Building Community through Shared History - A KU Memorial Union Program

Honor Thy Father And Mother

Less than four years after architects first unveiled their designs for KU’s newest library, University administrators and prominent alumni gathered as Norman Jeter, chairman of the KU Board of Regents, formally presented the Marian and Fred Anschutz Science Library to Chancellor Gene A. Budig. October 7, 1989, was dedication day, a chance not only to celebrate the opening of a magnificent building, but also an opportunity to thank all those whose efforts made its construction a reality.

“This library represents our commitment to the future,” Budig announced, “and we are grateful to the people of Kansas and their elected officials for making it possible.” Although taxpayers bore the $13.9 million construction costs, the honor of naming the building went to Colorado businessman and philanthropist Philip F. Anschutz (’61) and his wife Nancy, whose $6.5 million donation in honor of his parents established the Marian and Fred Anschutz Endowed Library Fund. “For their generosity, which is great,” said Budig, “we are truly thankful.”

The University had formally announced its plans for the science library located on the south slope of Mount Oread between the Military Science Building and Hoch Auditorium on March 21, 1986. As the Oread magazine explained it, “The four-story structure will enable university librarians to consolidate KU’s holdings of about a half-million books and other materials pertaining to science, technology, architecture and geography.” Previously, all these resources were scattered about campus, some held in Watson Library, others in various, smaller departmental libraries. “Realization of the science library is essential to the academic well-being of the University of Kansas,” said Chancellor Budig. “Our future in the sciences is tied to the facility. It is among the university’s greatest needs.” The State Legislature apparently agreed, approving the initial planning funds for the library project.

Groundbreaking ceremonies took place on September 11, 1987. With its limestone exterior and red-tiled roof, the 92,000-square-foot facility was designed to fit in with other buildings on campus, especially its immediate neighbor, Hoch Auditorium, to which it would be joined by way of a connecting passageway. Although state funds provided for the actual construction costs of the library, the University’s Campaign Kansas capital campaign sought to raise additional private funds to ensure that all libraries on campus, not merely the new science library, would have the necessary resources to guide KU students into the 21st century.

The most significant contribution came in early 1989 when Philip Anschutz and his wife Nancy, of Denver, Colorado, pledged $6.5 million to go towards a permanent endowed library acquisitions fund. The response was both joyous and immediate. “To the best of our knowledge,” said Jim Ranz, dean of libraries, “the Anschutz endowment is the largest endowment for collections at any public university in the country. What’s more, I’m certain it is one of the largest among all universities, public or private.”

It was, according to Chancellor Budig, "the single most important gift in the history of the University Libraries" and "will have a direct impact on every student and every faculty member at KU, in every department and program, far beyond their lifetimes." That summer, in recognition of their gift, Budig proposed to the Board of Regents that the then-unnamed science library be named in honor of the Anschutzes. And on August 9, 1989, the Regents unanimously agreed to call the building the “Marian and Fred Anschutz Library,” at the request of Philip Anschutz who sought to honor his father (’33) and late mother.

This was not the first time the University of Kansas had been on the receiving end of the Anschutz family’s generosity. Fred Anschutz himself, a KU grad from Russell, Kansas turned wealthy oil tycoon, established in 1980 a $750,000 annual scholarship fund and gave $1.4 million to build the campus sports pavilion that bears his name. His alma mater honored him in 1984 with the Fred Ellsworth Medal for “unique and significant service” to KU. In addition, his daughter, Sue Anschutz Rodgers (’55), has been a prolific benefactor as well over the years, making a number of gifts to the KU School of Education and the Adams Alumni Center.

On dedication day, October 7, Chancellor Budig said that the new Anschutz Library “represents our commitment to the future” and expressed his deep gratitude to the people of Kansas, to all those who so generously donated money, and especially to their honored guests. The “heart of this library,” Budig continued, “and of all our libraries – indeed the heart of the University – has been given new strength and a firm foundation by Nancy and Philip Anschutz. For their generosity, which is great, we are truly thankful…. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of their gift, or the impact it will have on KU in the future.” He concluded by insisting, “no future evaluation of the University and its libraries can ever be complete without an acknowledgment of their influence.”

The chancellor also took care to recognize one of the building’s namesakes, Fred Anschutz, who was also in attendance. “Fred has been one of our great friends and benefactors,” said Budig, “and has clearly instilled in Nancy and Phil the same love for KU and esteem for its students and faculty.”

At its unveiling, guests were treated to a library with state-of-the-art design. Architect Mark A. Viets told them “the hallmark of the interior is flexibility. Permanent partitions are limited in number, … lighting is continuous and under floor electrical and communication systems are extensive.” According to KU librarian John Miller, “The concept of a library has been changing from that of a building housing a collection to that of an information service.”

Dean Ranz agreed, saying that “the goals in planning the Anschutz Library were flexibility, adaptability, effective environmental controls, efficiency of operation, and a ready accommodation of the needs of automation and technology – all blended into a serviceable and architecturally attractive building.” Demonstrating its expansive capacities, Anschutz Library underwent a massive materials influx in the summer of 2001 as the entire Government Documents holdings (nearly 2 million items dating as far back as 1869) were moved over to Anschutz from their previous home in Malott Hall. (Incidentally, the University in general – and Anschutz Library in particular – is a Regional Federal Depository for all US government documents and, additionally, is an official depository library for the United Nations and European Union as well.)

Viewed in this light, as an ever-expanding facility oriented towards the future, Chancellor Budig’s words back in 1989 still ring true. Anschutz Library, he said then, “must grow and change, reflecting the changes which take place as our knowledge and understanding expand.” Above all, “a library cannot be a static monument.” Anschutz Library has been and remains anything but that.

John H. McCool
Department of History
University of Kansas

Source Notes

[Source Notes: For a wealth of materials related to the Marian and Fred Anschutz Science Library, see the facility’s Building File located in University Archives, 4th Floor, Spencer Research Library. Also, Oread, March 21, 1986, p. 1; Kansas Alumni, no. 5 (1999), and no. 1 (2001); and news releases for the Office of University Relations for the following days: September 2, 1987; August 9, 1989; September 29, 1989; and November 21, 1989.]