Elsessers donate $1M to the iSchool in support of faculty and school librarianship

James and Lionelle Elsesser
James and Lionelle Elsesser

Thanks to a new $1-million gift from Lionelle (BA English '66, MSLIS '67) and James (BS Business '66, MS Business '67) Elsesser, the iSchool will be better able to attract and retain outstanding faculty and educate future school librarians. Their latest donation will be directed to the iSchool Alumni Association Endowed Professorship Fund, Leigh Estabrook Faculty Development Fund, and Public School Licensure Program Fund.

The Elsessers are longtime advocates of the iSchool, giving generously of their time and resources to further its mission of teaching, research, and public engagement.

"The funds we chose to support were selected, in large part, because you cannot have a great program which attracts the best students without an outstanding and dedicated faculty," said Lionelle. "And because children need to discover early that there is special joy and benefit in using their library."

Lionelle is a retired iSchool adjunct assistant professor with a background in medical librarianship and instructional technology, who previously served as executive director of the Health Sciences Communications Association. She credits her MSLIS degree with giving her "a foundation for thinking." When working on a problem, the skills she learned from the program helped her in understanding the question or issue at hand, identifying trustworthy resources, and coming up with a solution. 

"In my case, it initially led me to focus on the role of the librarian in patient and family education, a neglected and worrisome concern for many librarians. That led to writing and teaching, which greatly expanded my professional interactions," she said.

As Lionelle's career progressed, she moved from traditional library work into management of multidisciplinary staff and finally into the management of a professional association. The basic skills she learned in her MSLIS program provided a solid underpinning, and the "service mentality" that was part of the iSchool's ethos was integral to her professional approach.

Now that she and James are able to give back to their alma mater, they enthusiastically and generously do so. This is their second $1-million gift to the iSchool.

"A long time ago, I heard that there are three phases in life—first you learn, then you earn, and finally you return. It's as simple as that—I'm in the returning part of my life. I do it out of gratitude for access to wonderful faculty, an amazing library, and a university that supported me with assistantships," said Lionelle. "Giving back is an affirmation of the impact the iSchool has made in my life."

"We are deeply grateful for the support that Lionelle and James have provided to our School over the years," said Dean and Professor Eunice E. Santos. "Their gifts have contributed to the ongoing excellence of our degree programs and enriched the lives of our students and faculty. We are fortunate to count such loyal advocates among our alumni and friends."

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