Post by Jared Dauenhauer, assistant director of student leadership & engagement
One of my favorite places on campus is the Carl Grant Events Center. It houses one of the best places I’ve found to meditate and reflect, Heritage Center. Most of us at Union may take a glance or two at this place, and I believe many of us, myself included, have failed to recognize its significance.
Heritage Center contains a visual timeline that spans three walls and almost 200 years of Union University history. I look at the faces and think of the stories of a time past at Union. When I look at the faces of past leaders and past students, I’m instantly reminded of a scene from one of my favorites movies: Dead Poet’s Society. In this scene, Mr. Keating has his students look to the students of the past and try to understand their legacy.
It is incredibly important to remember the past and the legacy that has been passed down to us. It makes us think about what legacy we will pass down. It’s the same question I ask myself when I visit the halls and annals of Union’s storied past. When I look at that timeline, I wonder what keeps us going? What is so important that we must continue to keep our doors open to generation after generation of students? Why have we rebuilt from fires, wars and tornadoes? What legacy or what story is really being told here?
Recently I sat down with students and staff members to answer these questions. Together we poured through old newspapers, yearbooks and documents trying to ultimately determine what legacy is being whispered to us. As in that scene you just watched, I believe there came about a moment in each of our journeys that we leaned into our past and heard: “Lest We Forget.” In research of this phrase we found homages to old poems and many wartime references to soldiers that had fallen in wars. While the phrase does not find it roots in our direct past, Union has certainly adopted it.
Unfortunately, we do the very thing that this phrase tells us not to do. We forget that the legacy Union plays a role in didn’t start in 1823 with the creation of the Jackson Male Academy. We fail to see the timeline that stretches beyond our almost 200-year history. Union’s story has always been the story of God’s faithfulness through Christ. Yes, there have been many faithful men and women in the legacy of Union, but they want us to look at the faithfulness of God as seen through our institution. They want us to see God’s work here, God’s faithfulness that was in place before Union University existed.
The thing about stories and legacies is that they are forgotten when they are not frequently read or expressed. Inspired by this reflection on Union’s past, an event was born that is to be held at the beginning of every academic year. What did we call it? You guessed it… Lest We Forget.
During this new tradition, we practice, we remember and we set ourselves up to continue to remember what the Lord has done for us. The details of this tradition are for those who have the honor of ever being a Unionite, but the message is for everyone reading this post. When we look to Union, when we look to our past and look to our future, we see the hands of God pointing us to Christ. As members of this institution we join in Union’s legacy and in the greater story propelled by our Creator, and we tell it to the world. When we forget, as we are apt to do, we see the loving words of our Lord echoing, whispering through the men and women who came before us, saying “Lest We Forget.”