|Name Tag Tells More About Stephen Pierce Than Just What to Call Him
September 04, 2008
Contact: Bill Giduz
Members of this year's Class of 2012 were encouraged to wear their name tags throughout their four-day Orientation. Stephen Pierce, now a junior, did the same thing during his first days as a Davidson student in August 2006. But unlike everyone else, when Orientation ended Pierce never took his name tag off!
|Pierce had a close call last summer in England when the tag was lifted from its holder by a high wind and almost slid over the white cliffs of Dover before he could retrieve it. |
"I don't know why, but I left it on that first day of class after Orientation," he recalled. "Maybe it was so professors would get to know my name. Then as a joke when a friend asked about it I opened my big mouth and told him I planned to wear it all four years. That got around and now I can't not wear it."
"If people hadn't held me accountable, I probably would have stopped long ago," he admitted. "But I get a lot of encouragement now and that helps me keep going."
Although it began as a lark, the small printed card Pierce still wears every day on campus does represent something about him. "I like name tags," he said. "It's always good to say someone's name when you meet them. It makes them feel welcome, a little closer to you, and more important."
Professor of Communication Studies Kathie Turner agreed. "Names are so important in inviting interaction," she said. "From a communication studies perspective, he's inviting people to meet him. It's an extension of the Davidson culture of greeting everyone you pass. He's taking it a step further by saying, 'It's OK if you don't know me, my name's Stephen and I want to get to know you.'"
In most ways, Pierce is just another exemplary Davidson student. An English major, he chairs the Student Government Association athletics committee, and serves as president of the club-level baseball team. He's also a hall counselor who has earned the admiration of his co-counselor, Wes Calton '10. "I've known Stephen since we were on the same hall freshman year, and I don't think he's missed a day yet," said Calton. "But the name tag is just the surface of his uniqueness."
That's not to say that Pierce is unique in a fanatical way. He doesn't belong to a secret society of name tag wearers, and isn't trying to lead a movement in that direction. The habit hasn't even rubbed off on either Calton or their first-year charges on fourth floor Richardson. "I could never compare to his dedication, so I don't even try!" chuckled Calton.
"I think of it as sort of a courtesy," Pierce said. "On the other hand, it also puts more pressure on me to learn other people's names. I've actually worked hard at that."
That's a good thing, Professor Turner added. "One of the challenges at Davidson is that it's small enough that we feel like we should know everyone's name. But a lot of times you greet someone whose face is familiar and haven't the foggiest idea of the name. Stephen is overcoming that awkwardness by displaying his name to everyone."
Pierce believes his name tag supports community spirit on campus, and he appreciates the recognition it brings him.
Yes, he tells questioners, the slightly yellowing tag is the original one he received, though he has been through a couple of plastic holders. When people ask if they can learn anything about him from the tag, he admits that only the name is still relevant. Its record that he was in Orientation Group D, Section 022, which met in Chambers 3198 to discuss the Orientation common book "Dignity of Difference," doesn't mean much any more.
Pierce observes a certain name tag etiquette, wearing it high on his shirt on the right side so it will be easily seen when he shakes hands. He wore it on his suit at an eating house formal, and wore it throughout his participation last summer in Davidson's six-week summer study program in Cambridge, England. "People just thought I was a tourist," he observed. "Which I guess I really was...."
He doesn't wear it when he's exercising, or away from campus on break or while sleeping. In fact, he now hides it at night. That's because one night someone snuck into his room while he was asleep and wrote something on the back of it. "I realized then it could become the target of a scavenger hunt or something," he said.
On its face, it's just another name tag. But there is one secret about Pierce's name tag that few people know. There's actually a second name tag concealed in the holder behind his Orientation name tag! A female friend who knows him not as Stephen but as "Jimmy" (his first name is James), hand lettered and decorated a "Jimmy" name tag for him to wear on occasions when he wants to display an alter ego. "If I'm feeling goofy I'll wear it," he said. "But it's not often. It really surprises people who see it. They say, 'Wait! Where's your real name tag?!'"
|The hand-made tag he wears behind the official Orientation tag was created by a fellow student. |
Where is all of this leading? Pierce frequently contemplates Commencement day 2010. He knows what he'll wear - a mortarboard on his head and a gown with the name tag attached. He's just unsure of what he'll do once he has his diploma in hand. "Should I take it off and wave it around?" he pondered. "People say I should frame it, or maybe I'll give it to the Davidson College archives. I won't wear it after that, but I definitely won't throw it away."
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
Posted By: Bill Giduz