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Harvesting the Fruits of Knowledge

Russell and Sharon Ewers and three grandsons
ABOVE: Sharon Yates Ewers (far left) and Russell E. Ewers (far right) with grandkids (from left to right in the middle) Colin Ewers Whitson, Noah Ewers Whitson, and Alexander Yates Ewers


Window celebrates education throughout generations


He calls it a “safe harbor” that offered a haven for study in his days as an undergraduate. Now that special space bears his permanent thanks via a printers’ mark window plaque commemorating his time there.

Russell Ewers ’69 ENG had just $4 in his savings account when he graduated from the University of Illinois, but he began supporting his Alma Mater just as soon as he landed a job. In addition to the College of Engineering, which trained him in his lifelong career, Ewers also has long given back to the University Library.

“It was just a safe harbor,” Ewers recalled of the many hours he spent in the Main Library’s Reading Room. “It was a place I could always rely on to do the work I knew I had to do.”

To Ewers, giving back has always seemed the right thing to do. And when he came across another opportunity—to dedicate a printers’ mark window in the very room that had nurtured him throughout his college years—he believed he had found “the perfect entrée” for making a significant donation.

And then, he came across the perfect window.


Russell Ewers selected this Reading Room window because the lively children remind him of Noah, Alexander, and Colin, his grandsons. Printers’ mark windows in the Main Library may be named to commemorate various occasions.


Printers’ Mark window No. 23 shows two boys striking fruit from a tree, with a third lad picking up the fallen crop. “That [window] speaks to me,” Ewers said, “because it included three boys. Yes, I have three grandsons.”

The 27 stunning windows that line the walls of the Reading Room and stairway leading up to it form one of the most remarkably beautiful spaces on campus. Each stately window showcases the insignia of an early printer in Europe—a mark to guard against forgeries as books became more widespread in the 15th and 16th centuries. Window 23 references Reginald Wolfe, a Dutch bookseller and printer who later worked in London and became Royal Printer in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew under King Edward VI.

Fittingly, a banner on the design depicts the Latin word for charity. Ewers added a dedication of his own on the sill below, reading, “The fruits of Learning and Wisdom are to be harvested and shared for generations . . . through Knowledge.”

As a young man, Ewers felt an immediate affinity for the University of Illinois. Having endured a slew of visits to other campuses, he stepped out of his parents’ car, took one look at the Illini Union and Green Street, and declared, “This is it!” He formed close friendships with his fellow residence hall mates, and upon graduation, pursued a career in construction management. In Chicago, Nebraska, and Arizona, he helped build everything from water treatment plants to hospitals to golf courses. He and his wife, a librarian, currently reside in Davis, California, to be close to their children and grandchildren.

As a proud first-generation college graduate, Ewers’ educational experience holds great significance. “I feel a debt of gratitude,” he said, “both to the university and to those who helped me get there and helped me afterwards.”

Ewers hopes the dedication plaques below the printers’ mark windows make students more aware of the beauty, art, and significance that envelop them in the Reading Room.

“If one person . . . reads my dedication, even without knowing the back story,” he said, “I think that would be wonderful.”


Windows in the Library’s majestic Reading Room, as well as in the Grand Staircase, may be named to commemorate many occasions, including honoring a loved one, memorializing a special person, or recognizing you or your family’s dedication to the Library or the university. If you are interested in dedicating one of the 27 Printers’ Mark windows, please contact Kathryn Risor-Heise ( in the Office of Library Advancement. Gifts toward a named window are used to support Library facilities, such as building projects. As well as providing a beautiful and lasting dedication, your gift will ensure that our historic Library is beautifully maintained for future generations of scholars. For more information, visit