine fellow, and two from other historical organizations that say I am indeed one of their Fellows, whether a “fine” one or not; I have two plaques with gavels on them—one from Rotary and the other from the Booster Club—certifying that I took my turn presiding when it came up.
A couple dealing with state agency appointments have signatures of governors on them –even though I didn’t vote for either one of them.
The latest addition is a bas relief—of me—prepared by noted sculptor Paula Devereaux Kurth and presented to me by members of the East Texas Historical Association. I know this is narcissistic, but that one is my favorite, because of the source. But when they make me leave here, what in the world am I going to do with all the rest of this splendid wood?
Archie P. McDonald was a professor of history and Community Liaison at Stephen F. Austin State University. His commentaries were also featured each Friday morning on Red River Radio.