Two Honors graduates have been named Robert F. Munn Undergraduate Library Scholars. Alexandra Day Coffman and Chelsea Richmond received the award at a ceremony in the Charles C. Wise Library during Commencement Weekend.
“Both of these young women wrote tremendous theses. Their work demonstrates and showcases the great research being done by undergraduates at West Virginia University,” said Keith Garbutt, Dean of the Honors College. “We are pleased these students are being recognized for their scholarship and hard work.”
The WVU Libraries and the Honors College established the Robert F. Munn Undergraduate Library Scholars Award in 2009 to honor Dr. Robert F. Munn, Dean of Library Services from 1957-1986.
The award goes to one or more graduating Honors students for outstanding humanities or social sciences research 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.
Coffman is the daughter of Bert and Suzanne Coffman of Grafton. Her experience with the West Virginia 4-H program led her to focus her research on the tradition and history of the organization. Her thesis, “The Life and Influence of William H. Kendrick: A Short Biography of ‘Teepi’ Kendrick,” discusses the impact Kendrick has had on the West Virginia 4-H program.
Coffman spent a lot of time digging into the archives of the Libraries’ West Virginia and Regional History Collection. She was excited to learn that her writing was being recognized and that a topic not often examined was selected as a winning thesis.
“My research was about William H Kendrick and his influence on the West Virginia 4-H program. It covered his entire life, but focused on when he became state 4-H leader and eventually founded the first state 4-H camp in the nation at Jackson’s Mill,” Coffman said.
Graduating in December 2010, Coffman has already begun pursuing a dual master’s in history and international studies through the Atlantis Program, a collaborative transatlantic master’s program. She will study in Europe during the 2011-12 academic year.
Richmond is the daughter of Michael Richmond of Lewisburg and Heather Bandy of Ronceverte. As a history and political science double major, Richmond focused her research on a topic that reflects her passion for both subject areas. Her thesis, “Tito’s Yugoslavia: America’s Cold War Weapon,” examines the relationship between Cold War era United States and Yugoslavia and how lessons learned from this interaction could be used in today’s foreign policy.
Richmond enjoyed the research experience and was thrilled to learn that she had won the award.
“It’s so easy to avoid libraries and archival research today, with the Internet and electronic resources, but to do so would be missing out on one of the most important and constructive experiences an undergraduate can have,” she said. “Going to the WVU Libraries, researching books, and burying myself in the archives and stacks is one of the most rewarding academic experiences I have had, and I honestly don’t think my paper would be anywhere as complete or historically accurate if I had conducted my research elsewhere, or in a different way.”
Richmond plans to study law at Washington and Lee University this fall and wants to return to her home state to practice.
“We were impressed with the great work by Alexandra and Chelsea,” said Myra Lowe, Associate Dean of Libraries. “Their efforts honor Dr. Munn’s legacy of supporting research.”
Munn began his career at WVU as a librarian in 1952 and advanced 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. During that time, he also served as provost under three presidents.
A scholar and author of numerous articles and several books relating to various topics including West Virginia, Appalachia and the coal industry, Munn was dedicated to promoting scholarship and literature especially regarding West Virginia-related subjects. In 1981, he founded the WVU Press as a vehicle to publish manuscripts of merit chiefly of state and regional interest.
His contributions went beyond WVU. Munn 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.