Plaque Project: Joe Watkins ’71

The dearest and most well known tradition that Middlesex possesses is the plaque making tradition. When reflecting on their plaques, alumni of all ages are able to reminisce about not only the personal meaning of their plaques, but also their time spent at Middlesex. Joe Watkins ’71 was kind enough to share his thoughts on what his plaque meant to him and how it embodied a message that he wished to last for generations. Mr. Watkins knew that the longevity of his plaque’s message was a rare gift and “the experiences at Middlesex School would have a profound impact on my life moving forward”. Mr. Watkins was among the first six students of color to attend Middlesex—he wanted his plaque to provide visual proof of how proud he was to “represent his heritage at Middlesex”. Therefore he painted the background of his plaque “red, black, and green, the colors of the Afro-American flag, to symbolize his African American ancestry.”

Popping out from the center of the flag, Mr. Watkins depicts himself holding a basketball, wearing a captain’s jacket. Mr. Watkins was chosen as a basketball captain during his senior year at Middlesex. His love for basketball and his desire to depict an accurate representation of his teenage self moved him to carve this design into his plaque. Mr. Watkins found the balance that all seniors at Middlesex struggle to find when designing their plaques: the balance between honoring his past, acknowledging his present, and satisfying the future. Mr. Watkins believes that “The plaques that we design help us to remember our time at Middlesex School from our perspective as high school seniors. Remembering and studying the past can be instructive – even if the past you are remembering and studying is your own”. Ultimately, Mr. Watkins’ plaque story proves the personal worth that the Middlesex plaque tradition holds in all of our alumni’s hearts.

-Written by Lexi ’16