I don’t know that I’ve ever said this, but I’m so glad it’s March. Last month pulled my head and heart in all kinds of directions. And I’m doing my best to ignore that a recent birthday—putting me only a year away from 50 years old—might have been a factor.

Late last month, the University lost a giant with the passing of Russell Peck, a professor emeritus of English and the John Hall Deane Professor Emeritus of Rhetoric and Poetry. The list of his accomplishments is long and nothing short of amazing. Within the libraries’ community, he’ll be remembered predominantly for establishing the TEAMS Middle English Text Series and being the force behind creating the Rossell Hope Robbins Library.

I didn’t get to know Russell well in my first year here. We chatted a few times, discussing METS and his work. I only recently learned that in the late-1980s he took it upon himself to decorate the wall of the stacks tower with framed art after deciding they were bare. I also learned that he didn’t talk about doing things; he just did them. This explains why I always felt like he emanated a larger-than-life presence.

The last time I saw Russell was at the Friends of the University of Rochester Libraries holiday gathering in December. He sang and got everyone else to sing with him. At the event, I did a reading of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” I learned later that this was one of Russell’s favorite poems, and I know whenever I encounter it from now on, I will think of him.  

Heading into the positive end of the emotional spectrum, last month I attended a leadership retreat to discuss the University’s strategic plan and its path forward.

Although it was mentally draining, the retreat was a great experience. I know this might sound trite, but it really helped me connect the dots and see where the University is going. It resonated with me because it allowed me to see a clearer path for the libraries, and one that aligns with the University’s. My team and I are working on a plan for the libraries, which we will share in the coming months.

For now, I’ll just say I’m more invigorated than ever and eager to feed the evolution of the libraries.

Kevin Garewal
Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean
University of Rochester Libraries