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Former librarian bequeaths $1M for Spencer Research Library

Thursday, April 09, 2015

LAWRENCE — On a visit to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who did not know the work and impact of Sandy Mason.

A distinguished librarian at KU from 1957 until she retired in 1999, Alexandra “Sandy” Mason was Spencer’s first librarian. She died in June 2011, leaving a $1.03 million estate gift to KU Endowment from her TIAA-CREF retirement account to benefit KU Libraries, and specifically, the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Her gift will establish the Ann Hyde Fellowship for Medieval and Early Modern British and European Manuscripts in honor of Mason’s lifetime friend, Ann Hyde, who died in June 2014. Hyde was manuscripts librarian at Spencer Research Library before she retired in 2000.

During Mason’s career at KU, she built special collections of research materials, guided generations of scholars and librarians, and was a leader in the Rare Books and Manuscripts section of the American Library Association. She received numerous professional awards, including the first Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Librarianship in recognition of her contributions to KU Libraries and her international leadership in rare book and special collections librarianship. In 1980, she was named to the KU Women’s Hall of Fame.

“Sandy believed viscerally in the importance of books and libraries, both the intellectual value of their content and cultural value of their physical selves,” said Bill Mitchell, a longtime friend and colleague of Mason. “I think Sandy wore a special kind of trifocals, for she seemed to be able to focus on the past, present and future.”

Beth Whittaker, KU Libraries assistant dean for distinguished collections and director of the Spencer Research Library, worked with Mason as a student assistant from 1992-1994 before joining the library in a professional capacity in 2009.

“Sandy was a pioneering scholar-librarian,” Whittaker said. “She played a significant role in building the renowned and rich collections within this library, and she encouraged me to become a librarian. It is an honor to accept this truly transformational gift.” 

Prior to Mason’s retirement, an anonymous alumni couple established a scholarship fund named for her and Joseph Rubenstein. Rubenstein was the library’s head of Special Collections from 1953 to 1963. The scholarship provides support for KU students who intend to pursue a career in an academic or research library.

The estate gift counts toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above seeks support to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery and drive economic growth to seize the opportunities of the future.

The campaign is managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

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Museum Events

Red Hot Research: Graduate Edition
Friday, November 17 | 4 p.m.-5:30 a.m.
The Commons, Spooner Hall, 1340 Jayhawk Blvd.
Red Hot Research brings together scholars from all disciplines, speaking for six minutes each in Pecha Kucha–inspired presentations. Audience members are encouraged to connect with the speakers and each other during breaks. This session features graduate student research.

Slow Art Sunday: Amida Buddha (Amitabha) 
Sunday, November 19 | 2 p.m.-3 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Gallery 407, 1301 Mississippi St
Slow down at the Spencer and spend time getting to know one great work of art. Slow Art Sunday features one work for visitors to contemplate and converse about with Museum staff. In November, get to know Amida Buddha (Amitabha).

Performance: Aspects of Liszt 
Sunday, November 19 | 4 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Gallery 317, Sam and Connie Perkins Central Court, 1301 Mississippi St
Distinguished Emmy-winning author, critic, radio and film producer David Dubal joins KU international concert artist Steven Spooner in an afternoon of piano music from the era of the Spencer Museum’s origins and fascinating commentary on the legendary Franz Liszt. This concert is part of the Museum’s centennial celebration of our collection.

Day After Thanksgiving Program: Magic Marbles 
Friday, November 24 | 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The National Museum of Toys/Miniatures, 5235 Oak St. Kansas City, MO
It’s a day of marble magic with fun for the entire family. Explore the museum’s special exhibit Playing for Keeps: The VFW Marble Tournaments, 1947-1962, and try your hand at “knuckling down” during a marble lesson. Then, pick out your own marble and turn it into a piece of wearable art to take home with you. Included with museum admission.

Global Film Festival
Thursday, November 30 | 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Rm. 309 1301 Mississippi St
Curated by first-year students, the Global Film Festival features four films exploring ideas in Spencer Museum exhibitions. This film is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Power Clashing: Clothing, Collage, and Contemporary Identities. The film will be announced on the Museum’s website.

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