Goshen alumnus, Daryl Groff thought about getting a tattoo of the Goshen College seal for 25 years before he permanently marked his skin in honor of the college in 2007.Groff (Class of 1983) chose to get his tattoo on the outside of his left calf. His tattoo is literally an illustration of the current Goshen seal, a purple circle with an old-fashioned oil lamp (picture Aladdin’s lamp) on top of the college’s record book.
“I was bored so I went and got the tattoo,” Groff said.
The tattoo cost Groff $130 and two and a half hours of his time. A small sacrifice in comparison to his many happy memories at Goshen.
“I always felt like, well, maybe no one else in the world would show their allegiance to the college [by getting a tattoo] and I could be the first,” Groff said.
People put tattoos on their bodies for many reasons: to remember a loved one who has passed away, to portray beliefs or religion, or simply for style. Groff may be an exception with his Goshen letterhead seal on his calf but tattoos are common at Goshen College.
Jordan Miller, a junior, got his tattoo to remember his grandfather, Willard Krabill, who passed away last January.
“I got a tattoo to represent his mark on my life, and to be a constant reminder of what he did here on earth as well as what he meant for me,” Miller said.
Miller’s tattoo depicts “Willard Krabill” in a black script font laid out in a circle located on his right shoulder blade. On the inside of the circle is Krabill’s birth date and death date with his middle initial “S” in the center.
Some people may question the need to mark your skin in order to remember a loved one but Miller said he felt like he “needed a physical reminder” as well as memories.
In theory, tattoos can sound great, especially for personal expression. However, the problem with a tattoo is that, depending on its location, it can be hard to hide. In college that may be fine but the workplace is different.
“Whether we want them to or not, hiring managers make assumptions about an applicant as soon as they meet,” said Anita Yoder, director of Career Services. “Prospective employees can favorably influence a hiring manager’s initial assumptions during an interview by being appropriately dressed and groomed. This includes covering one’s tattoos.”
Allison Miller, a junior, said that she runs into professional issues with her tattoos during student teaching field placements. While she’s teaching, she has to cover her simple black cursive script “Believe” tattoo on her left wrist with a Band-Aid.
“Right now I just have to abide by Goshen College’s policy or covering what my teacher likes to call the BBPT (boobs, butt-crack, piercings, and tattoos),” Miller said. “It’s not appropriate for me to be showing tattoos to the young kids that I am working with.” Once she gets a teaching job, it’s up to the school whether or not she has to keep her wrist tattoo covered.
Miller also has a black dove with a tree branch outlined on her left ankle. She covers it simply by wearing pants and not skirts or dresses while teaching. For her, the dove represents her pacifist Christianity.
“I love using my tattoo to strike up conversations about peace,” Miller said.
Growing up in Atlanta, GA, Miller wasn’t exactly surrounded by fellow Mennonites. During a history class in high school, a girl asked Miller about her tattoo and the Mennonite denomination. Miller said, “This was a way for me to share my faith and my back ground in an area where they don’t know anything about Mennonites or peace.”
Angelica Lehman, a sophomore, said she would run into problems with a tattoo on her wrist as an American Sign Language major. Luckily, her tattoo is discretely hidden: on the top of her right foot. Lehman can easily cover her baby blue and white tattoo of the Greek flag with “I love you grandpa” scrolled across it in Greek.
Similarly, Senior Ashley Janssen got her tattoo on the side of her left foot purposely so it can be easily hidden. Her purple and black tattoo is a cross, heart, and dove intertwined representing faith, love and hope with “love” spelled out as the greatest of all. The tattoo symbolizes Janssen’s favorite bible verse, I Corinthians 13.
Tattoos are usually associated with spur of the moment decisions and midnight escapades. Although for Groff, actually getting his tattoo may have been out of boredom, he didn’t make the decision lightheartedly, nor did he pick the Goshen seal just because he saw it on a letter. He chose the seal because of what the college means to him.
“[It] symbolizes a pretty important moment in my life: four years of playing goalkeeper for the soccer team,” he said. “It symbolizes the dozens of friends I’ve made that I still have. It symbolizes the fact that the institution had a dramatic affect on how I’m living my life today.”
Photo by Tim Blaum.