It’s funny how memories of our past can suddenly interrupt our present. I recently picked up an Andes Chocolate Mint from a bowl on a colleague’s desk. The crisp chocolate took me back to my childhood, visiting my grandparents in South Carolina. I loved when we went for oyster roasts. We would sit at a table covered in newspaper, a roll of paper towels and oyster knives ready, and dive into a roasting pan brimming with just-steamed oysters.The adventurous meal always ended with one Andes Mint each, a little foil-wrapped present that somehow perfectly encapsulated the gift of the evening. I hadn’t thought of those oyster roasts in a long time, not until I spotted a bowl full of candy on a colleague’s desk.
Something as simple as a candy can transport us through time and space, summoning memories once thought lost. Confronted with a setting, a smell or a situation, we may suddenly feel quite close to a time long ago. I see this at Carroll when longtime alumni visit campus. The old rooms of Voorhees, the trees on Main Lawn or the sound of bagpipes all may bring to mind classmates and friends, personal adventures and milestone moments. These memories loop the past and present together. We see our lives from a different vantage point, as if standing at an overlook, regarding the view.
Memories make up who we are. Even memories nearly forgotten leave their imprint on our brains, their resonance in our hearts. Communities and organizations are shaped by memories too. Our shared history leads to our present, and those who have lived through significant portions of that history bear a very particular kind of wisdom. They are our memory, the caretakers of our collective story.
Carroll University recently lost one such caretaker, P.E. McAllister '40. His journey with Carroll spanned decades. He knew Carroll as a student, an alumnus, a trustee, a friend, and, at times, even a critic. He passed on his memories in board meetings and stories and in letters written on an old typewriter. I received one such letter about our Presbyterian heritage when I arrived at Carroll a few years ago. From his vantage point, P.E. could see things from a view that few could, and from the overlook, he understood the bones of our institutions with a particular clarity. As our memory, P.E. could see how the last 80 years of our story wove together, and from that place of wisdom, he helped to steward our mission and identity.
Let us give thanks for memories: for the memories that shape who we are as individuals and as a community. Let us give thanks for P.E. McAllister and the many who have shepherded Carroll’s story through the years. Such precious memories—and those who have carried them—will never be forgotten.