Outreach and Impact through Philanthropy
by Stacy Palado
February 29, 2024  •  8 minute read
Stacy Palado, UT Libraries Director of Advancement

UT’s libraries provide some of the most interdisciplinary and collaborative spaces on campus. Students meet up for team projects at all hours of the day and night, subject librarians are on hand—in person and virtually—to provide research assistance to professors and students, and electronic and physical resources are available in subjects from accounting to zoology. The contributions of our generous donors strengthen our impact both on and off campus. 

One of the most popular ways donors choose to support the library is by creating an endowment or making a gift to help build and maintain the vast collection of scholarly materials we provide for the university and the general public. There are many less obvious ways, however, that our generous supporters are making an impact at UT Libraries.

One exciting example began in the fall of 2023 with the hiring of Katrina Stack. Stack was selected to serve as the Beauford Delaney Graduate Research Fellow in the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives. This prestigious fellowship was made possible through a grant from the Henry S. Luce Foundation’s American Art grant program, which supports collaborative projects that promote the work of artists from underrepresented communities. (The Beauford Delaney Papers were purchased thanks to contributions from Jim and Natalie Haslam, Steve and Ann Bailey, UT’s Office of the Provost and Office of the Chancellor, and numerous other library supporters.)

The Luce grant will allow Stack to dig deeply into the personal papers of Knoxville-born African American artist Beauford Delaney. The two-year fellowship will enable her to describe and add context to Delaney’s papers through her research within Special Collections, as well as by cross-referencing holdings at the Ewing Gallery, the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, and the Knoxville Museum of Art. Stack will have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from faculty within UT at the libraries, the School of Art, and the Humanities Center, and outside of UT at the Beck and KMA. She will even be able to consult with Delaney experts in Paris, where the artist spent much of his career.

Senior Associate Dean of Libraries Holly Mercer says, “The Henry Luce Foundation grant provides practical research experience while Katrina finishes her dissertation. She will work with our cultural heritage partners in Knoxville to tell the story of Beauford Delaney through art, archives, and artifacts. Katrina’s background in heritage interpretation and museum studies will benefit Special Collections as we work to create an exhibit of the Beauford Delaney Papers that contextualizes Delaney’s life and work.”

A second example of collaboration is a bit closer to home, particularly for me. Many of you are likely familiar with Associate Dean Teresa Braden Walker and former Executive Associate Dean Rita Hoyt Smith. Walker began her journey with UT as an undergraduate student in 1990. She went on to earn her master’s in information sciences, then promptly began working at the libraries and loved it so much she never left. 

From left: Associate Dean of Libraries Teresa Braden Walker, Walker’s husband, Ben, and former Executive Associate Dean Rita Hoyt Smith

Walker oversees a number of UT Libraries departments: Arts and Humanities, Community Learning and Engagement, DeVine Music Library, Health and Wellness, Immersive Technologies and Spaces, Marketing and Communications, Pendergrass Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Library, Public Services, and Teaching and Learning Programs. She says, “I can’t imagine a better place on campus to work than UT Libraries. Everyone wants to be here—from undergraduate and graduate students to professors and community researchers. For all disciplines, for all skill levels, we are here to empower creativity and learning!”

Smith joined UT Libraries in 1976 as a reference librarian. She went on to serve as head of reference and instructional services before retiring as executive associate dean in 2018. Even in retirement, she can often be found in Hodges Library—researching, reading, or volunteering her time in Special Collections. 

Smith and Walker share a passion for UT’s students and the outreach programs that the libraries facilitate annually—everything from Big Orange STEM Saturdays, which expose middle and high school students to career opportunities, to DeStress for Success, which encourages university students to counterbalance exam prep with personal well-being. This love of students spurred the two longtime librarians to create the Braden and Hoyt Families’ Student Engagement and Outreach Endowment. The endowment was fully funded in late 2023, and funds can be requested by any UT Libraries faculty or staff member to support library-related programming for undergraduate and graduate students as well as outreach activities for K–12 and community college students. Others can make gifts to the endowment as well.To learn more about either project or how you can make an impact with your gift to UT Libraries, please do not hesitate to contact me at spalado@utk.edu or 865-974-0055. Together we can do amazing things.

Thank you to every person and organization that made a donation to the University of Tennessee Libraries this past year. Whether you are an employee who faithfully contributed five dollars a month through payroll deduction, a new supporter who just made your first gift, or a UT retiree who created a named endowment in honor of a loved one, your gift is meaningful. To allow space for more storytelling, we have chosen not to print a donor roll. We will instead put our efforts into creating more meaningful experiences such as the addition of an annual Dean’s Circle beginning in 2024. A list of endowments and a roll with the names of donors in the Hoskins Circle and Felicia Circle are available on the libraries’ website at lib.utk.edu/society/donor-recognition.