Campus libraries receive $1 million bequest for Friends

April 16, 2007

A Madison bibliophile has left a large share of his estate, nearly $1 million, to the University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries to benefit its Friends organization.

Douglas Schewe, who taught at Madison Area Technical College, made the bequest to encourage the campus and the larger community to read print books. Income from the endowment will be targeted to promote reading and to support lectures and outreach to campus and the wider Madison area.

"This generous gift helps the Friends to continue to provide quality programming," says Edward Van Gemert, acting director of the UW–Madison Libraries. "The gift supports the type of programming that Douglas Schewe followed with great interest."

Chris Kleinhenz, professor of French and Italian at UW–Madison and president of the Friends of the UW–Madison Library, says, "This wonderful gift will allow the Friends to expand our programming in a number of ways to serve both the campus and the Madison community. This will enable us to be a more active contributor to the Wisconsin Idea."

According to the terms of the bequest, an outreach component allows the Friends of the UW–Madison Library to host speakers with "sound, balanced academic scholarship encouraging diversity of study or with contemporary literary merit to encourage the 'sifting and winnowing' principle of the University of Wisconsin."

Schewe (pronounced Shahvah) was a graduate of Union Free High School in Middleton. He earned a bachelor of science in 1956, a master of science in journalism in 1966, and another master's in curriculum and instruction in 1969, all from UW–Madison. He taught reading and English at Madison Area Technical College for 23 years until his retirement in 1993.

Schewe was a generous donor to the humanities at UW–Madison. Previous gifts were made in history of cartography and to the Chazen Museum of Art, the Department of Art History and the School of Music. He had a large art collection, portions of which were previously given to the Friends and to the School of Medicine and Public Health.

Schewe was also deeply interested in psychology and the psychology of learning, according to John Tortorice, a former library employee and a friend of Schewe. He says that Schewe led a very active intellectual life.

"His passion was reading, especially religious studies, literature and history. The books in his personal library of more than 5,000 volumes were filled with his marginalia," says Tortorice. Schewe visited campus almost daily to visit the libraries, attend lectures (including Friends lectures) and to meet friends in what Tortorice described as a "true example of lifelong learning."

Schewe was known to correspond heavily about his readings and about lectures that he attended. He had an active correspondence with some of UW–Madison's leading scholars, including historian George Mosse and geneticist James Crow, and was known for his frequent letters to the local newspapers. In one commentary he argued for making "Bucky known for brain as well as brawn."