As the son of an antiquarian bookseller, Michael D. Wormser ’59 spent hours delving into his father’s own library of a couple thousand volumes.
Wormser remembers being particularly interested in his father’s books on American and European history, travel, and science. Oftentimes he would accompany his father, Richard, to visit the special collections at the New York Public Library and Yale, as well as private home collections, where he saw rare and notable titles firsthand. At age 86 Wormser can still smell the yellowing pages and feel the fraying binding of some of his father’s first-edition books, and he remembers holding the Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in British North America, as well as viewing a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.
“I took in a lot of this as a child,” Wormser said. “Certainly the importance and influence of libraries came through loud and clear.”
To honor his many personal and familial connections to libraries and reading, Wormser has documented a total of $2 million in planned gifts to Colby College to establish the Michael and Eugenia Wormser Director of the Colby Libraries Fund, which will permanently name and support the salary, benefits, and recruitment of the Michael and Eugenia Wormser Director of the Colby Libraries.
“I hope that in small measure this gift will continue or spur student interest in the actual book during this digital age of online research and e-books. I hope Miller Library remains a dynamic center for scholarship and that this gift helps maintain that,” Wormser said.
This summer Kevin L. Smith was appointed the first Michael and Eugenia Wormser Director of the Colby Libraries. An authority on intellectual property, Smith most recently served as dean of libraries at the University of Kansas and director of the University Press of Kansas before coming to Mayflower Hill.
Smith will supervise a staff of about 30 people, leading the team as it implements a newly developed strategic plan. “The library staff wanted a director who would help continue the work they already feel proud of, and Kevin is that person,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Margaret McFadden. “Libraries are changing fast, and Kevin has his finger on the pulse of that change.”
While a student at Colby, Wormser was involved with the yearbook, radio station, outing club, international relations club, and Delta Upsilon. He completed graduate work in international relations at the University of Pittsburgh.
In addition to graduating from Colby in 1960 with a degree in English literature, Eugenia Wormser earned a master’s degree in library science from Carnegie Mellon University and eventually worked in the Washington, D.C., public library system. The voracious reader also worked as a librarian for the Audubon Society of the Mid-Atlantic States. She died in 2007 from muscular dystrophy, which also claimed the life of Michael and Eugenia’s only child, Richard, in 2021.
During the 1960s Michael and Eugenia Wormser lived in England for a few years. It was there that Wormser discovered an interest in war poets from World War I and II. He and Eugenia spent weekends visiting used bookstores in London and Oxford to build his collection. In more recent years, he has expanded his collection to include novelists and memoirists from both World Wars and currently has 200 to 300 novels, including some first editions of well-known works such as Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer, and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
Wormser previously made gifts to Colby, including donating about half of his war poets collection, to support Miller Library’s Special Collections and to honor his late wife. The library’s Wormser Reading Room was dedicated to Eugenia Wormser in 2009.
“Genie had a separate will that said she would like our estate to fund the library directorship if that was possible, so this is a perfect dream come true for her. She would be just thrilled this was happening,” Wormser said.
Alumni can take advantage of future financial planning to expand their support of the College and their other philanthropic passions, as Wormser did. Most come to the College through a simple gift in a will, trust, retirement plan, or life insurance policy. Colby also makes available a variety of tax-friendly options for complex gifts, such as gift annuities, of which Wormser has several that have benefited him and other family members. These gifts bridge the gap between the past and future of the College, creating a legacy that will allow generations of students to benefit from the Colby experience.
“Through Colby’s astute management of everything we have given over the years, all these funds have grown to such an extent that make the naming possible,” Wormser said. “I’m most pleased to say the least.”
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