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Preserving history

One of the University of Michigan’s longest-serving deans is heading to the Bentley Historical Library, where he will serve as the sixth director of the extensive holdings of manuscripts, published works, photographs and maps related to the history of the state and official archives of the university.

Terrence J. McDonald (photo left), Dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts will assume his new post in September as director of the Bentley Library. He succeeds Francis X. Blouin, Jr., who has served as director since 1981. Blouin will return to his duties as professor in the Department of History and School of Information.

The University of Michigan Board of Regents approved McDonald’s appointment on Thursday, Feb. 21.

“Terry McDonald brings an historian’s appreciation of the role of institutions like the Bentley to his new role as director,” said U-M Provost Phil Hanlon. “This understanding is coupled with a compelling vision of how historical libraries can serve the scholarly community and the public. Terry is deeply committed to making effective use of new technologies so that our collections are both well preserved and easily accessible to future generations.”

With U-M’s bicentennial celebration approaching in 2017, McDonald assumes his new role at a time when the library and its collections will be crucial resources in presenting a compelling public narrative of U-M’s two-century history and the role of history of higher education in America.

“I’m excited to be working as the Bentley Library Director at a time when its collections on the history of the University and the history of the state are more important than ever,” said McDonald. “It’s an especially significant time since we are in the midst of a digital revolution that affects the way we collect, preserve, and understand information.”

As director of the Bentley Library, McDonald will oversee more than 30,000-linear feet of archives, and manage holdings including 57,000-printed volumes, 1.5-million photographs and visual material, and more than 10,000 maps. Students, faculty and scholars from around the world have access to the materials, many of which can be referenced through an online digital database.

“From a scholarly perspective, the wrenching socioeconomic and political changes of the past decade in Michigan cry out for thoughtful historical context,” said McDonald. “The comprehensive collection and curation of items make it possible for an in-depth scholarly examination of this period.”

McDonald joined the U-M faculty shortly after earning his doctorate from Stanford University in 1980. He is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of History, and has served as LSA Dean since 2003. He served as interim dean in 2002.

During his tenure as dean, LSA has had more than 70 departments, programs, and fields of study within departments and programs in the top 25 in the nation, including more than 40 in the top 10, 25 in the top five and five ranked No. 1, according to rankings issued by “U.S. News and World Report” and National Research Council.

An award-winning author of United States history, McDonald has written and edited four books and many articles. His book, “The Parameters of Urban Fiscal Policy: Socioeconomic Change and Political Culture in San Francisco, 1860 to 1906,” was awarded the 1987 Allan M. Sharlin Memorial Award of the Social Science History Association, and received the 1988 J. S. Holliday Award from the California Historical Society. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, and received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Throughout his career at U-M, McDonald has worked at many administrative and academic levels. From 1995-2000, he was associate dean for academic affairs in LSA, which included management of personnel, hiring, tenure promotion process, and overseeing affirmative action guidelines, among other duties. He was a member of the Senate Assembly, served on the Executive Committee of the Humanities Institute, and was interim chair of the Department of History.

McDonald has received many prestigious teaching awards, including Faculty Recognition Award for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching, Scholarship, and Service (1988), and a State of Michigan Teaching Excellence Award (1991).

As director of the Bentley Library, he will draw on his background as scholar, teacher and administrator to understand the challenge of how to glean meaningful research amid the swirling abundance of material in the Information Age.

“The library’s mission puts it on the front lines of the massive and grand challenge of the digitization of existing collections and the management of those items that are ‘born digital,’” said McDonald. “Fortunately for all of us, the Bentley is a national model in all the areas in which it works.”


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