University of Rochester Library Bulletin: The Spirit of Meliora, Ruth T. Watanabe

Volume XXXVII · 1984
The Spirit of Meliora: Ruth T. Watanabe

When Ruth Watanabe stepped down on June 30 as Sibley Librarian, she completed forty years of service to the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music, the past thirty-seven of them as head of the Sibley Library. Under Ruth's leadership Sibley has become the most outstanding and comprehensive collection of music, books on music, and musical recordings in any school, college, or university in the Western world.

Educated in her native California, Ruth took a B.Mus. in piano and an A.B. in English language and literature, both summa cum laude, at the University of Southern California, where she later completed an M.A. in English language and literature and an M.Mus. in piano and music history. Her doctoral degree in musicology was awarded by the University of Rochester. The Sibley Music Librarian since 1947, Ruth Watanabe has served the Eastman School as professor of music bibliography, an appointment which she has held together with an adjunct professorship of music librarianship in the former School of Library and Information Science at the State University College at Geneseo. Past president of the American Music Library Association, program annotator for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and officer in the International Association of Music Libraries' commission on music school libraries, Ruth has taken an active role in the work of Phi Beta Kappa, Delta Kappa Gamma, Mu Phi Epsilon, and Pi Kappa Lambda. She is the past president of the Rochester branch of the American Association of University Women and has been honored as one of fourteen outstanding Rochester women by the Rochester Association for the United Nations. She has been called on often to help evaluate music library services in principal universities all over America, and has served as a reader of grant proposals concerning music libraries for the National Endowment for the Humanities. A frequent speaker on music at community and church meetings, Dr. Watanabe has served as reader for several publishing companies, including the University of Toronto Press, the Wadsworth Publishing Company, the Institute for Scientific Information, and for the biographical dictionary, Notable American Women. She is a member of the advisory board of the Rochester Regional Research Library Council. She is the author of several books, including Introduction to Music Research, has published broadly on problems of music bibliography, and has been a frequent contributor to the University of Rochester Library Bulletin since its inception 40 years ago.

Despite Ruth Watanabe's many professional achievements, the center of her life since the summer of 1947 has been the development of the collection and of the professional staff of the Sibley Music Library. In that role she succeeded the late Barbara Duncan, the only other head to this point of a collection whose existence in Rochester goes back to 1904, antedating the founding of the Eastman School itself. No other distinguished music library I know of has developed so rapidly as Sibley under the leadership of but two people, each so gifted with such remarkable judgment and vision. The professional staff of Sibley has, with Ruth's guidance, provided leadership for the profession all over America. On July 1 Ruth was succeeded as Sibley Librarian by Mary Wallace Davidson, herself a president of the American Music Library Association and for the past fifteen years music librarian at Wellesley College. Mary Wallace Davidson's departure for the West created, of course, an opening for a new librarian at Wellesley, an opening which was filled, typically enough, by a graduate of Ruth Watanabe's staff at Sibley, Ross Wood.

A list of Ruth Watanabe's professional achievements is easy to outline, for she has served in the front rank of her profession almost from the beginning of her assumption of responsibilities as leader of the Sibley Library. But equally important to the Eastman School is the quiet dedication and loyalty with which Ruth has devoted herself since coming to Rochester to the broader interests of both the University and the School. Quiet, unassuming, and thoughtful of the interests of others, Ruth Watanabe is a person who can be counted on never to speak ill of anyone. A faithful attender of concerts both in the Eastman Theatre and in Kilbourn Hall, Ruth is a regular supporter of the work of her faculty colleagues and of the students of the School in which she takes such pride. A person of international distinction carried with humility and quiet good humor, Ruth Watanabe is a person whose achievements seem most logically honored by a Festschrift, a volume on the present and future of music libraries with scholarly contributions from all over the world. To be edited by Ruth's colleague, Alfred Mann, professor of musicology at Eastman, the prospective volume was announced at a special dinner and concert honoring Ruth's achievement as Sibley Librarian on June 25.

Having served in the administrations of all three Eastman directors, Ruth seems to me the only logical choice as archivist of the Eastman School, a position in which she will organize the School's papers while working on two new scholarly projects, a comprehensive history of the Eastman School of Music and a biography of Dr. Howard Hanson. No human being could possibly undertake either assignment with greater responsibility and dedication than Ruth, who has given so much of herself for so long to both the School and the University. As a result, we can look forward in the years ahead to her continuing wisdom and guidance and to her warm and friendly presence, one of the School's greatest sources of strength.


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