2015 Turman Award

Kathy Tomajko 79G, champion of libraries and learning

Library leadership: Kathy Tomajko 79G receives the 2015 J. Pollard Turman Alumni Service Award from President James Wagner. The award is a glass cow because Turman, the award's namesake, referred to leaders as "bell cows," the leaders of the herd.
Ann Borden

In more than thirty-five years with Georgia Institute of Technology’s libraries, Kathy Tomajko 79G has provided professional leadership and committed herself to improving library science, but dedication to community service has been her guiding principle.

“Volunteering and community service has allowed me to choose where and how to make a difference, and it’s rewarding to see the direct impact,” says Tomajko, this year’s J. Pollard Turman Alumni Service Award recipient and associate dean of libraries and aerospace engineering librarian at Georgia Tech. “A strong community can result in better lives for all of us.”

As the twenty-fifth recipient of the Turman Award, Tomajko may designate which Emory academic or nonacademic program, school, or division will receive the Tull Charitable Foundation $25,000 gift that accompanies the award.

The first alumna of Emory’s librarianship program to be honored, Tomajko says library science and student scholarship will take top priority. 

“The majority of the generous Tull Charitable Foundation donation will go to Emory Libraries in a variety of areas,” she says. “I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Emory Libraries as its annual giving fund board representative and Emory Alumni Board (EAB) representative. I am so impressed with the library, and what the library does for the Emory community and the community at large—their collections, their programs, their exhibits, and, of course MARBL, the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.” 

Another portion of the gift will support the EAB scholarship, which was created during Tomajko’s tenure on the board from 2003 to 2007. 

“Scholarships are important to me. I was generously helped as an Emory graduate student via a graduate assistantship and tuition reduction, and I want to continue to make it easier for students to attend college,” she says. 

Tomajko served on the EAB’s Annual Giving Committee from 2007 to 2009 and as an officer on the EAB Executive Committee. She was chair of the Office of Annual Giving Board from 2005 to 2007 and has been active in the Emory Alumni Board Presidents’ Club since 2007. She served as the alumni representative to the Emory University Senate from 2011 to 2013 and as an appointee to the University Board of Visitors.

In the community, Tomajko has served in many volunteer capacities including roles with the Junior League of DeKalb County, the Mary Gay House Endowment Fund Board, DeKalb Rape Crisis Center, Grady Hospital Board of Visitors, International Women’s House, Leadership DeKalb, Atlanta Organizing Committee for the Centennial Olympic Games, and the Library Foundation of the DeKalb County Public Libraries.

“There are so many needs in the community that I wanted to do my part to meet some of those needs,” she says. 

Tomajko has earned numerous awards for her service, including the Louise Martin Klaucke Award of the Junior League of DeKalb County recognizing civic, professional, and volunteer service, and the Frances Kaiser Award from Georgia Tech for significant professional achievement in library and information science.

Later this year, Tomajko plans to retire from Georgia Tech, and she and her husband, Ron, look forward to spending more time on community service, educational opportunities, travel, and enjoying family and friends. Meanwhile, Tomajko is eager to share the lessons she has learned through her professional and community service.

“My advice to students and others is that there is a world of possibilities out there. Do something that’s important to you,” she says. “I recommend reaching out to the community. So much of our time is spent on the job. Community service provides opportunities to do something you’re passionate about.”

Established in 1998, the J. Pollard Turman Alumni Service Award is one of the highest honors of the Emory Alumni Association. 

J. Pollard Turman 34C 36L was an influential humanitarian whose support of higher education and cultural organizations benefited institutions throughout Georgia. In 1996, through the generosity of the Tull Charitable Foundation (an organization Turman helped form), Emory established a financial award to accompany the Turman Award to pay tribute to Turman’s lifelong contributions to the university. 

In 2005 the Tull Charitable Foundation significantly elevated its level of financial support to Emory through a generous pledge of $25,000 annually in honor of the Turman Award recipient. —Michelle Valigursky

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