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Professors emeriti: Cornell University Library's CAPE-d crusaders

Peter Hohendahl

Peter Hohendahl, emeritus professor of German studies. Photo: University Photography file photo.

Leave it to a group of people who truly understand the importance of Cornell University Library to come to its aid in a time of need.

"The library is the most important research tool that I have. It's my lab," said Peter Hohendahl, emeritus professor of German studies. "If I don't have a first-rate library, I can't do research, and that is true for all humanists." And Hohendahl calls himself a "library believer."

For the past year, Hohendahl has helped lead a group of his fellow believers, other professors emeriti, to raise money for the library's Campaign for Collections. In February 2013, the Cornell Association of Professors Emeriti (CAPE) set a goal of raising $50,000.

"I thought we'd never get there," Hohendahl remembers. "Retired professors are not that rich; how would we do that? But I kept my mouth shut and said OK, and then it became my job to get this started."

Hohendahl, who still uses the library website every day and visits in person at least once a week, led the CAPE subcommittee charged with fundraising for the campaign. Members of the subcommittee, including professors Mal Nesheim and Francis Moon, approached professors through multiple solicitation letters and in person. Howard Howland, professor emeritus, and Jennifer Sawyer, director of alumni affairs and development for Cornell University Library, also were instrumental in the campaign.

CAPE exceeded its goal, raising $52,100 by the end of 2013.

Overall, the library's Campaign for Collections has raised 60 percent of the $15 million goal. (Read more about the library's campaign and what it will make possible here). Sawyer noted that another major campaign contribution -- an advised bequest of $74,000 -- came from a professor emerita.

"We're so gratified to see this level of participation from the faculty," says Anne Kenney, the Carl A. Kroch University Librarian. "Professors from schools and colleges in disciplines all over the university have put forth money for this campaign. Having faculty, retired and not, who are this supportive puts us in a very rare and lucky group of research libraries."

Gwen Glazer is the staff writer/editor for Cornell University Library.

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