Letter From the Executive Director: Show and Tell

Since we are playing this game with our cover story—the UT lucky charm/talisman/thing-you-hope-your-spouse-never-throws-away-game—I’d like to present my entry: custom Longhorn memory box, lined with Spanish cedar, assorted contents.

Now, I am not really a memory box guy. I don’t collect anything (apart from the typical family treasures that come with having kids). Generally, when it comes to stuff, I have a one-in-one-out policy. This box was supposed to be a humidor. I wanted something in my office for storing good cigars that showed off my considerable Longhorn pride.

Several years ago, after a long internet search, I found a man in Missouri who could make me exactly what I wanted. Due to some sort of bug infestation and then a minor fire, the item, in all its glory, arrived a year later than expected. In the meantime, my cigars were rotting so I bought a humidor off the shelf. Thus, I had to fill my custom one up with something.

We have moved three times in the past few years, and each time we packed and unpacked I kept coming across UT stuff. I found a cheerful acceptance letter to UT Austin and a strongly worded letter demanding I pay a parking ticket to get my diploma. Into the box they went. I found my old student ID. Several copies of my diploma from the days when you had to send it off with your resume. A semester’s tuition bill for $275. (I got a good laugh, as I’d just paid the bills for my twin daughters’ colleges.) And into the box it all went. The Spanish cedar interior was supposed to be ideal for cigars. I assume it’s good for old papers, too.

By far, the best thing in there is a collage of photographs shot by my old roommate John Truman, from Latch, Texas. Back then I never thought about taking pictures, writing things down, or saving anything. I was focused on graduating and earning a little beer money along the way. But John knew we’d want to remember, and he pointed his fancy camera at us constantly. Thank goodness he did.

When we asked you all to write in and tell us about your favorite UT item—the thing you have carried, worn until it is threadbare, or kept safely cloistered away—the response was overwhelming. Hundreds of alumni told us about their special item, and most importantly, how it came to be. See “Safe Keeping” here.

It’s hard to tell from that stare I’m giving the camera in my college ID, but I was having the time of my life on the Forty Acres. Looking through this box reminded me that at graduation, I told myself I’d get back here someday. I would have never thought it would be by running the alumni association—but man, that’s been the best surprise. One day, my Texas Exes business card will go in here, too.

When we hold these artifacts, they remind us of what matters. The university has given me more than I could have ever imagined it would. And that’s why it gets its own special box.

Hook ’em, 

Chuck Harris
BBA ’86, Life Member
Executive Director, The Texas Exes 

Credit: Matt Wright-Steel


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