CORVALLIS, Ore. – An alumnus of Oregon State University who surrounded himself with books has surprised his alma mater by giving OSU’s Valley Library the vast majority of his estate.

Franklin A. McEdward, a 1957 OSU electrical engineering graduate, left a total of $2.6 million to the university. His gift, designated primarily for OSU’s Valley Library, will fund a new professorship dedicated to undergraduate learning initiatives and a new reading room. A portion of his estate will also support the College of Engineering, naming a lounge in the Kelley Engineering Center.

McEdward died in May 2007 at the age of 82. For the past 40 years, McEdward, who worked as a Boeing test engineer in Seattle, lived next door to Sam Rondos, whom he befriended and – unbeknownst to Rondos – named executor of his estate.

“I had absolutely no idea,” Rondos said. “When Frank fell and broke an arm a few years ago, I asked if he had a will, but he just laughed. He never married or had children, so I suggested he give whatever he had to his school, because he loved books and learning so much. I had no idea what his estate was worth or that I was the executor.”

McEdward’s gift, the second largest from an individual ever given to the OSU library, also took the OSU faculty and staff by surprise.

“I was astounded,” said Karyle Butcher, the Valley Library director and holder of the Delpha and Donald Campbell University Librarian Endowed Chair. “The entire library staff is thrilled about this incredible generosity – both Frank McEdward’s gift and Sam Rondos’ work to ensure that his friend’s wishes be fulfilled here at Oregon State.”

Almost half of the gift will establish the Franklin A. McEdward Endowed Professorship for Undergraduate Learning Initiatives. The inaugural holder will be Anne-Marie Deitering, an OSU assistant professor of library science, who is well-known for her research into how today’s students learn and access information.

“In the library world, Anne-Marie is one of the leading stars in the pedagogy of undergraduate learning,” Butcher said. “Her passion is learning and learning initiatives, which is perfect, because the goal of any library is to make information easy to access and to ensure that people are obtaining the information that works best for them.”

According to Deitering, the entire undergraduate experience is changing. Students are growing up awash in vast amounts of online information. They are tech-savvy with web-based tools and blend their studies and socializing – often doing both on a computer. That’s not the end of the story though, Deitering says. The curriculum also is changing, and today’s students are expected to learn how to work in groups, inside and outside the classroom.

“The way students learn today is very different from a few years ago – from multi-tasking and small group learning to online social networking,” Deitering said. “That completely changes how students use the library. Today, for example, a library has to accommodate moving furniture for use by small discussion groups. Supporting these changes means we have to rethink the learning spaces we put in a library.”

Rethinking and restructuring the Valley Library’s learning spaces is one of Deitering’s many tasks as the new McEdward Professor. Plans are in the works to create a Franklin McEdward Reading Room near the computer commons on the first floor of the library, and Deitering will work with Butcher and the library staff to totally retool the library’s wireless classroom with the latest technology.

Both Deitering and Butcher view the library as the bridge from campus to the real world, and they know that students see the library as an integral part of their learning experience at OSU. If that experience is good, they say, OSU benefits.

“The students using the library today will be tomorrow’s alumni, returning the investments we’re making today as donors and library advocates,” Butcher said.

The McEdward gift is included in the Campaign for OSU, the university's first comprehensive fundraising campaign. Guided by OSU's strategic plan, the campaign seeks $625 million to provide opportunities for students, strengthen the Oregon economy and conduct research that changes the world. Approximately $442 million has been committed to date. More than 20 new endowed faculty positions have been established since the start of the campaign.

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Karyle Butcher,