There seems to be a Maryville event every other week. Although the events are different each time, one thing does remain consistent: the M pins.
Yes, the M pins that are scattered across the room attached to various suits and blazers. Ring any bells? You’ve probably witnessed President Lombardi wearing a red “M” or Dr. Caldwell sporting her rhinestone pin.
Even if you don’t go to many Maryville events, chances are you’ve seen them more than you realize on other faculty and staff members.
The Maryville pins have been around for a while. Some of you might even have some with the old logo. If I do say so myself, old “M” or new “M,” the pins are quirky and fun. Since the logo change, there have been a few more additions to the “M” pin family. Currently, there are 11 “M” pins that are housed in the department of Christine Hollenbeck, director of special events and donor relations. Among these are the Spirit “M,” the Black History Month “M” and the plain “M.”
But there’s more. You can also see pins that coordinate with how many years donors have been giving to the university. They start with 10 years and can go all the way to 35 years. Fay Petick, chief of staff, said, “People have given longer, but our record only goes back 36-37 years.”
Faculty and staff have the opportunity to sport “M” pins made specifically for them. The faculty and staff “M” pins are given to any faculty and staff member that makes a gift to the university. These unique pins are different because they have a little gold star with the year in which donated.
“They like to collect them,” Hollenbeck said.
For a while, there was trouble with mailing the pins out to alumni and other companies. Although the pins are small, when pressed against a package, they can create huge rips and fall out in the mail easily.
Petick enlisted the help of a graphic design alum, Elizabeth Arway with Creative Entourage, to come up with the concept on the “M” box and the design of the words.
“Some of our alums have gotten so excited about receiving this in the mail that they’ve created their own for their own companies,” said Petick. “It definitely has evolved.” The pins have seemingly turned into quite the fashion statement. However, there’s still a level of significance that comes along with them that people might not be aware of.
“This one [you] see, I don’t think they would get it,” said Hollenbeck, pointing to the “M” with a tiny green “W” on it, “But there’s a whole story behind it. It’s for Walker Hall, and his favorite color was green,” Hollenbeck said. “To everyone who knew him it’s a real- I mean just everyone knew it.”
There’s a meaning behind each pin, and “to get that story out there would be really cute,” said Hollenbeck.
According to Hollenbeck, in the near future, time permitting, she hopes for them to write out the story of each pin the person is receiving so that they understand why they’re getting it.
By now, you’re probably asking yourself how does an “M” pin come to be? Well it’s simple. Just like any masterpiece, it starts with an idea. “I’m sort of the pin guru orderer,” said Hollenbeck. “They’ll send me an idea and we’ll send it to my person who will have their artists sort of draw out ideas,” said Hollenbeck. After the idea gets drawn out, it is sent back down and Hollenbeck waits for the “yay” or “nay.”
Once she gets the final okay, it typically takes three weeks to arrive. According to Hollenbeck, from the time of the initial idea to the person actually receiving it in their hands can take at least two months.
The pins are usually housed in Hollenbeck’s department unless they’re ordered specifically for a group. For example, the School of Education wanted apples on theirs, so now they house those pins themselves and give them out as they see fit.
They’ve also been ordered for other special occasions such as the 35-year soccer reunion during Alumni Weekend. “It was well-received,” Hollenbeck said. Now there’s talk about bringing back a whole series of pins with sports.
According to Petick, there are a lot of other factors and logistics they have to think about. “How do you put a lacrosse on an ‘M’ and make it look like what it is?” Hollenbeck asked.
Whether it’s making sure not to order them during big holidays or the St. Louis Blues playoffs, something I found is that timing is everything when it comes to creating new pins. “People were so excited about the Blues, they were willing to wear anything with the Blues on it,” Petick said. It’s no question that the pins are an easy and fun way of getting the new Maryville brand out to the public.
According to Petick, to make meetings a little sweeter, she would poke “M” pins through the advisory boards’ Maryville folders as a token of appreciation for working hard and giving back their time to Maryville.
“It was whatever the newest of seasonal pin was out at the time,” said Petick.
Looking forward there might be some improvements with the pins, well- the back of them. You might have had the problem of your “M,” turning into a “W.” This can be a bit troublesome having to repeatedly turn your pin around, so what Hollenbeck and her team have come up with are little black backings that have a better grip and will stop the pins from spinning. This way people won’t be walking around with “Waryville” instead of “Maryville.”
We might also see efforts to make pins more accessible to students. “Probably something we don’t do well is we give out a lot to donors and VIPs, but we don’t give them out to students often,” Said Hollenbeck. Petick mentioned how the Civil Rights Exhibit was a great experience to give them out to students. “I was sort of tucked away and they couldn’t find me, so that’s when I just started walking around with the ball,” Petick said.
To end the conversation, I asked Hollenbeck and Petick what their favorite pins were. They both agreed that their favorite is the cardinal pin. “Cardinals, definitely,” Hollenbeck said. “It’s our most popular one, plus we do a lot with the Cardinals so it just fits,” Petick said. When it comes to favorites, mine would have to be the rhinestone one. You could light up the room with that bad boy.
Behind the colors and the symbols, hopefully you’ll see the pins more than just a “M,” but a story to be told which each one.