Suitable Settings for Hard-Won Honors: Framing Diplomas and Certificates

As graduation time approaches, I want to show an example of how we like to frame diplomas. This frame is in stained solid quartersawn white oak—a humble and famously sturdy and enduring hardwood. The No. 238 profile, which slopes in to the certificate, has a refinement of form that resonates with the calligraphy, but in a restrained and graceful fashion. The gilt slip further dignifies the achievement that the award represents. The proportions are important to the spirit and purpose: At just 1-3/4″ wide, on the 13″ x 15″ document, it’s substantial but self-effacing, providing due service without being showy.

This is my father’s PhD diploma from 1952. Modest as he was, Dad kept it in a folder in a closet (thus its yellowed condition) until I recently decided to dig it out to use as an example of how we like to frame such documents. He’d blush to see me posting this, but I hope he’d approve of the spirit of this treatment. In fact, if there’s one term that sums up my aim as a picture framer, it’s one my father used to describe things he approved of: No nonsense.

Dad liked to tell the story of being introduced at one talk he gave early in his teaching career: “Our speaker was born in London, and educated in Oxford and Cambridge—but he’s never been to England!” Dad had no pretentions about his academic achievements. His small town midwestern upbringing in London, Ohio had taught him that education is to prepare you to serve others, to serve the common good. When, upon graduating from high school, his plans to serve his country by fighting in the Second World War were foiled—after just a month in the army he was released due to a health condition—he doubled his resolve to apply himself academically, the better to serve humanity in other ways. Having grown up in the Depression, the most obvious way to do some real good in the world was in the field of economics. So he enrolled to pursue an Economics degree at Miami University, about a hundred miles west of London in Oxford, Ohio; then having done pretty well there, was admitted to a certain prestigious school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he obtained the doctorate award pictured here.

A frame can be used to brag about something as hard-won as a diploma. But that approach in fact falls short of capturing the significance of the achievement a diploma represents. It is evidence of achievement, but achievement above all in the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and wisdom received from those who’ve come before, and to be used to serve others and the greater good. It’s a reminder not so much of praise earned but of trust earned. And it is evidence of substance, not superficiality. It is, in short, a real honor that comes with real duties, and should be framed suitably—with substance, integrity and humility.

I still have the typewriter my father used in graduate school—probably his most important tool in earning this degree. And I still remember as a small boy Dad sitting me on his lap at his desk to show me how the intriguing machine worked. He hit the keys to magically activate the typebars and tap out the sentence traditionally used as a typing drill: “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.”


Do you, or does someone you know need a diploma framed? In addition to providing custom framing for certificates, we’ve also just added a Diploma Frames category to the In Stock section of the site. We’ll be posting more items there, but are starting off with the two versions below. (We have on hand two in each size.) All are in our No. 328 profile not unlike the frame on my dad’s diploma, but in a cove, rather than a slope, form. Makes a very special gift for someone whose hard work you really appreciate!

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