Ransom Center Director Tom Staley To Retire

Tom Staley

Tom Staley, the Harry Ransom Center’s director and the man behind its extraordinary rise as a humanities research institution, announced Monday he intends to retire in August 2011.

“It is time for me to go back to writing and spending more time in productive idleness, offering someone else the opportunities that I have had at the Ransom Center,” Staley says.

Staley is hanging it up after 22 fruitful years at the helm. During his tenure, he has restored the HRC to its former glory, when Harry Ransom first put it on the map in the ’60s with his bold vision for a national library of Texas and aggressive spending to make it a reality.

Under Staley’s watch, the Ransom Center has rekindled some of that old magic after a period of relative inactivity, snagging the collections of Norman Mailer, Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, Robert De Niro, Tom Stoppard, Arnold Newman, and others in the last two decades. Most recently, it captured the storied Magnum photo collection.

Staley in 22 years has raised more than $100 million in collections and donations and built the HRC into one of the finest research centers in the world.

“Under the leadership of Tom Staley, the Ransom Center has become an American pantheon of literary and artistic luminaries,” said President Bill Powers. “The Center’s collections, which have grown tremendously during his tenure, are the crown jewels of our university.”

That’s some lofty praise from the prez. But his competitors, too, are admiring.

“Under Tom Staley’s leadership the Harry Ransom Center has moved from strength to strength and has become one of the most distinguished institutions for scholarship in the U.S. and indeed in the world,” said Frank M. Turner, the director of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. “Over his two decades at the Ransom Center, Staley has gathered a distinguished collection of manuscripts that are admired and envied throughout the world of rare book and manuscript libraries.”

Staley came to Texas after he was passed over for the job of president at the University of Tulsa, where he had been provost and director of the libraries. (Bet you Tulsa wishes they had that one back.) His work at UT attracted enough attention to warrant a meaty profile in the New Yorker not long ago.

The question that piece asks, “Why do the archives of so many great writers end up in Texas?” The answer: Tom Staley.

I profiled Staley about a year ago and got to spend a fair amount of time talking with him. Not only was he a kind and forthright interview, he also gave off an enthusiasm for his work that infected everyone he met and worked with.

For that piece, one of Staley’s coworkers described him as the most perfect follow-up to Ransom, and at the time I wondered who would be the most perfect follow-up to Staley.

We have about 16 months to find one.


No comments

Be the first one to leave a comment.

Post a Comment