Amanda Richards and Dr. Karen Lasater examine the special bound edition.
Stepping Stones: A Special Bound Edition Honors a Newly Promoted Faculty Member
by Martha Rudolph
November 5, 2021  •  6 minute read
Faculty enjoy the Provost’s Bookplate Reception.

For almost 20 years, the Provost has hosted an annual reception for University of Tennessee faculty members who were awarded tenure or promotion during the year. It has become an established tradition to honor each faculty member by adding a commemorative bookplate to a book in the libraries’ collections. Newly tenured or promoted faculty members are asked to select the title to be plated in their honor.

In his remarks at this year’s ceremonies on November 3, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick noted the wide range of titles selected by faculty members — from scientific, philosophical, and literary classics to current scholarship to children’s books that had been an early inspiration in faculty members’ lives. (View an online gallery of the chosen titles on the libraries’ website.)

One particular book is distinguished by its unique provenance: A special bound edition of the title was produced in-house by library staff.

When we query faculty honorees about the titles they want plated in their honor, we also invite them to share the reasons for their choices. Karen Lasater of the College of Nursing, who this year celebrated her promotion to Clinical Professor, selected a cherished family heirloom: Stepping Stones Make Smoother the Road of Life was a book of poetry written and privately published by her great-grandfather, Jacob Swisher. Lasater said of her chosen title, “Dr. Swisher was my great-grandfather who was a professor at the University of Iowa. He wrote several books mainly on the state of Iowa. His books of poetry were passed down to each new generation. He had at least one son-in-law, nine grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren who attended college within the University of Tennessee System. It would mean the world to our family if this book could be placed within the library on the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee.”

Gail Williams from our department of Assessment Programs and Collection Strategy, who organizes the libraries’ contributions to the Provost’s annual reception, relayed Lasater’s wishes to Amanda Richards, the libraries’ preservation technician, asking if it was feasible to make a copy of the book.

The special bound edition in process

Richards, whose job is conserving and preserving rare and valuable materials for our Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, was delighted to take on the project. She conferred with professor Lasater about her preferences for binding our unique edition — then set to work.

Creating the special bound edition was the work of many hands. Josh Morgan in Digital Production digitized the pages; Kyle Hovious in Special Collections enhanced the quality of the scanned page images; Shelly O’Barr in the Studio made test prints for the book cover; and Cathy Jenkins in Marketing and Communications handled the prepress work and printing.

Richards (left) and Lasater examine the special bound edition.

“Once the book was scanned and printed, I got to work,” Richards said, “making the book cloth from 100 percent cotton, then cut the lettering out onto infusible ink and infused that to the fresh book cloth. I used the sewn-board binding method because it looks elegant while still being very sturdy — and allows the book to lay nearly flat when opened. It gives it a more ‘book-art’ look in my opinion. I am so pleased with the outcome and thrilled that I had the chance to work on such a sentimental and meaningful project. It really was an absolute pleasure.”

Richards added a special dedication to our unique edition of Stepping Stones Make Smoother the Road of Life, reprinting professor Lasater’s homage to her great-grandfather along with a brief profile:

Dr. Jacob Armstrong Swisher
Historian and Author
August 1, 1884 – July 7, 1976

Dr. Swisher was a professor at the University of Iowa, where he is remembered as one of the most productive scholars associated with the State Historical Society of Iowa. He received his PhD in political science in 1927 and accepted a position as research associate with the State Historical Society of Iowa, where he remained until his retirement in 1950.

Books plated in honor of newly tenured and promoted faculty will be on display through November 17 in the Jack E. Reese Galleria on the first floor of Hodges Library and will thereafter be available for checkout from the general collection.