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Alumna donates $1 million to School of Information Studies

On Monday, October 30, the School of Information Studies celebrated the receipt of its largest gift in its history--$1 million--with a champagne toast and public ceremony in honor of the donor, alumna Estelle Katchmar Wilhelm. In recognition of the gift, a collaborative classroom and adjoining computer lab in Hinds Hall will be named in honor of Wilhelm's mother, Katherine Katchmar.
 
This gift not only gives us the ability to endow technology for a learning center in perpetuity, it also gives a vote of confidence to our school across generations—for our current students and those who aren't even born yet, said Raymond von Dran, dean of the school. So while we've evolved since our origins as a library school in 1896 and are bigger, more diverse, and more nimble, we're still committed to library's core values of service, access, and learning.
 
Von Dran spoke about the evolution of the library and information field since Wilhelm was a student there in 1939—how libraries grew from the Dewey decimal system and card catalogues to electronic archives and searchable digital databases. We take special pride in saying that our school was forged in the 19th century, transformed in the 20th and is poised to be a leader in the 21st century, he said. Mrs. Wilhelm was shaped by the library education she received here at Syracuse at the height of the depression. Her monumental gift will help assure that our school will provide the finest education imaginable for a yet to be born generation of students. It will ensure that our core values, which engage society on its own terms for the betterment of all, will still be powerful and central to the school in the years yet to come.
 
Chancellor Nancy Cantor presented Wilhelm with a plaque and membership into the Chancellor's Council, a special designation given to high-level supporters of the University. I'm so happy that I received your letter to let me know you're re-doing your building, said 90-year-old Wilhelm. I'm glad I was able to give this money to the school.
 
Joseph Ryan G'07, a student in the master's degree in library and information science, spoke about the need for librarians to be gatekeepers of information who help people do such things as refine their searches through the millions of hits that typically return on a Google or other search engine query. The School of Information Studies recognizes the crucial role that librarians have to play in the Information Age, and has integrated technological tools and culture into its curriculum at every level, he said. However, keeping up to date on technologyrequires careful research, commitment to change, and substantial financial resources. On behalf of both present and future students, I would like to thank you, Mrs. Wilhelm, for helping to ensure that the School of Information Studies has the tools that it needs to prepare future librarians for what is to come.
 
After the ceremony, Wilhelm chatted with faculty and students and recalled staying late in Carnegie Library, where she took most her classes as a student. I didn't bother to buy the books for my classes, she said. Instead I'd just stay at the library and read them. I was always the last one there. The janitor would say he was leaving and needed to lock up, and then I'd head home. She shared stories of how the school's former dean, Wharton Miller, playfully joked with her.
 
At Syracuse University, Wilhelm received a bachelor's degree in Latin and a master's degree in library science. Over the course of her career, she worked as a librarian in locations as varied as Endicott (N.Y.), Philadelphia, New York City and, most memorably, Cape Lookout, a part of the National Seashore in North Carolina. There, she was given a $500-a-month allowance to purchase new books for the government post library, although she recalls her accommodations at the time had no running water or electricity.
 
Wilhelm says she sees the gift as a way to pay tribute to her mother, a great believer in education, and to the institution that set her on an enjoyable career path as a librarian. She traveled from her home in Gillette, N.J., to be part of the celebration.
 
The Katherine Katchmar Learning Center will feature a 1,210-foot classroom that seats 50 students and an adjoining 790-foot computer lab with 24 learning stations. It will be located on the ground floor next to the three-story atrium and student lounge. The classroom is designed around a theory of student-focused, interactive learning that changes the classroom process into a collaborative search for solutions based on a case.
 
The naming gift supports the school's Technology Endowment Campaign for
Hinds Hall (TECHH), which funds the maintenance of technology equipment within the school's classrooms and labs. Money raised for the TECHH fund will ensure that the school is properly equipped with the latest advances in technology and related learning tools.
    

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