AU dedicates space for rare children’s books

Fri, 2009-10-02 12:45 -- univcomm
October 2, 2009

Anderson University dedicated a new space and a reading room for rare children’s books and special collections in the Robert A. Nicholson University Library on Friday, October 2, at 10:30 a.m. It is estimated that the rare collection contains approximately 6,000 books — many of which are first editions — by authors such as A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh), Beatrix Potter (The Tale of Peter Rabbit), and Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are). The books also contain one of the nation’s best collections of first editions by Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island).

ribbon-cuttingThe collection and the reading room were made possible through the generous support of Dr. James and Elizabeth York. Speaking on behalf of the Yorks were two of their sons, Chris and Stephen York.

[PHOTO (l-r): Robert L. Coffman, vice president for advancement; David L. Sebastian, dean of the School of Theology; President James L. Edwards; Stephen York; Janet Brewer, director of the Robert A. Nicholson University Library; and Chris York.]

[Watch video highlights from the dedication event.]

Stephen commented on the effort his mother made to acquiring and researching this collection. For the collection to have a "practical effect" was the reason it has found a permanent home at Anderson University. It was not meant for one's profit, but to be shared with scholars and others who have interest in the collection.

"It was her love of reading that is the genesis of this collection," added Chris.

Dr. Janet Brewer, director of the Robert A. Nicholson University Library, shared that the collection is not just for children but can be shared and appreciated by adults and students as well. Brewer mentioned the university has already been contacted by scholars wanting to view the collection.

"We are anxious to share, to read, to touch, and experience this collection," said Brewer.

The dedication is part of a day-long celebration, the Elizabeth York Children's Literature Festival, which will feature a number of speakers, including author and illustrator David Slonim, authors Valiska Gregory and Linda Vieira, and rare-book dealers Jett Whitehead and Rob Hittel. Click here to read more about these special guests.

book-collection"We are enriched as a university to have this marvelous collection of children's literature as an acclaimed centerpiece to our collections on the campus," said Dr. James L. Edwards, president of Anderson University. "Those who study children's literature as future teachers and writers, and those who research the field will greatly benefit from this wonderful resource that adds so much to the intellectual base of the campus. We are deeply grateful to the York family for bringing these resources into our care."

Dr. Elizabeth York began her children’s book collection by purchasing first editions featuring the works of 18th and 19th century illustrators like Randolph Caldecott, Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Howard Pyle, and Jessie Wilcox Smith. The search for these classics led York to Beatrix Potter, A.A. Milne, James Barry, and Rudyard Kipling. Then she came upon Robert Louis Stevenson.

It was while she was collecting children’s books that the Yorks inherited a 1926 signed copy of New Hampshire by Robert Frost. York followed up the acquisition by reading a biography of the poet. From there she was hooked and began collecting Robert Frost. She collected enough to fill four large shelves in her home.

"Mrs. York’s collection of Robert Frost material is quite varied," said Jett Whitehead, rare books dealer specializing in modern poetry from Bay City, Mich. "Her collecting interests include first edition copies of the poet’s books — many of them signed and/or inscribed by Frost — along with unusual ephemera pieces. A common denominator found throughout the York Frost collection is quality — she only approved items in the best collector condition available."

York broadened her range of collections over the years until she had, at last count, 200 to 250 Mother Goose, ABC, 123 books; 350 pop-up books; and 250 to 300 Christmas books. She has also collected early primers, chapbooks, and books by more contemporary children's book illustrators. The collection also includes several volumes of African-American and Native American children's literature.

"Dr. Jim and Elizabeth York have made a remarkable impact on Anderson University in the last several years," said Bob Coffman, vice president for Advancement at Anderson University. "Through their generous support of projects as diverse as seminary housing to visiting professorships to this most recent gift of the reading room and special collections, they have woven their lives and their values into the fabric of AU."

Dr. James and Elizabeth York have given of their time and resources to make a difference in people's lives. Their giving spirit was what convinced the couple that Dr. York should retire early from his practice of orthopedic surgery so that they could work in mission hospitals throughout Africa. It also prompted them to contribute to the Harry L. and Henrietta Harp Endowed Memorial Fund at Anderson University. And it is one of the primary reasons they created the James M. York, M.D., and Elizabeth H. York Endowed Scholarship Fund through the Anderson University School of Theology.

Mrs. York's parents, the Rev. Harry and Henrietta Harp, were active in the Church of God, and it was in their honor that their children established the Harp Endowed Memorial Fund. The fund supported the Harp Lectures in Christian Theology and Leadership at Anderson University, and continues to support the Harp Professor in Residence. It also provides an annual award, the Harry L. and Henrietta Harp Memorial Award, to a graduating seminary student who has made the most outstanding accomplishment in congregational ministries.

Advocates of lifelong learning, the Yorks recently provided the resources to construct York Seminary Village consisting of eight buildings, located south of 5th Street, between 6th and 7th Streets, in Anderson. York Seminary Village provides housing to ministerial students studying through the Anderson University School of Theology. In addition, the Yorks also established the York Endowed Scholarship Fund through the Anderson University School of Theology that is designed to reduce tuition expenses for deserving seminary students and promote a healthy diversity within the seminary community.

Mrs. York came to Anderson University in 1949. She later married Dr. James M. York, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University Medical School, and they spent the next several years in various locations as Dr. York completed his orthopedic surgery training. As they traveled, Elizabeth continued her undergraduate studies, graduating from Rutgers University in New Jersey. Dr. York took early retirement after 32 years of practice and volunteered his surgical skills at mission hospitals throughout Africa. The couple served hospitals in Kenya, Cameroon, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. In all, they served as short term missionaries for six years.

The Elizabeth York and James York Reading Room and Special Collections is a part of the Dreams. Discovery. Direction. campaign for Anderson University. On Oct. 6, 2006, the university launched the $110 million campaign, the largest fundraising effort in the university's history. To date the campaign has raised $93 million. Major components of the campaign include $51 million for capital projects, $34 million for endowment and $25 million for operational support.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.