Meet Kae Kirkwood Geneva's Archival Librarian - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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May 29, 2020

Meet Kae Kirkwood Geneva's Archival Librarian

My parents both graduated from Geneva in the Class of 1948 and as I had heard about Geneva all my life,  it was natural that I looked to Geneva for my education, as well.  Immediately following my graduation from Geneva in May, 1983 (BA in Biblical Studies, a BSBA in Business/Secretarial, and a minor in History), I began a short stint for the summer, filling in for the secretary in the President’s Office and working part-time in Admissions.  That fall, I became the Admissions Office Manager.  Three years later  I transferred to McCartney Library to oversee Circulation Services, and during that time I earned a Master’s of Library Science from the University of Pittsburgh. I was promoted to Director of Circulation Services, and served in that capacity until April of 1998, when I left Geneva to be a full-time homeschooling mom.  However, in October, 2001, Dr. Gerald Moran (College Librarian at the time and my former boss), invited me back to work in the Archives in a part-time temporary position. I accepted gladly, and the following year the position was made permanent.  I can hardly believe that I have been working in Archives now for 17 years—longer than all of my previous Geneva jobs put together. 

What is your favorite part about being Geneva’s archivist?

The signature line that I use in my emails is from Ezra 6:1, “and search was made in the archives… where the treasures were stored.”  This verse refers to the search for documents related to the rebuilding of the temple in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, but it resonates in a special way with me.  I am privileged to work with the treasured documents, artifacts, and stories of Geneva College on a regular basis, and I love it!  I am able to help people from all across campus and beyond to find answers to their questions about Geneva:  from students doing class research and faculty needing the history of some aspect of the College, to physical plant workers looking for ancient building plans, to searching for information for the President’s Office, the Board of Trustees, and many other offices and departments (Alumni, Public Relations, Athletics, to name a few), as well as individuals who just want to find out what their parents or grandparents did when they were Geneva students.  Every day that I work is different, and every day is a treasure hunt for me.

What is your favorite part or story about Geneva’s history?

Oh, my.  That question is like asking me what my favorite book is!  I can never answer that question, either! There are so many fascinating stories in the annals of Geneva College….  I guess what I love most  is not one specific event, but following the trail of Geneva’s history and seeing God’s hand of blessing in so many events.  I love the account of the tornado that blew the gold-colored roof off of Old Main on May 11, 1914 and ruined the chapel.  What seemed like a calamity at the time was turned into a huge blessing, and just less than a year later the dedication of the newly refurbished and greatly improved chapel was held.  This is just one example.  I have a long-term, ongoing project of creating a chronological timeline of the College, and in that timeline I see God’s providence in so many ways!

Do you have a favorite photo or artifact from Geneva’s history?

One of my favorite “go-to” artifacts when asked to show people around Archives is from the World War II era.  Dr. C.M. Lee, Dean of the College, had a great love for Geneva students.  One by one, current students and graduates began joining the military to defend  our country, and as they did, Dean Lee began to record their names in a set of eleven loose-leaf notebooks.  He made all kinds of notes about each Genevan—where they were serving, what they were doing, clipping items from the newspapers about them, and even recording their deaths, in the cases of some 41 Genevans who lost their lives.  These notebooks are precious to me and I love to share them with people.  The fact that a busy man, an important college dean, would care so much about these young people that he would meticulously record their activities in harm’s way, brings tears to my eyes time after time.  Dr. Lee later became the president of Geneva College.  I never had the privilege of meeting him, but his son, Dr. Stewart Lee, was my advisor as a student and a man I held in highest esteem.  He came by his good character honestly, following in his father’s footsteps.

What is something you wish everyone knew about archival work or being an archivist?

Our God puts great importance on valuing the history of His work through the ages.  For example, if I could sum up the Old Testament in one word, it would be “Remember!”  Archival work can be considered then to be a “holy calling,” when calling to remembrance what God has done for us.  In October of 1992, Geneva President Dr. John H. White entitled his inaugural address:  “Remember! And Thus Advance the Vision.”   In that speech, Dr. White encouraged the Geneva community to remember to be “faithful to a rich, powerful heritage, and by God’s grace, to make it relevant for today and tomorrow.”  I believe that the work that is done in the Geneva College Archives is doing just that-- helping to make Geneva’s heritage and history relevant to our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and family members, for the glory of God.

Kae Kirkwood's office is located in the basement of McCartney Library. Hours by appointment.