What does history mean

While it is interesting to acknowledge a milestone in the life of an organization or business, is there any practical significance?

Michigan State University Extension is celebrating 100 years in Ogemaw County. The local paper reported recently that Rosebrugh Dairy of West Branch is likewise a century old. In addition, St. Joseph Catholic School in West Branch also celebrated its centennial this year. What a year 1917 was in Ogemaw County! But, some may ask to all of these, “so what?”

What does it matter to me or to anyone today that these organizations or businesses started 100 years ago in Ogemaw County? Is the recognition of their history just about them feeling good or does it have any practical implications?

I believe the answer is that there are a number of benefits that come as a result of longevity. They may vary based on the nature of the organization, but there are common threads through them all.

  1. Experience: Maturity, whether in people or in organizations, brings wisdom that is honed by working in an environment over years. Over those years, many changes are experienced; adjustments and adaptations have to be made to respond to those changes, all the while keeping in focus the mission of the organization. The experience of adapting, changing in methods and outputs, while remaining the same in mission equips that organization to help others through the changes that are coming at a faster pace all the time.
  2. Expertise: Each day is a new opportunity to learn. In the case of Michigan State University, research builds upon research. Evaluating regularly what works well and what needs to change develops the capacity to be more effective in the future. Knowledge is gained to be shared, but more importantly, wisdom is developed to understand how best to apply knowledge in ways that fit and work better. That expertise also helps determine what is most important. Working on what is most important achieves more than working on many less important things.
  3. Relationships: It is often said that who you know is important in life and business. Linking people together, helping people work together are both benefits that result from longevity in the community. Just in my time of employment, I have worked with two and even three generations of farmers. The ability to relate to each generation and understand their different needs and goals helps to improve the success in what they want to accomplish.
  4. Legacy: Like others who have reached that centennial mark, there is a legacy that Michigan State University Extension is built upon. We have a history of impact in the community and on its families and businesses. We have a reputation developed over years of selfless service. It is a legacy to live up to and it is a legacy to build upon.

One hundred years is longer than most lifetimes. There are few who were alive when the first County Extension Agent started taking calls, visiting farms and helping people. However, 100 years is really a relatively short period.

Recently, I had the privilege of visiting Strasbourg, France and the great Strasbourg Cathedral. Building on the Cathedral began in 1015, over 1000 years ago! I’ve also had the blessing of walking on the Great Wall of China, a structure that dates back thousands of years. Relative to these, a centennial celebration is only a youth’s birthday.

The difference is that these are structures, rather than organizations or businesses. Structures are static (or degrade if not maintained), but organizations are alive because they are ultimately about people. That which is important endures. Endurance refines and brings growth.

As you think about the centennial of Michigan State University Extension in Ogemaw County, recognize that you can benefit from the experience, expertise, relationships and legacy of this educational organization, and celebrate with us!

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