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Scholars Award Honors Longtime Library Dean

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
June 3rd, 2009

Two Honors graduates are the first to be named Robert F. Munn Undergraduate Library Scholars. Chelsea Derlan, who earned degrees in psychology and Spanish, and Kelly Trimble, who earned her degree in Slavic and East European Studies, received the award at a ceremony in the Charles C. Wise Library over Commencement Weekend.

“These students did remarkable work. There is a tremendous amount of scholarship in these theses,” said Keith Garbutt, Dean of the Honors College. “This award recognizes and rewards it.”

Munn Scholars
Chelsea Derlan and Kelly Trimble are the first to be named Robert F. Munn Undergraduate Library Scholars.

The WVU Libraries and the Honors College of WVU established the Robert F. Munn Undergraduate Library Scholars Award to honor Dr. Robert F. Munn, Dean of Library Services from 1957-1986.

The award goes to a graduating Honors student or students for outstanding research in the humanities or social sciences that is done in the WVU Libraries and results in an exceptional thesis. Writing a thesis is a graduation requirement for Honors students. Along with receiving a $1,000 award, the scholar’s name is added to a plaque in the Downtown Campus Library.

“I was really honored that everyone found my thesis worthy of the award,” Trimble said. “I’m very grateful.”

Along with a full schedule of classes, she spent the past academic year researching and writing her winning paper, titled “Women’s Conflict Journals: World War II through the Yugoslav Wars.”

“It wouldn’t have been possible to have done all the research without the Library,” she said.

Derlan said she was amazed and honored to learn that her research efforts were recognized. Her paper is titled “The Significance of Parenting Stress, Substance Abuse, Intimate Partner Violence, and Other Potential Risk Factors on Treatment Outcomes and Adherence for Child Maltreatment.”

She began preliminary work on her thesis upon entering the McNair Scholars Program, the summer after her sophomore year, and also spent a lot of time in the Library. Derlan believes being named a Munn Scholar will help her as she makes the transition into graduate school.

“It’s going to help me so much to be able to demonstrate that I can do research,” Derlan said. “Professors in graduate school don’t expect a lot of undergraduates to do research. So having this opportunity has been amazing.”

Trimble heads to the University of Michigan this fall to pursue a master’s in Russian and Eastern European studies and eventually sees herself as a professor. Derlan is still considering her graduate school options but wants to study in an urban area. Her goal is to be a professor and to focus on ethnic minority issues concerning children and families.

It was at a similar juncture in his life that Dr. Ken Martis, who spoke at the ceremony, met Munn. Martis shared his memories about meeting Munn when he came to WVU in 1976. Although Martis felt intimidated by the Library Dean at first, Munn encouraged him and provided valuable direction that aided Martis in publishing a book.

“I want you two to know how special Dr. Munn was,” Martis said. “He gave 30 years of his life to this Library and made it the beautiful institution that it is today.”

Arriving at WVU in 1952, Munn rose to head the library in 1957. Over the next three decades, he directed the expansion of the Library from a modest centralized facility into a campus-wide system of Libraries with holdings in excess of a million volumes.

Munn also had a profound impact on WVU as a whole. He served as provost under three presidents and as an advisor and confidant to several more. A scholar and author of numerous articles and several books relating to various topics including Appalachia and the coal industry, Munn was dedicated to promoting scholarship and literature especially regarding West Virginia subjects. As a vehicle to publish manuscripts of merit chiefly of state and regional interest, he founded the WVU Press in 1981.

Munn’s contributions were not limited to WVU. He had an international reputation in the field of librarianship, served on boards of several leading foundations, and assisted in the establishment of libraries in developing countries around the world.

Several alumni and current and former faculty who knew Munn have voiced their appreciation of the Libraries for establishing an award in Munn’s name.

“We now have an honor that is appropriate for someone who devoted his life to the University and to the Libraries,” said Myra Lowe, Associate Dean of Libraries.

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