Career Librarian Bestows Largest Gift on SILS

An alumna who dedicated her life to education has left UNC’s School of Information and Library Science more than $1 million for student scholarships.

Jane Iris Crutchfield ’55 bequeathed the gift when she died in December 2006 at age 92 after spending her career as a teacher and school librarian. She taught in the Danville, Va., public schools and later in the Richmond public schools. She came to the UNC school after 19 years of teaching to pursue a degree in library science, graduating with a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to receiving her degree from the school, Crutchfield earned a bachelor of science degree from Mary Washington College (now Mary Washington University) and a master’s degree in education from the University of Virginia. She was a school librarian at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Arlington, Va., from 1960 until she retired in the late 1970s.

The $1.12 million gift, bequeathed by Crutchfield in memory of her mother, Janie Gammon Crutchfield – who always encouraged her daughter to pursue her education – will go to the school’s Susan Grey Akers Scholarship Fund, named for a former school dean. This endowment fund assists deserving students who are both admitted to the master of science in library science degree program and distinguished by evidence of professional promise, character, leadership and high scholastic achievement.

The bequest is the largest gift the school has ever received.

“This incredibly generous gift will provide scholarships to our most promising students for years to come,” said José-Marie Griffiths, dean of the school.

Mary Kay Lanzillotta, whose family was a neighbor of Crutchfield’s, described her as an elegant lady who was always on the go and actively involved with children’s reading. She also was active in her community, especially with the Delta Kappa Gamma Society of female educators and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

“Miss Iris thought if she could engage children in exploring through reading, they could do anything,” she said. “If they couldn’t yet read, she would offer reading hours. She would make studying fun and interesting by bringing in artifacts from her many travels to relate to her stories or the book they were reading. She wanted everyone to read, to appreciate and enjoy reading. As a children’s librarian, she always had suggestions of books to read or things to explore for my siblings and me. Each birthday we received a book that had been carefully selected and was meaningful for each of us.”

Her favorite memories of Crutchfield were of her tea parties. “She would have my sister and me over for tea,” Lanzillotta said. “They were very special occasions for us.”

In honor of Crutchfield and to commemorate the gift, the dean will host an annual tea in the name of Jane Iris Crutchfield for the recipients of the Akers scholarships.

The school’s alumni association established the Akers Scholarship Fund upon the retirement as dean of the late Susan Grey Akers. She was the first dean of the school, serving from 1932 to 1954, and the first female dean at UNC. She spearheaded the foundation of the library school at N.C. Central University and was noted for her book, Simple Library Cataloging.

Related coverage is available online:

  • Remixing Scholarship: The digital revolution is changing the science of information – and Carolina’s libraries.
    From the March/April 2007 issue of the Carolina Alumni Review, available online to Carolina Alumni members.

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