On April 6, the University Library celebrated the investiture of Lynne M. Thomas, who joined the Library as the head of its esteemed Rare Book & Manuscript Library September 1, 2017. She now holds the title of Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book & Manuscript Professor.
Endowed chairs are the highest honor the university can bestow on faculty members. Named positions like this enhance the Library’s services, programs, and reputation by recognizing and fostering the considerable research contributions of its faculty.
Given that the goal of the professorship is to enhance the scholarly research of faculty by providing them with additional resources, it was appropriate to have Paul Ellinger, associate chancellor and vice provost for budget and resource planning, as a special guest at Professor Thomas’s investiture.
Another special guest included Professor Thomas’s mentor and former colleague, Barbara M. Jones, who served as head librarian of rare book and special collections at Illinois from 1996-2003. Dr. Jones hired Thomas as a graduate assistant during her tenure. Dr. Jones’s dedication inspired the gift which endowed her position in 2002 which, at the time, was the Library’s first faculty chair.
“I return to a Rare Book and Manuscript Library that has flourished and grown in the twenty years since I first left its ranks, through the careful stewardship of the former faculty, staff, and students who served these collections, this campus, and our wider community admirably over that time,” said Professor Thomas. “I promise to repay that work to the best of my ability as I continue that tradition.”
The professorship was established through a significant estate gift from longtime Library friends Robert Simpson and his wife, Juanita. Robert was a University of Illinois alumnus with a BA in English Literature, who went on to a successful sales and manufacturing career in Ohio. The endowment—a permanent trust invested to provide a long-term source of funding—will continue to be used to finance the perpetual needs of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
“I am deeply grateful to the Simpson family for choosing to support the Library, and endow this position in particular. Their investment in the work that I do here in the RBML, and the generations of stewardship for these publicly-available collections that it represents, is a charge that I will work every day to continue to be worthy of,” said Thomas. “It’s good to be home.”