The art of writing ‘thank you’ notes lives on with retired Huston-Tillotson professor

Dr. Marian Marshall, a former professor at Huston-Tillotson University, volunteers teaching students how to write “thank you” notes to scholarship donors. She said it is a fading tradition among students because of technology. (KXAN Photo)
Dr. Marian Marshall, a former professor at Huston-Tillotson University, volunteers teaching students how to write “thank you” notes to scholarship donors. She said it is a fading tradition among students because of technology. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A volunteer historian at Huston-Tillotson University has a storied past with the school. She was once a professor there who now teaches students the fading tradition of handwriting “thank you” notes.

Dr. Marian Marshall’s mother was once a Home Economics professor at the university in the 1940s and 1950s. Her mother expected good etiquette.

“My mother had rules and regulations and they weren’t optional,” said Marshall, who graduated from HT in 1957.

One of those rules was crafting the perfect “thank you” letter.

“When it’s handwritten, it says you’ve taken the time to connect with me,” she said. “For instance, when they started doing electronic greeting cards, if I received one I’d just delete it. Because it showed no concern and it said that you weren’t interested in me.”

Now, a retired HT professor herself, Marshall has taken on a task her mother would approve. She volunteers to teach students how to craft the perfect “thank you” note to scholarship donors. Marshall relaxes the rules a bit, allowing students to send them electronically.

“They aren’t hand-written because many of them don’t know cursive,” she said of her students.

Huston-Tillotson has a little more than 1,100 students. The university has given slightly more than $2 million in scholarships this academic school year, said Ambrose M. Price, Huston-Tillotson’s default prevention/financial literacy counselor.

Marshall said there is one rule she will not overlook.

“You have to acknowledge the gift,” Marshall said. “Because, if you don’t, the next time the donor thinks about Huston-Tillotson they’ll say, ‘well, you know, I sent money. I don’t know what happened to it. So, maybe I’ll send my money somewhere else.'”

When it comes to money, Marshall said she will always keep a one dollar bill that she framed. It is signed by her best friend, Azie Taylor Morton, who graduated from Huston-Tillotson. And in 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed her as U.S. Treasurer. She became the first and only African-American to hold that position.

Marshal believes it is a little-known fact that is not being passed on to students.

“The history is lost when others move on and don’t tell the story,” she said.

 

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