First professorship established at the iSchool

Mildred Luther

Editor's note: Applications are currently being accepted for the Mildred M. Luther and Kathryn Henderson Professorship in Preservation and Technical Services.

The iSchool is pleased to announce the establishment of its first endowed professorship, the Mildred M. Luther and Kathryn Luther Henderson Professorship in Preservation and Technical Services. The professorship was established through the generosity of Mildred Luther (1926-2017), a loyal Illinois employee and alumna with a special family connection to the School.

Mildred Luther grew up on her family's farm and attended a one-room schoolhouse in Champaign County. After graduating from Champaign High School in 1944, she began working as a clerk in the Catalog Department of the University of Illinois Library to help her parents finance her education. She worked full time during summers and part time during the academic year while attending the University on a full-time basis. After earning her bachelor's degree, she accepted a full-time position in the Catalog Department. From 1950 to 1967 she worked in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. In 1967, when the Office of the Chancellor on the Urbana campus was established, she was chosen to assist in organizing the office and serve as its business manager. She held this position until her retirement in 1993, having completed 49 years of service to the University. 

"Millie knew everyone on campus," recalled her sister, iSchool Professor Emerita Kathryn Luther Henderson. "She was the first voice people heard when they phoned the Chancellor's Office. She was very involved in the planning of the Swanlund Administration Building [where the Chancellor's Office is located]. Millie was a great organizer, quiet, behind the scenes, always making sure things happened, and never left a job undone."

Dick Wilson, former associate chancellor for development and vice president of the University of Illinois Foundation, worked with Luther for more than fifteen years in the Chancellor's Office and interacted with her as a benefactor after she retired from the University.

"She was extraordinarily loyal to the University and had great admiration for the accomplishments of her sister, Kathryn," said Wilson. "These two motivations resulted in her initial gift to establish the Mildred M. Luther Endowment Fund in the School and also led to subsequent gifts creating the Mildred M. Luther and Kathryn Luther Henderson Endowed Fellowship and the Mildred M. Luther and Kathryn Luther Henderson Professorship in Preservation and Technical Services. I am confident that Millie would be proud of what her endowments have accomplished for the University that she loved."

Technical services and preservation were her sister's areas of research and teaching. At the iSchool, Kathryn developed the technical services class, and she and her husband, Associate Professor Emeritus William T Henderson, developed and team-taught the preservation class.

Kathryn preceded her sister at the University, earning a bachelor's degree in history (1944) and library science (1948) and master's degree in library science (1951). After working at the University of Illinois Library and the McCormick Theological Seminary Library, she returned to Urbana to join the faculty of the Graduate School of Library Science, now the iSchool, in 1965. Her teaching is remembered long after the students have left the classes. Especially remembered are the extensive syllabi she developed anew each offering of the course and her careful attention and copious remarks given each student's assignment. Her teaching has been recognized with awards locally, nationally, and internationally.

"This is such a wonderful expression of support for the mission of our School and our University," said Professor and Dean Allen Renear. "Kathie Henderson has been a powerful intellectual figure at our School. Her sister Mildred, who graciously made this gift, throughout her life provided vital wise and expert support for decades of University leaders, support that helped the University navigate many challenges and become the great institution it is today. With this gift, Mildred continues her devoted support for the University by recognizing the extraordinary contributions, to the field, to the School, to the University, and to the world, of Kathryn Luther Henderson."

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