Alumni, friends donate $2.1 million to TTU library

To most academics, a library is the heart of a university. And what benefits that heart keeps the rest of the university healthy and strong as well.

Several friends and alumni of Tennessee Tech University have made sure that TTU's library will remain the strong core of its academic programs. Together they've committed to donate more than $2.1 million to support new technology, new multi-media data sources and book and journal purchases.

All the gifts have one other thing in common: they were given at the request of Tennessee Tech's President Angelo Volpe, who will retire June 30. The effort was a personal goal of Volpe's.

"The beneficial effects the library receives from these gifts will ripple across campus to support students, faculty, staff and our larger community as well," Volpe said. "No other entity on campus affects more people in such a positive manner."

The state-of-the-art library has faced increased costs associated with the introduction of new electronic sources of information, automated catalog systems and audiovisual materials, among others, all while operating with a materials budget that's remained the same since 1995. The endowment created from these gifts will help the university keep up-to-date on its holdings as well as provide the instruction on how to use and access the information.

"Having information available is critical to education," said Winston Walden, director of TTU's library. "But what's equally important is knowing how to use it. This endowment will help us focus on those efforts."

Funding for the endowment is coming from some of the most influential alumni and friends of the university:

* Volpe and his wife, Jennette, made the first gift to the fund, a remainder trust valued at $140,000.

* Following that lead, Leonard Riggio, CEO of Barnes & Noble and an old friend of the Volpes, donated Barnes & Noble stock gifts worth more than $200,000.

* Judith Jeffers-Davis, a 1967 TTU elementary education graduate, and her husband, Jerry Davis, pledged $1 million.

* Harry Stonecipher, president and chief operating officer of The Boeing Co. and a 1960 TTU physics graduate, pledged $500,000.

* Ken Roberts, a 1975 electrical engineering alumnus, pledged $50,000.

* And an anonymous donor has pledged $250,000.

Volpe said the library effort foreshadows of what he will do in the coming years as president emeritus.

"Tennessee Tech has been my family for 13 years," Volpe said. "The library has been a vital part of that family. I'll continue to help both in any way that I'm needed."