In the university board room, in Garland Hall, in the corridors of the Eisenhower Library, his name not only identifies him but also reflects how others regard him.
For more than a decade, R. Champlin Sheridan--a 1952 Hopkins grad who left his father's Baltimore-based printing business 30 years ago to strike out on his own in the small Pennsylvania town of Hanover--has given his time, his expertise and his money to support Johns Hopkins, particularly the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. In 1991, Sheridan and his wife, Debbie, endowed the library director's position and, in 1994, made a $20 million commitment to nearly double the library's endowment and support its planned renovations.
Sunday, the university honored the couple by rededicating in their name the Eisenhower Library and its collections at the Albert D. Hutzler Reading Room (known on campus as "the Hut"), the John Work Garrett Library at Evergreen House and the Peabody Library. Come spring, a marble plaque will be anchored in the library plaza facing Gilman Hall, proclaiming the libraries and their collections The Sheridan Libraries. The names of the individual libraries will remain the same.
"This rededication celebrates the Sheridans' support of the Eisenhower Library, which has allowed us to sustain our programs and develop collections with a substantial financial base," said James G. Neal, the library's Sheridan Director. "And it recognizes and celebrates the central role the Eisenhower Library plays in the academic life of the university and its effort to take a leadership role in the dramatic changes in information technology."
The rededication of the Eisenhower Library collections was part of a university convocation, scheduled to coincide with the university's board of trustees meeting, which also recognized the completion of the library's 18-month, $4.6 million renovation and the special donors, faculty and staff who made it possible. More than 500 invited guests heard a keynote address by Vartan Gregorian, former head of the New York Public Library, who is widely recognized for his long-standing advocacy of libraries. Gregorian, who subsequently served as president of Brown University, is currently president of the Carnegie Corporation.
The renovation of the Eisenhower Library was undertaken to create a more modern library space, one not just more comfortable for the library's more than 600,000 annual users, but also one that better serves the learning and research needs of Hopkins faculty and students.
Improvements to the library include an enlarged and enhanced Electronic Resource Center; the installation of networked computer stations throughout the six-floor building; an expanded Digital Knowledge Center; a soon-to-be-refurbished Audio Visual Center; a new area where users can socialize and browse through the library's newly cataloged humanities, social sciences and general interest books; larger work surfaces in study spaces; a photocopy center; improved accessibility for disabed users; and the return of the extensive Government Publications/Maps/Law Department, which had been housed in an academic building at Homewood since the mid-1980s. Cosmetic touches like painting and carpeting were made as well.
Champ Sheridan, the Baltimore-born son of a printer, graduated from Hopkins with a bachelor of science degree in engineering. After working for many years at his father's printing business in Baltimore, he moved to Hanover, Pa., where he joined Everybody's Poultry Magazine Publishing Co. Fifteen years later, he managed to scrape together $1,000 to buy the printing company from its retiring owners. He built that business into The Sheridan Group, one of the nation's leading scientific and medical printers.
"Although he was successful in business, my father never finished high school and regretted not completing his formal education," Sheridan said in an interview at the time he and his wife made the $20 million gift to Hopkins. "All of his life, he encouraged me to understand that 'your education is never finished. Always keep an inquisitive mind, and always keep learning.' I hope this gift Debbie and I are making will help many continue to learn."
Sheridan was elected to the university's board of trustees in 1989. He serves as co-chair of the Johns Hopkins Initiative campaign and since 1990 has chaired the Eisenhower Library Advisory Council, providing expertise and guidance to the director on a wide range of matters related to the management of the library. Debbie Sheridan has been active in the leadership of the Friends of the Libraries and has, Neal said, been very effective at encouraging others to commit their time and resources.
In his remarks at the rededication, President William R. Brody said, "In the past, the library has sometimes been thought of as an exceptional resource that someone else should support. Champ and Debbie showed us the library not only needed our support, it deserved special generosity of the highest order."