The 624 unclaimed diplomas, minus the fancy cases, sit neatly in a large file drawer in Linda Zurborg’s office at the Davenport Community School District.
Some of them date back to 1968 and feature plain, black script and the signatures of school officials of the era. A diploma from 2011 has the same features, along with a colorful school emblem at the bottom.
As the diplomas continue to gather dust through the years, Zurborg said she has no intention of throwing them out.
“They’re important to people,” she said. “Life happens. Sometimes, the kids can’t get to commencement, or they go enlist in the service and leave right away and forget about them.”
Zurborg, secretary of records services, has been working over the past decade to get the diplomas to their rightful owners.
Prior to 2001, the diplomas remained in the high schools. Zurborg decided to bring them to the central office and go to work on tracking down former students.
She combed Facebook and other sites. She also posted messages on class reunion websites.
In all, she was able to find 60 former students who hadn’t picked up their diplomas. When someone returns to retrieve a diploma, Zurborg said she likes to hum “Pomp and Circumstance,” the traditional processional, and present the diploma in a little ceremony in the office.
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Zurborg said she’s gotten mixed reactions when she’s reached out to the students. Some have been “excited as heck” and others brush it off, saying that it’s an unimportant piece of paper.
By the 1990s, the number of unclaimed diplomas began to rise.
“To me, my diploma was an important piece of paper,” she said. “It symbolized a big event in my life.”