Commemorative Gift

Commemorative Gift

Personal and Memorable Book of Letters


Commemorative Gift

Doug Hale’s Book of Letters – 8.5″ x 14.5″ x 3.”

I recently completed a commission to design a commemorative gift for the Head of School at Mercersburg Academy, Doug Hale. Mark and I served under Doug for 16 of our 23 years at Mercersburg, and it was an honor to be asked to participate in his retirement.

Commemorative Gift

Our last Baccalaureate

Personal and memorable were concepts that drove the design for this Book of Letters along with resurrecting the lost art of letter writing. Each participant wrote a letter celebrating Doug by remembering his career, time at Mercersburg, or personal and family impact by way of poetry, prose, anecdote, image, memory, etc.

Penmanship didn’t matter. It was the personal mark and the message that was important. The letters are confidential and sealed by the writer.

The art of Art

Woodworking, metalsmithing, book arts, paper arts and digital imaging were all involved in making this book. It was constructed with archival materials from campus so that Doug and Peggy could take a piece of Mercersburg with them into their ‘next future.’ Copper yearbook plates from the 1950’s used for the closure and letter opener. The wood for the cover salvaged from the renovation of the barn. (It is 150 years old pre-wormy (before the blight) chestnut, very rare).

Commemorative Gift

The Octet (left)


The accordion binding holds about 75 letters, three in each pocket.

Commemorative Gift

Commemorative Gift

54 sec Demo (no sound)

The visual theme started with the idea to use the window directly across from Doug’s desk; a view that I imagined held his gaze as he worked, contemplated a tough decision, or just day-dreamed.

That led to other Traylor Hall imagery; the couch that ALL of us sat on at one time or another and the desk full of paperwork in progress.

Commemorative Gift

When it comes down to the last few weeks of a person’s tenure and all the busyness that comes with that time, the things that need/want to be said can get lost in events. I wanted these letters to be handwritten and sealed for that reason. I pictured Doug at his beach house with letter opener in hand anticipating the words written with heartfelt contemplation by the many people whose Mercersburg ‘moments’ overlapped with his.


While the book has many physical connections to the school, it is the letters that provide the heart.


Commemorative Gift

page one and campus Chapel window

Commemorative Gift for Doug Hale’s retirement from Mercersburg Academy


‘The book is quite astounding in concept, design, and execution.  When you first opened the book, Kristy, I was marveling at how it looked but was not ready for the individual “envelopes” for the letters and, then, when you expanded the “pages” well, let’s just say that I was speechless.  Fabulous! Roy Fluhrer, Ph.D., Director, The Fine Arts Center, Greenville, SC

‘What a wonderful treasure you have created! I love the magnificent book, each detail so beautifully memorable as well as beautiful, and I love the unopened letters. A deeply personal remembrance, each one. I cannot imagine a finer gift at retirement. Thanks for sharing it. I will long hold it in my memory.’ Barbara Jackson 

‘What an astonishingly beautiful design, and such deft execution! Truly a dream project.’ Congratulations! Bruce Musgrave

‘Thank you for the lovely and thoughtful letter you included in the GORGEOUS Book of Letters presented to me on behalf of the faculty. The book itself is simply beautiful as is the idea supporting the book. The letters therein are extremely touching. I’ve read them all! And laughed a lot. And cried a little. That book will also be among my most prized possessions.’ Doug Hale, Head of School, Mercersburg Academy, Mercersburg, PA


I would like to thank two artisans who helped me execute this commemorative gift. Architect John Yurko, an exceptionally talented woodworker, showed me the mysteries of a router. It was a privilege to watch him work. I learned so much about the tools of the trade. Also, Matthew Campbell, who is a skilled and accomplished jeweler, assisted with cutting and shaping the copper plates to perfection.

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