There is a cry of woe that can be heard across America sometime around June every year, and the words are always the same. “What should I give as a graduation gift?” The panic begins when you receive the graduation announcement and the dilemma compounds over time. Even at graduation day, you may still have doubts about the gift you have chosen for this momentous occasion.
Graduation giving leaves a majority of people totally stymied. In earlier times, the gift of choice was usually a pen, but surely that is now replaced by a computer or other new communication technology like a Blackberry, an iPhone or a Droid. The question is how many Droids can a newly released, just-out-of-school- graduate (now considered an adult) carry around?
Even before the graduation ceremony, memories of good old school days are already beginning to foment in the mind of your graduate-to-be. So, the secret to giving a fantastic gift of memories is simply to identify the characteristics that distinguish the graduate’s school or community from everywhere else in America.
If you can adopt this formula, your graduate will always be saying, “Thanks for the memory.” The formula goes like this: Geographic Features + Area History + School History = Perfect Graduation Gift.
What is Different about Your Graduate’s Town or School?
Most schools boast their own spectacular and sometimes peculiar geographic landmarks and historical features. For instance, Lexington, Virginia is a small town nestled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where there are two universities and a lot of history. Washington and Lee University (W&L) and Virginia Military Institute (VMI) are both renowned for their educational opportunities and charming for their colorful beginnings. With its real-life tales of heroes like George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and George C. Marshall, the town of Lexington, itself, offers a great guide to finding the perfect graduation gift.
A Town with a History of Heroes
Washington and Lee University began as the Augusta Academy in 1749 and was later (in 1796) endowed with a grant from George Washington, himself. In gratitude, the school was than named Washington Academy and later changed again to Washington College. After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee became President and when he died, the institution was renamed Washington and Lee University. W&L’s motto is Non incautus futuri, meaning “Not unmindful of the future,” an adaptation of the Lee family motto. Washington and Lee University has its own book shop and gift center, but there are gift shops in Lexington and online resources where you can find great ideas for W&L related gifts.
Founded in 1839, the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) remains the oldest state supported military college offering its cadets a military, disciplinary lifestyle. Prior to the American Civil War, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was a professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy there. On 14 different occasions in the midst of the Civil War, VMI cadets were called into active military duty, including serving at the Battle of New Market in 1864. As the result of the even later World War II, General George C. Marshall, VMI graduate, was the only career military officer ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Think of the unusual gifts you can find based on the history of these two institutions and their prestigious alumni.
Characteristics Formula Yields Gift Ideas
Based on the geographic location and the history of Lexington, Virginia and its educational institutions, here is a list of actual available graduation gifts -“cool” gifts” guaranteed to be saved for the memories:
- Engraved Virginia Pewter Cups
- W&L Bistro Etched Wine Glasses
- VMI Bistro Etched Wine Glasses
- Robert E. Lee Bust for Desk or Library
- W&L Brass Trivet
- George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior
- George Washington Bust for Desk or Library
- Etched Pewter Bracelet with Virginia’s State Flower (the dogwood) -handmade by expert craftsmen in Williamsburg, Virginia.
- VMI Panorama
- Stonewall Jackson Bust for Desk or Library
- Handmade VMI Cadet Nutcracker
- Handmade George Washington Nutcracker
- Handmade Robert E. Lee Nutcracker
– Personalized, engraved gifts are often the most welcome because they commemorate the special occasion with pertinent details. A Virginia pewter cup not only celebrates the graduation, but recalls the cup’s historical origins, and of course, the state where the grad was a student.
– a book written by our first President at the age of 14. “Labour to keep alive in your breast that little celestial fire called conscience,” said Washington – one of his 110 fascinating rules to live by.
– a framed, 360 degree sepia toned, panoramic photograph showing the drill field at the heart of the VMI campus. Matted and framed in brushed bronze, signed and numbered by the artist
This is only a partial list of special gifts you can find after some fairly quick research. Look for the unique characteristics of the city or town where your graduate attends school, the history of the school itself, and the things that make the location different. Local gift shops, museums, and the school stores, then become the ultimate resources for your search – and, as they say, “the rest is easy!”
As with all fledgling adults, the graduates of today’s high schools, colleges and universities are only just taking their first baby steps into a world full of harsh realities and challenges. Life’s pot holes are the problems and pitfalls they face on the way up from the safe zone of a protected school environment. Ahead is a headier atmosphere of unknown joys and sorrows and it is more important than any of us can know to hold onto reminders of the halcyon days of youth.