With permission, we're republishing excerpts of former U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart series published by CoinWeek beginning in April 2018.
During my 13+ years as a sculptor-engraver for the United States Mint, I had the opportunity to work on Congressional Gold Medals for many prominent leaders and heads of state. Additionally, I had the honor to work on two Presidential Medals.
More about them later.
The Dalai Lama
One of my favorite Congressional Gold Medals (CGMs), however, was for the Dalai Lama. I designed the obverse and actually got to meet His Holiness.
Tenzin Gyatso, born in Tibet, became the 14th Dalai Lama in February of 1940 and assumed full duties in 1950 at the age of 15. He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. For his medal, His Holiness requested a portrait of himself along with the Himalayan Mountains in the composition. The engravers were all tasked with working up designs for the medal sometime in 2006. One of my designs featured the Dalai Lama with his hands folded in prayer in front of the Himalayan mountain range.
I had a good portrait reference of the Dalai Lama's head but I wanted to show him in prayer. I recruited Jim Licaretz, one of the staff engravers, to pose for me with his hands folded. I took a snapshot and used the photo as additional reference for my design. So when you are looking at the medal, you are looking at Jim's hands (who's going to know?).
I then added the mountain range behind him and a ribbon with the wording
Act of Congress 2006. Additional text included
14th Dalai Lama of Tibet around the top perimeter of the design.
The CGM Ceremony was held in the Capitol Rotunda in February of 2007. Several members of the Mint staff were invited to meet with His Holiness in his hotel suite before the ceremony. My boss, John Mercanti, and Ed Moy, the Director of the Mint, accompanied us to the much-anticipated meeting. It was THE hot ticket!
We all sat in a circle with the Dalai Lama to my immediate left. Everyone spoke briefly to him and when it got around to me I mentioned that I had gotten quite a feeling of serenity when working on this medal, which I directly attributed to him. He leaned forward to speak to me and I expected to hear the secret to eternal happiness. Instead he asked
Did you give me hair? while brushing the top of his head. I assured him that I did. We all had a laugh and then proceeded to talk about male pattern baldness.
Later I reflected on how surreal this was.
After the sit-down meeting the Dalai Lama gave each of us prayer shawls. Before leaving the hotel suite we all posed with His Holiness for pictures. We left feeling like we had met one of the most consequential figures of our lifetime.
To read the complete original article, see:
Don Everhart: My Career in Coins, Part 3 – Historic Figures & Heads of State
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
Don Everhart's Career in Coins, Part 6
Wayne Homren, Editor
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