The words “Petit Jean” have carried significant meaning for me since I was a little girl. When the park rangers at Petit Jean State Park know the names of your beagles, you know you spend a lot of time there.
In 1924, the Petit Jean yearbook was created to carry the factual history and preserve the memories of what it is like to be at Harding. Named for the mountain that stands near Harding’s original campus in Morrilton, Arkansas, the words “Petit Jean” carry significant meaning for Harding as well.
When I joined staff as a quiet freshman journalism major in 2015, I was overwhelmed by the gravity of the job that fell upon me. Now, four years later as the editor-in-chief of the publication, I carry the weight of this job with the help of my staff of 19 people with pride and caution, striving to live up to the esteem held by this publication.
In the midst of a media landscape that is losing printed yearbooks every year, we at Harding can proudly say that we have now created the 95th Petit Jean yearbook, and this is not something we take lightly.
A yearbook exists to record the history of the university, to preserve the memories of the students who walked the halls of this campus and to celebrate a year that had a lasting impact on our lives.
On Distribution Day, most students will flip past the pages that we spent the past nine months creating directly to the index to find where they are pictured in the book. It only hurts a little, but it’s OK. We get it. Yearbooks mean something different to students who create them than they do to students who get to enjoy them at the end of the year.
This year, I encourage you to stop and look at the stories and ideas recorded in this book that encapsulate this year at Harding. You might think right now that your fondest memories of Harding will be of campus-wide events like Homecoming, concerts, Spring Sing, speakers and candlelight vigils, but I am willing to bet that after you are separated from this place, the seemingly insignificant memories of late-night talks in your dorm room, picnics on the Front Lawn and your daily path across campus interacting with people will carry just as much, if not more sentiment as you look back.
Whether you are turning the pages of this book on Distribution Day this Thursday or in 50 years, I hope that the pages carry a value that will increase as time passes.
Our stories have become intertwined with each other this year. Our stories have become intertwined with Harding University.
Petit Jean will always be a part of who I am, and the Petit Jean yearbook will always carry a part of you that you found while you were at Harding.
I hope you will join us this Thursday, May 2, in chapel and on the Front Lawn for Distribution Day, the day we can share this book and its theme with you at last.