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Secretary Partin Passes On the Pen

M. Partin
Malcolm Partin signs the final batch of diplomas in time for Commencement.
One of the distinctions for members of the Class of 2000 is the signature on their diplomas. As they received them Sunday, May 21, theirs were the final ones bearing the signature of "scriba" Malcolm Partin. This longstanding professor of history hand-signed 24 years of diplomas since 1976 (8,500 in all!) in accordance with his position as longtime secretary of the faculty.

In addition to his annual hand cramp at Commencement time, Partin has become revered by peers for his erudition and wit in recording minutes at monthly faculty meetings (192 in all!).

In fact, his recent retirement from the secretariat was deemed so significant as to be recognized as a "Davidson History Moment" by faculty members.

Though minutes of the meetings are not open to the public, several examples of Partin's unique style were revealed in his retirement commendation, providing insight into why his service was valued so highly. To wit, Partin wrote on one occasion, "The ensuing discussion was lengthy and thorough, and the faculty's appetite for dialectics, whetted by a large number of brief meetings lacking in significant or controversial business, was sated."

Partin said the main reason he kept the post for longer than anyone in college history except for Ernest Beaty (27 years), was that he "couldn't give it away." He explained, "Inertia is a powerful force, and after I did it three or four years I became resolved to my fate."

The secret to his success was not so much his style of expression, but the fact that he learned early on not to attribute comments to individuals, unless someone made a formal motion. "Concerning the proceedings of faculty meetings... the vaguer, the better!" he said.

Partin took over the job from departmental colleague Alec McGeachy, and passes it on now to another historian, Professor Russell Snapp. "It appears to have become the departmental bane," he said. "I guess the faculty assumes that we historians have a good sense of these things."

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