Special Recognition for First Library Director

During the Women of Distinction Awards Tea on March 11, special recognition was given to Nancy Van Doren, the first director of the SDSU Library.  Her commitment to education and service was instrumental in creating the library.  The SDSU Women’s Studies and Quest for Equity Committees sponsored the awards tea in conjunction with the celebration of Women’s History Month.  Mary Caspers-Graper read following statement to recognize the contributions of this outstanding woman: 

Ms. Nancy Van Doren — 124 years ago you arrived in Brookings to teach English at a tiny college with only one building called the Dakota Agricultural College.  You were our first preceptress, a position we know today as Dean of Women, and our first library director.  You are the only woman ever to hold that position. This is what historians have written about you:

·         You were born in 1842 in India, the daughter of Baptist missionaries.

·         At age 26 you graduated from the Owego Normal School in New York, now known as SUNY Oswego. 

·         After teaching in New York, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri, you joined the Dakota Agricultural College as the first salaried faculty member to be hired after George Lilley, the first president.  You were 42 years old.

·         You taught English grammar, composition and rhetoric for the amazing annual salary of $500. 

·         And in 1886 President Lilley asked you take charge of a small reading room on the second floor of Old Central.  In the room was a collection of about 1,000 volumes and 26 journals.  That was the beginnings of the Hilton M. Briggs Library.

·         Unfortunately your tenure at the tiny college was brief.   In 1891 you headed west to repeat your career as preceptress and librarian.  This time it was at Washington State College, which we know today as Washington State University in Pullman. Ms. Van Doren — historians have described you as a “sweet, intelligent, conscientious lady, whose life was a benediction to all the young women in whom she came in contact.”  Washington State University honored you with a building called Van Doren Hall, which is still standing.   At SDSU you had no honors, until today.    Ms. Van Doren — as we celebrate Women’s History Month and the 30th Anniversary of Briggs Library, we are proud to honor you as a “Woman of Distinction” and add your portrait to those of the seven former library directors at SDSU.   

Research notes courtesy of Ms. Lisa Lindell, Librarian and Professor, Hilton M. Briggs Library, SDSU

 women of distinction tea

Women of Distinction Teawomen of distinction tea


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