Our department doesn't pay visiting speakers other than covering their travel expenses, except when we bring a speaker in as part of a college/university wide program, in which case there is a small honorarium. However, we typically give a small gift emblazoned with the name of our department and university, just for fun. We recently changed the type of little gift we give, and the decision about the new gift item was made by an administrative assistant. I think she made a rather strange choice, but these are just tokens anyway, so it doesn't really matter. However, it got me thinking about all the various items, gizmos, and assorted other tokens I have received in recent years when I've been a visiting speaker. Once or twice a year, I give a talk at a place that gives a small honorarium, but more typically there is either no tangible gift (this is very fine with me) or there is some token gift. A brief inventory of my office turned up the following items emblazoned with the names/logos of places I have visited:
- several mugs
- a couple of T-shirts
- a lapel pin/cufflink thing
- a laser pointer/pen
- miscellaneous office supply items (folders, pens, pencils, mousepad)
- a hideous but fortunately small clock
I use the mugs, pens, and laser pointer. The T-shirts are all much too large for me; I suppose I am smaller than most visiting speakers in my field. The pin thing gets the designation as the most useless token gift, but I had a nice time at the university that presented me with the pin, so mostly I think of it as a memento of an interesting trip.
Perhaps I should collect all these things in one place and make a little display -- a sort of weird academic token collection/museum.
If anyone reading this has ever given a talk at a university and been presented with some of these types of things: what's your favorite item and what's the weirdest item you've gotten?