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Celebrating 50 Years of Hofheimer Library

A tribute to Henry Clay Hofheimer II was the focus for the library’s rededication celebration

University News | March 12, 2020

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On March 11, the Virginia Wesleyan campus community gathered to celebrate 50 years of Henry Clay Hofheimer II Library and pay tribute to its namesake.

VWU President Scott D. Miller welcomed attendees to the rededication and offered special thanks to the family of Henry Clay Hofheimer II. He introduced two of Hofheimer’s daughters, Linda Kaufman and Clay Barr, and granddaughter Elena Baum and her husband, Gary, who were in attendance. Dr. Miller also recognized daughter Elise Wright who was unable to travel to the event.

“Your father’s vision and commitment to Virginia Wesleyan has brought us together in a place of significance that without him, would not be here,” said Dr. Miller. “Hofheimer Library sits in the heart of the Virginia Wesleyan University campus and has served as an inspiring space for building connections, exchanging knowledge and ideas, and shaping the future. The doors of Hofheimer have welcomed thousands of students, faculty, staff, and friends over the past 50 years—we are delighted to now rededicate this historical building for the many more to come.”

President Miller then introduced University Archivist and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Kenneth R. Perry Dean of the College Emeritus, Stephen Mansfield, who has had a significant impact on the development and growth of Virginia Wesleyan.

Dr. Mansfield was seated in the audience fifty years ago for the initial dedication of Hofheimer Library on March 5, 1970. He shared his reflections of the library’s inception and the special place it has held in the VWU academic community.

Dr. Mansfield said that the chartering of Virginia Wesleyan in July, 1961, was followed by Board of Trustee approval for a brochure, “To Make a College,” which encouraged Virginia Methodists to donate books for the library that would someday rise on campus.

“The clear implication was that, with all of the critical issues involved in creating a college from scratch, placing the library near the top of the list was meaningful,” said Dr. Mansfield.

He noted that it was Trustee Hofheimer whom first college president Dr. Joseph Johnston asked to accompany him to solicit support from local Hampton Roads businessmen for the new library.

The much anticipated building finally opened in fall 1969, three years after the College’s opening in 1966, and just in time for use by the first senior class. And, on March 5, 1970, the Henry Clay Hofheimer II Library, bearing the name first proposed by Virginia Wesleyan’s second College President, Lambuth Clarke, was formally dedicated.

Former Governor and University of Virginia President, Colgate Darden, was the speaker for the library’s dedication in 1970. Dr. Mansfield shared Darden’s words on that day.

“The library will nourish and sustain the intellectual life of Virginia Wesleyan as long as it shall last, not unlike a pure spring of cool, clear, sweet water, refreshing and life-giving.”

Dr. Mansfield noted that over the decades that poetic imagery has been evident, not only in the expanding book and media collections, but also in the library’s setting for art exhibits, orchestra concerts, guest speakers and many other contributions reflecting the centrality of the library for a liberal arts institution.

“Through the vision of current library director Sue Erickson,” said Dr. Mansfield, “these refreshing and life-enhancing roles will continue to inspire and inform our students.”

Erickson told attendees that in 2018, a new mission, vision, and strategic directions were launched for the library. This course will set the direction for the next five years.

“The library’s aspirational vision is to be the heart of the Virginia Wesleyan campus community,” said Erickson. “The word community is key to the vision; the library is not merely a building at the center of campus. The vision intentionally emphasizes our role in supporting and shaping the campus community within and beyond the building.”

Erickson noted that as the complexity of the information landscape increases, the library staff responds with dynamic curation of resources and space in support of the evolving university curriculum.

“In all that we do, we attempt to foster holistic personal and intellectual development, and strengthen our sense of community in the service of humanity. We hope that when you come to Hofheimer Library you will be inspired to learn, to engage, and to see yourself as part of this wonderful Wesleyan community.”

Immediately following the formal remarks, guests were invited to view the unveiling of Henry Clay Hofheimer’s portrait in a prominent location at the entrance to the library.  

Learn more about the Henry Clay Hofheimer II Library at Virginia Wesleyan University.