UHS dedicates portion of library to US presidents

Staff photo by Wm. Shawn Weigel: Historian Walter Eckman joins with Unionville High School librarian Diane Mustin and district superintendent John Sanville at the ribbon cutting of the new Presiential Library secion of the UHS library last Wednesday night.

It’s a celebration of American history from a presidential perspective at Unionville High School’s new Presidential Library.

Last Wednesday night, the district unveiled the new library, which is actually hounsed in a section within the high schools existing library.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was preceded by a presentation by Kennett author and history buff Walter Eckman, who recently completed a book on US presidents called, “Meet the Presidents.”

District superintendent John Sanville said that Eckman originally approached him with the idea last June 14 – appropriately, on Flag Day.

“The idea was to promote the idea of presidents with our students,” Sanville said. “So he’ll be arranging some in-house field trips with the kids, and he’s helped set us up with this library.”

District technologies director and self-confessed history buff Rich Hug said that Eckman was one of the moving factors in putting together not only the library, but the upcoming lecture series on a number of presidents.

“It’s bee a lot of fun,” Hug said of putting the project together. “And we’re honored to have (Eckman) as our first speaker.”

Wednesday night’s lecture featured Eckman on stage at the LGI room at UHS discussing a variety of presidential tidbits – from Teddy Roosevelt’s asthma-ridden youth to Lyndon B. Johnson’s use of his imposing height (6’3) to intimidate people.

He even offered his opinion on Pennsylvania’s one and only contribution to the presidential pool, James Buchannan (the short version: he was lousy).

Eckman, who previous had written a book exploring retirement options for older citizens, said that he first became fascinated with presidents after his father took him to see Harry Truman as a child.

“There’s a certain kind of electricity when you’re in the presence of a president,” Eckman said on Wednesday night. “It’s actually hard to explain.”

Although he was always a history and presidential buff – he’s since seen three other presidents live and in person – Eckman said that he first became interested in the topic for a book when he was looking into where former presidents retired to.

Eckman’s book focuses on several aspects of the lives of each of our 44 presidents, notably where they were born, where they were interred and their libraries – if they exist, that is.

“FDR was actually the first president to commission a library,” Eckman said.

Since then, 12 other presidential libraries have opened their doors, with George W. Bush’s in Dallas, Texas as the latest addition.

In exploring the lives of former presidents, Eckman said that there were no real commonalities between the many different personalities that have occupied the position of Commander in Chief.

“There’s no mold that they fit into,” Eckman said. “People think that presidents all have similar characteristics, and that’s really not true.”

A few common threads he did find among the presidents, however, was a love of country and a love of reading, with many claiming the library in their homes as their favorite place to be.

“They were all readers and loved books,” Eckman said. “When I hear that term, ‘presidential library,’ it fits the office so well.”

Three presidents are currently featured in the UHS Presidential Library – William Henry Harrison, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harry S. Truman – with plans to rotate the displays and to include local presidential artifacts.

Anyone who would like to contribute to the library should call 610-347-0970, ext. 3322, or email at: preslib@ucfsd.org.

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