Quiet ("shhh") philanthropy from an Emory librarian


From time to time, this column will take an appreciative look at the contributions quietly made by those individuals who consistently support Emory's Annual Fund.

Annual support of the university is one of the engines that drives it. Money contributed to the Emory Annual Fund is used to enhance academic programs, recruit and retain faculty, and permit acquisition of publications for the university libraries.

One such consistent presence in the annals of the Emory Annual Fund is Hubert H. Whitlow Jr. '51C-'56G, who has been a contributor since 1968. His involvement with Emory, however, has even earlier roots, since he was born at Emory Hospital; his family lived four blocks from the University.

While attending Druid Hills High School, Whitlow got his first taste of working at the Candler library--an experience that would prove to be a lifelong vocation. During the World War II era, it was difficult to get college men to shelve books, especially under the supervision of then-director Miss Margaret Jemison. But the organizational sophistication of the library appealed to Whitlow, who continued such work once he became an Emory undergraduate, majoring in history with a "modest scholarship." All it took to hook Whitlow on scholarly life was History 101, taught by a teaching assistant who, he recalls gratefully, "gave me so many things to think about, pointing out the elaborate connections in world events."

Whitlow had his baccalaureate conferred just as the Korean crisis was "stewing up." Despite the fact that the Air Force little understood what to do with someone who had a degree in history, Whitlow found himself working for the Public Information Office in Sherman, Texas. When Congress "in its infinite wisdom" cut the budget for Public Information, Whitlow ended up in the infinitely less satisfying Ground Safety office. He spent a year in Korea and ended up serving four years in the Air Force.

When he returned to Atlanta, Whitlow entered Emory's one-year program in librarianship. His first four professional years as a librarian were spent at the University of Georgia; then in 1961, he came back to Emory. At that time, trained librarians were hard to find. For nine years, Whitlow experienced the rich fare that Emory offers, serving in four different jobs to broaden his background.

From Emory, Whitlow moved on to a different kind of environment: a school without a library, one that was seeking Whitlow's input about what its library should be. That school was Floyd College--a junior college that began as a few humble, rented offices in downtown Rome, Georgia. Whitlow helped the college start its library from scratch and waited patiently for the eventual construction of the library building, which did not take place for several years.

Beyond his Emory degrees, Whitlow obtained a second master's degree, this one from the University of Florida in political science. At Floyd, Whitlow was given the opportunity to teach courses in addition to his library work. He is retired now and devoting time to his newest avocation--writing fiction that often has a historical blush. He still keeps up with his former institutions, "reading with pleasure of Emory's tremendous progress."

For the staff of Emory's Annual Fund, the challenge always has been to find donors who understand the value of unrestricted giving. Asked why he gives in this way, Whitlow responds, "Although I was born at Emory Hospital; worked at Emory's libraries as a high school student; got undergraduate and graduate degrees from Emory; and worked as a librarian at Emory for nine years, I think that Emory knows its needs better than I do, which is why my giving is unrestricted." According to Joan Gotwals, vice provost and director of libraries, money such as that given by Whitlow "provides discretionary funding to purchase an extraordinary collection or allows acquisition of an important new electronic information resource or enables the library to experiment with new ways of delivering information to users. Many initiatives or acquisitions are simply not possible without funding beyond the regular operating budget."

When he hears of Emory's gratitude, Whitlow graciously counters by saying, "Emory has affected my life in many ways. It taught me to think critically and opened up the world to me." Whitlow's modest gifts, thoughtfully given over the course of three decades, have opened up the world for generations of Emory students.--S.M.C.

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