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Will Bridegam to Retire

The Friends Tribute to Will Bridegam, Librarian

By Samuel B. Ellenport, Chairman
by Frank Ward

Willis E. Bridegam,Librarian of the College since 1975, who will retire on August 31, 2004, prepares to speak at the Millionth Volume Celebration.

by M. Barnes Taft

Clockwise from left are Nathalie Bridegam, John Peterson, Sam Ellenport, Will Bridegam, Charlotte Turgeon, and Gregory Call, Dean of the Faculty.

During the 1,000,000th Volume celebration, The Friends hosted a dinner to honor the Librarian of the College, Willis Bridegam, who announced his retirement after 29 years of service to Amherst. Will has spent those years building friendships, building the Library’s collections, and spearheading an extremely competent staff devoted to the Library. Above all, Will has also kept the Library in the forefront of technological change, combining the best of a traditional academic library with new ways of collecting, organizing and distributing information. This was in our minds when we established an endowed fund in his name: The Willis E. Bridegam Fund for the Amherst College Library. It is our intent to use the Fund for those areas which we can identify with Will’s interests, as a fitting tribute to a man of not only great accomplishment but also foresight.

Will has served with great distinction, and we sometimes take for granted how superlative the Library has become. Indeed, Will is recognized by his peers as one of the best small college librarians in the country. Many of the changes that have taken place during Will’s tenure have been documented in “An Historical Chronology of the Amherst College Library.” What this chronology lacks, however, is a sense of the strength of Will’s personality. It is his warmth, dedication, commitment—and sense of humor—that we will all remember long after the details of change blur into the past. He is already committed to projects in libraries beyond Amherst College that promise to make his retirement an active one. I write for us all when I express my hope that Will play a continuing role among The Friends.

The dinner for Will Bridegam was held on the perimeter of the Alfred Friendly ’33 Periodicals Reading Room in the Robert Frost Library by special permission of the dean. The Library remained open and accessible to students during the entire proceeding. (Will would not have had it any other way, we knew, though he was not consulted, since the dinner was a surprise.)