Small Town Americana – Great People and a tribute to Matt Young

Small Town Americana – Great People and a tribute to Matt Young

October 22, 2021

Soon after I arrived at Lincoln College in the summer of 2015, I decided that I would attempt to bring some prior academic traditions from my past experiences to this amazing campus. One of those traditions was my desire to have a mace. The tradition of a collegiate mace is taken from medieval times in England, when it was held by a bodyguard for dignitaries at ceremonial functions. Ceremonial maces are used by governing bodies worldwide, including the U.S. House of Representatives and the British Parliament. In collegiate settings, they are typically carried in formal academic ceremonies by the longest serving faculty member. After some initial research by my Assistant Amy Gallagher, we found out that they’re cost prohibitive for us to afford with prices between $5,000-$10,000.


Amy suggested that I meet with her Uncle Matt Young, as he might be able to get one made. With the expensive mace catalog in hand, and a rookie president in suit and tie, we met Matt at the Alley-Bi, where I came to learn a lot of business is conducted in Lincoln. Over the course of the next half hour, I explained what I was looking for, and Matt and I busted each other’s chops numerous times. I would say that we hit it off immediately. Matt suggested that he would kick things around with his good friend Eric Morris and get back to me.


Our next meeting occurred at Eric’s excellent woodshop where we shared a few beers, stories, saw all of the wonderful projects being created, more chop busting, and the direction they were thinking in crafting the mace. They had already carefully selected two special types of wood: Purpleheart (Lincoln College color) and Padauk, and I had hoped that we could incorporate the college’s seal. That evening we had challenging negotiations over what their craftsmanship was going to cost me. They wanted to do this for free as an honor to Lincoln College, but I was adamant on paying them something. Finally, we agreed on two cases of beer!


I was very excited as I arrived to Eric’s shop for the big day of the reveal. Matt had built up my excitement over the course of a month with tantalizing text messages. As Matt had me turn around for the presentation, I was very excited in anticipation having already ‘paid’ them. To my horror and disbelief, there on the workbench was not anything close to what I was hoping for! With great pride, Matt began his presentation while beaming ear to ear with a grand glowing smile. He pointed out the purpleheart and patauk wood, the college seal that rotated no less, the spring loaded ‘bobble Lincoln top hat’ embedded with five Lincoln pennies, and that the shaft was actually two ‘borrowed’ pool cues from the Alley-Bi. I attempted my best smile while I said something to the effect of ‘well, well, well, isn’t that something!’ Dealing with college students and discipline, donors, board members, and community members over the course of my long career in Higher Education had prepared me for just about anything. I, however, was speechless! Time slowed down, and the next few minutes felt like an eternity. Matt allowed my uncomfortable feeling to linger as long as he could.


Then Eric pulled out this most amazing creation. Standing almost 4-foot-tall and weighing 6 lbs. was this beautifully turned masterpiece leaning in its stand. It had four imbedded Lincoln College commemorative centennial medallions at the top with two displaying President Lincoln, and the other two exposing the college seal. You could see the patauk inlay surrounded by the purpleheart wood in this beautiful lathe turned mace. I was again speechless, but this time thrilled, proud, and blown away. They pulled a fast one on this rookie president, and I felt honored that they would both play such a wonderful prank, and also create such a beautiful and historic piece for the college. I chuckled that evening thinking about the fun time they must have had while Eric worked on the mace, and Matt invented new features for the faux mace while scheming as to how he was going to trick me into thinking that his creation was the real McCoy.       


Their prank was too good not to reuse, and boy did I ever get the mileage out of it. My first victim was my wife Lisa that evening. Although my dramatic presentation of the faux mace got better over time, it was never as good as Matt’s. Lisa fell for it as I even asked her opinion as to what I should tell Matt’s niece, my Assistant Amy Gallagher. Lisa was adamant that I could not use that in any formal academic setting. Amy’s turn was the next day, when I called her and asked her how well she knew her Uncle Matt, and asked her to come over to the president’s house to see their creation. She was equally speechless as I shared the rich features of the faux mace. She couldn’t figure how they got things so wrong. Next came all of the faculty at their appreciation dinner, and finally the entire Board of Trustees. Matt’s prank worked every time and everyone was ultimately blown away by the real mace.

A month or so after presenting the mace to me, Matt gave me a homemade frame made from that same purpleheart and patauk wood with a picture of Eric, Matt and myself with the two maces. On the back the frame it said, “Matt Young Designer-Craftman, Dave Gerlach L.C. Prez., Eric Morris BUM, Presentation of Maces Spring 17.” I will cherish this framed picture the rest of my life.


 I didn’t get to know Matt Young very well before he passed on September 29. I spent a few quality evenings with them over at Eric’s shop, and appreciated every moment of my time with him there, at the Alley-Bi, or via text messages. He was a real, caring, down to earth kind of guy who could joke around with anyone. After a health scare in May of 2020, Matt made me a cross from that same wood that I use every day as a part of morning devotionals, which has even more meaning for me since his passing. To all his family and friends who knew him, I am sorry for your loss. As a Lincoln treasure, rest in peace Matt. You are missed by many.  


Dave Gerlach, PhD

President of Lincoln College