Dooley Noted: Making Beautiful Things Happen

Emory applauds the roles of Rosemary Magee 82PhD

Light Touch, Lasting Mark: Rosemary Magee has sculpted many parts of Emory during a forty-year career. She will continue as a fellow at Emory's Fox Center for humanistic inquiry.
Ann Watson

On a shelf in Rosemary Magee’s office sits a curious photograph of a shabby white building covered in peeling paint. A sign above the doorway reads “Annex B.”

From the windows of the director’s office in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Magee can point to where Annex B once stood, within a cluster of temporary barracks constructed shortly after World War II. Forty years later, those barracks had become part of a scattered network of spaces that housed Emory’s arts programs.

For years, Emory had debated how to create a cohesive, centralized home for the arts befitting a top liberal arts university. By the mid–1990s, the project had stalled.

With quiet diplomacy and unwavering resolve, Magee gathered a “dream team” to spearhead a new design and the fundraising needed to breathe life into a project that resulted in Emory’s Donna and Marvin Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, a multidisciplinary teaching, practice, and performance facility that opened in 2003.

This spring, Magee stepped away from the Rose Library after forty years spent in an astonishing range of positions—student, alumna, and scholar; professor and researcher; senior associate dean responsible for resources and planning at Emory College; member of the president’s cabinet and vice president and secretary of the university; and library special collections director.

She arrived at Emory in 1977 to pursue a PhD in literature and religion at the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts.

“In Emory, I saw a place where individuals can grow and flourish, where there is an institutional commitment to talking about matter and meaning and purpose and aesthetics,” she says.

Magee taught in the Department of English before joining Emory College as assistant dean and director of summer programs. Later, she was appointed associate dean for resources and planning, then senior associate dean, in charge of a $100 million operating budget and $150 million in capital projects.

In 2005, Magee was asked to consider a new post—vice president and secretary of the university, working with the both the Board of Trustees and the president’s cabinet, where she initially was the only woman at the table.

“The thing about Rosemary is that it was never about Rosemary,” says former Board of Trustees chair Ben F. Johnson III 65C. “Nothing she did was motivated by anything other than what was best for Emory, its faculty and students, and her love of education. When you are able to present yourself without guile, as she has, it gives you a power most people don’t understand.”

In 2012, Magee became director of Rose Library, leading its extensive renovation and renaming in recognition of benefactor Stuart A. Rose 76BBA.

University Librarian Yolanda Cooper praises Magee’s gift for building enduring relationships. “When she takes the reins,” Cooper says, “beautiful things happen.”

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