Raymond Gadke, AM’66, Reading Room Manager, 1943-2018

Raymond Gadke provided scholarly resources to four decades of researchers and mentorship to generations of College students at the University of Chicago. He died this week at age 74.

Raymond Gadke, 1943-2018. Inspired by a fondness for Elvis Presley’s garb in “Blue Hawaii,” Ray made Hawaiian shirts his regular uniform, and librarians directed patrons needing help with microfilms to find him based on his signature look. (Photo by John Zich)

Ray came to the University of Chicago as a master’s student in the Division of the Humanities with a strong interest in history, conducting research on the Catholic Church, completing his AM in 1966 and joining the Library staff in 1969. His early interests, wide-ranging intellectual curiosity, giving nature, and close relationships with researchers and students were the hallmarks of his life and career at the University of Chicago.

Anyone who has frequented the microforms department in Regenstein Library since it opened in 1971 would recognize Ray, who began by overseeing this collection. Over the years, his responsibilities expanded to include the management of periodicals and, ultimately, all of the Regenstein reading room collections.

“He was an unfailingly friendly, unfailingly helpful face in the Library, known to thousands of people who walked through the doors—a bit of constancy in a sea of change,” said David Bottorff, Head of Collection Management and Circulation.  “He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the microfilm collection that is not replaceable.”

Ray used that knowledge to help researchers find the particular piece of microfilm they were looking for, getting to know the visitors who returned regularly, where they came from, and what they needed. He also became a mentor to scores of students who worked for him over more than 40 years at the Library.  In recognition of the important role he played in their lives, more than 50 UChicago alumni raised $75,000 in 2015 to create the Ray Gadke Internship Fund Established by Friends of Ray to Endow Undergraduate Internships.

Outside the Library, Ray frequently gave tours on campus, sharing his knowledge of the architecture, and he was widely known for his personal collection of religious statues, which started in the 1980s when Catholic priests who knew him from his graduate school research began giving him items from churches that were closing.  The collection rotated, as he gave items from his collection to other Catholic churches and schools as new ones came in.

Within the Library, Ray was known for organizing staff donations to the Hyde Park and Kenwood Hunger Programs, collected at the annual holiday party in December.

He also donated rarely held religious studies materials and funds to the Library.  David Larsen, Director of Access Services and Assessment, recalls a period when Ray would regularly come to the Library with liturgical works relating to obscure monastic communities in the Midwest.

“Ray was a wonderful University and Library citizen,” said Brenda Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian. “In memory of his parents, Ray generously established the Elden and Ruth Lauffenburger Gadke Endowment Fund to acquire, preserve, and provide access to books and other scholarly resources in religious studies. The fund will now become a lasting symbol of Ray’s kindness and of his deep commitment to religious studies. His good cheer, deep institutional knowledge, and longstanding commitment to students, researchers, library colleagues, and the greater community will be greatly missed.”

Donations in Ray’s memory may be made to the Annual Fund at the University of Chicago Library, the Hyde Park and Kenwood Hunger Programs, PAWS Chicago, or the Ray Gadke Internship Fund (choose “College: Jeff Metcalf Internships” in the “Area of Support” drop-down and note “in memory of Ray Gadke” in the comment field).

A memorial service will be held at Hyde Park Union Church on Wednesday, March 14 at 4:30 p.m.

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