Emory Medalists 2006:
Eugene T. Zimmerman 54T and Sarah Ann Long 69G
Called to be Concerned
On the morning of October 9, 1945, as the wind picked up, and the rain poured down, Eugene T. Zimmerman 54T (above left) braced for the worst. The fighting had ended weeks ago, but for the eighteen-year-old midshipman from Florida and the rest of the U.S. naval fleet stationed in Okinawa, typhoon “Louise” was a battle of its own. After a sudden change of course the night before, the storm headed straight for the tiny island, slowed to fifteen knots, and laid waste to Buckner Bay. Zimmerman, fearing for his life, arrived in his mind at a certainty of purpose.
“There’s nothing wrong with fear motivating you to do something, to be something,” he says. “That put me on a serious journey.”
If it was fear that set Zimmerman on his way, it was pluck and endurance that kept him on the path. With a family in the lumber business, he might have taken a job with his father and settled down for a leisurely life on the Gulf Coast. But halfway through forestry school, Zimmerman dropped out. He sold his saw mill to his brother and informed his parents that he had new plans: he was going to be a minister, and he was on his way to the seminary. “My mother was very pleased,” he recalls. “But my dad—he’s a dear man, he just didn’t understand.”
When Zimmerman arrived at Candler School of Theology, he had with him, as he puts it, “$300, an old car, and a new wife.” The money ran out, and the car died, but Emily Ann had joined Zimmerman for life. She would put him through seminary, working at an insurance company while he attended classes. “She not only brought home the bacon,” he says, “she cooked it, too.”
From there, a new journey began, and like never before, Zimmerman’s faith was put to the test. Atlanta, Chiefland, Gainesville, Green Cove Springs, Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, Southside, St. Petersburg: ever on the move, the two endured constant transition for the communities they served. And if ever the going got too tough, Zimmerman needed only think of the couple in China he had met after the war.
“I went to Shanghai, and I started going to a Methodist Church that held a service in English. The pastor and his wife had been missionaries,” he recalls. “And when the Japanese came, they refused to leave. They could have, but they didn’t. They were sent to internment camps for several years.” It made a lasting impression on him: “That people would devote their lives to the faith and to other people.”
Devotion not only to the church but to the entire community had been a major theme of his teachings at Candler. And whether it was assisting immigrant laborers in South Miami or sending a disadvantaged kid to college, he was active, involved, searching for ways to help. Still, as a minister, Zimmerman could only do so much. The rest was up to people of means, and soliciting their contributions could be a delicate matter.
One of those was Frank W. Sherman, who along with his wife, Helen, founded the Southside Bank of Jacksonville (now the American National Bank of Florida) in 1941. As active Methodists, they came to know Zimmerman, who had moved to Jacksonville in 1992. Zimmerman wasn’t Sherman’s pastor, but the banker sought the minister out because he knew he could help.
“We’re called to be concerned,” Zimmerman says. “There’s always something out there to do.”
Twenty years after the Shermans’ initial gift, the Sherman Scholarship Endowment has contributed more than $17 million in the form of scholarships for Candler students, and more than five hundred pastors—men and women—have benefited to date. It’s starting new ministers on their journey and making old ones smile at the thought.
—Pat Adams 08MPH
Why Libraries Matter
In the spring of 2005, as National Library Week was drawing to a close, Sarah Ann Long 69G (above right), director of the North Suburban Library System (NSLS) outside Chicago and weekly columnist for the Daily Herald, told readers why libraries still matter. “Libraries matter,” she wrote, “because they serve as the community meeting place; because of the key role they play in helping people of all ages to read; and because that is where the librarians are. They’re information professionals. They know just where and how to find the answers.”
Long has been finding the answers for more than three decades. A graduate of Emory’s Library School—which closed in 1988—she has held a number of leadership positions, including the presidencies of the American Library Association (ALA) and the Public Library Association, and served as an agent of change, helping libraries adapt to an increasingly electronic world.
But above all, what has distiguished Long has been her tireless promotion of the library as the core of suburban communities. That’s a message that has grown in importance as cuts in public funding pinch library budgets nationwide. And it’s one Long has spread widely and without pause in print, on television, and over the web. In addition to her column in Illinois’s third-largest daily newspaper, she hosts a monthly cable TV show called What’s New in Libraries? and maintains a website at www.sarahlong.org.
“When I was ALA president, people would often come up to me after I’d given a talk,” she recalls. “And in a sort of hushed tone, not wanting to offend me, they’d say, ‘Do you really think we will have libraries when everyone has a computer?’ ”
At the time, Long says, that was a shocking question. “Now there are articles everywhere about how librarians’ days are numbered, about how Google is digitizing everything. And every librarian I know has a stock elevator speech. But the question that keeps me up at night is, Will libraries move fast enough for the kids under twenty-one? They have a different sense of community, a different way of learning. And libraries need to be ready for that.”
When Long was a kid, one of her favorite things to do was walk the two miles from her house on Amsterdam Avenue to the Highland branch of the Atlanta Public Library and read the day away. One summer, she recalls, “I was going to read all of the books. I think I made it as far as Louisa May Alcott.”
Long must have taken Alcott to heart. Energetic and outspoken, like a Jo March from Georgia, she went on to earn her bachelor’s in education at Oglethorpe University before arriving at Emory for her master’s. It was there that Long forged a relationship that would last her a lifetime—and open doors to a future career. The late A. Venable Lawson 50G, legendary professor and dean of the Library School, had just returned to Emory from Florida State University to assume his new post. “Venable took care of me,” says Long. It was Lawson who, many years later, drummed up support for her campaign for the ALA presidency, turning an unheard-of candidate into an unlikely winner. “He threw parties for me and sent out letters telling people how to vote. I wasn’t expected to win,” she says. “But I did.”
Once voters learned about her record, Long was surely an obvious choice; as director of the NSLS, she’d initiated the sort of pioneering programs that few had even imagined possible. Under her aegis, public libraries in the NSLS system were among the first in the country to position themselves as the hub of an electronic presence in their communities. “One of the first things we did was establish a computer lab,” Long says. “We bought a bunch of laptops and put telephone cord down the middle of the conference room table. We bought Internet service from a Chicago provider, and we told people, ‘You really need to learn about this.’ ”
Those efforts culminated in the launching of NorthStarNet, an online community-information network linking several NSLS libraries, the first of its kind in the country. Three years later, Long oversaw another foray into the largely unexplored realm of e-librarianship when Digital Past, a project aimed at digitizing local historical documents, went live for the first time.
“We prided ourselves on being sort of on the cutting edge,” says Long, who was, indeed, and at sixty-two, still is.
Long may be, as she puts it, “a digital immigrant,” but she’s learned the language as well as the natives. Just check out her podcasts. Libraries matter. And so do leaders like Long.
—Pat Adams 08MPH