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Your Gift Makes a Difference

In 1898 leather-bound edition of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, 30 leather-bound volumes (1858) of Sir Walter Scott's Waverly novels, 13 large octavo volumes (ca. 1880) of the works of Oliver Wendell Holmes, and various limited editions, signed by illustrators and/or authors--these rare volumes are included in the 1,250 books Kathleen Tanham is donating to Shepherd University's Scarborough Library.

"Books have been my friends all of my life," said Kathleen of the vast library she has amassed over many years. "All of them have memories for me and, like my children, all are special."

It was a difficult decision to part with her collection that began when, as a young girl in Connecticut, she was given 30 small leather-bound volumes of English literature by her grandmother. A voracious reader of books on a broad range of topics (except sports, she confesses), she has continued to acquire books that interest her. "I tend to study a subject in depth; one book leads to another," she said.

Recognizing her expertise, the Shepherdstown library has enlisted her to serve on its nonfiction book selection committee. She has also lectured on book topics, most recently at Shenandoah University on the subject of Third World Women.

Kathleen knows books. For several years she was production manager of the Smithsonian Institution Press and was responsible for overseeing the printing of many high-quality books, several featuring photographs and illustrations of Smithsonian collections. She has a special appreciation for books that are beautifully designed.

Kathleen's husband, George, was also a book collector as well as a historian and author. He donated his book collection on counterinsurgence to Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service library.

The couple were world travelers and spent much time in Southeast and South Asia, considering India their second home. "One of my favorite countries is Pakistan," Kathleen commented as she affectionately turned the pages of a beautifully illustrated book she had purchased while visiting there. "I love the Mughal architecture of the mosques and the creative culture of the people."

After making the decision to move from her Shepherdstown home to a retirement complex in Winchester, Virginia, Kathleen also needed to decide what to do with her books. "I offered the books to my children who came and took those that were of interest to them, but none had the room to accommodate all of them," she said. "It is difficult to find a library that will take these works and I was fortunate that John Sheridan, dean of the Scarborough Library, appreciated my collection and could see the value of making these books accessible to Shepherd students."

"Kathleen's gift is wonderful on so many levels," said John Sheridan. "Current and future students will benefit from individual books to be sure; some will come to recognize from the gift plates in several volumes that they come from a single collector, which may inspire them to reflect on their own personal libraries, how they can be roadmaps of where their minds have been and where they want to go. I plan to use the Limited Editions Club and the Westvaco book collections to attract other donors who could help us add to these remarkable collections of finely printed books, which will demonstrate to students how important the making of books has been to our culture. And, at a time when Shepherd is internationalizing its curriculum on culture and literature, the significant collection of books from India and Pakistan are an incredible boon, as they are difficult to find."

Of course, Kathleen is not parting with all her books. "I have to have some to keep me company." A look at the coffee table in Kathleen's den, filled with at least six new books, is evidence that she keeps up with current issues and ideas and will continue to add to her collection of valued "friends."

Sharon Henderson

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Kathleen Tanham


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