When we created Nittany Valley Press and began working on cultural conservation projects in Central Pennsylvania, our small group of founding friends agreed that we would seek to first be real and better friends with one another, rather than focus on programming. We would think of our shared work in terms of its potential to change one person’s perspective rather than mass perspective. We would foster a spirit of fraternity amongst the board and the community that made the community feel like a more special, even magical place to visit and live.
This explains why we created Nittany Valley Press to release a special literary collection about the myths, history, and culture of the community—to help people think differently about the place. It explains why we hosted The Willow Gathering as a once-a-year occasion to bring people together from across the community—students, townspeople, professors, trustees, alumni—in a context where they could come to know one another over craft beer or fine music rather than within the context of the typical stilted cocktail party focused on only one purpose of constituency.
Another mentality-shift was attempting to recover the value of pageantry to make life a bit more magical. What is pageantry? “A formal event performed on a special occasion;” or “a rich and spectacular ceremony.”
It was with pageantry in mind that our group presented one of our friends with the University Chair in the photo above. It was a small way to thank him and his wife for the countless hours they have put into serving as de facto leader of our shared efforts. On a higher level, it was a way to infuse a bit of pageantry into our friendships.
Let me try to explain what I mean. A simple toast to Chris or a quick shot at the bar after the board meeting in thanks would have been a vanishing sort of thanks. A great gesture, but not particularly special or lasting.
Not something that could take on historical meaning for him or his family. Not something that can be pass into the future. Friends need things worth passing along—not just memories, but physical things that have real value.
In this way, an act of pageantry becomes more than a fleeting thing, but takes on a more lasting character.