Volume 4, Number 2; September 2012
Remembrance and Celebration of the Life of Sandra Arlene River
Written and produced by colleagues and friends of Sandy River
“As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on—in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.”
—Mitch Albom (1958- ),
“That it will never come again
Sandra Arlene River (1950 - 2012)
TTU Libraries produced a video to commemorate the life of Sandy River.
From Dean Don Dyal
On May 12, 2012, the Texas Tech University (TTU) academic community lost one of its most devoted members—Sandra Arlene River—better known to her colleagues, friends, and relatives as Sandy River. Indeed, several of these admirers have gotten together to honor Sandy's memory and document their thoughts and feelings in this work that we hope will be available in perpetuity for those who may wish to emulate Sandy's unselfish devotion to one of the most notable institutions on the Llano Estacado.
For the record, Sandy River, a longtime TTU librarian and past president of the Faculty Senate, passed away on Saturday, May 12, 2012, at the age of 62. She was born on February 22, 1950, in Lakeview, Minnesota, to the late Walt and Eunice River. Her education included a BA in political science from Mankato State College (1972), an AA (legal assistant) from North Hennepin Community College (1976), an MS in library science from the University of North Texas (1990), and an MA in philosophy from Texas Tech University (1993). Sandy moved to Lubbock and began working at TTU Libraries in 1977. Throughout the years, she worked as head of current periodicals/microforms, acting head of acquisitions, information services librarian, and liaison for English, philosophy, and women's studies. Since 2003, Sandy was the public services librarian in the Architecture Library.
Sandy was active in professional organizations at the state and national levels. Her honors included the Association of College and Research Libraries Women's Studies Section Career Achievement Award in 2007. She was selected as a Texas Library Association Tall Texan (Texas Accelerated Library Leadership Institute) in 1998. Sandy had a distinguished career of service to Texas Tech. She was active in the Women's Studies Council and Advisory Board; she served in the Faculty Senate (1995-1998, 2007-2012), including terms as president and parliamentarian. She was recently elected as Faculty Senate secretary for 2012-2013. Sandy is survived by her partner of fifteen years, Brian Quinn of Lubbock, and her brother, Walt River of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
From Professor and Faculty Senator Lewis Held
Sandy loved people. That is what compelled her into so many service roles. She wanted to help others be more successful, more effective, and more fulfilled. Sandy radiated serenity. When she spoke, her voice was often so quiet that you had to strain to hear her, but when you listened to what she had to say, it was always relevant, insightful, and wise. Indeed, if there were a word to summarize the impression Sandy made on many of us, it would be wisdom. She was wise well beyond her years. She had few regrets and no grudges, even with regard to people who had mistreated her in one way or another. She somehow managed to rise above the pettiness that governs most of our lives. She was bigger than that. Such a big heart in such a humble person! She would have laughed if anyone told her that she reminded her or him of a saint. But, in truth, she was.
From Esther Sundell Lichti
Sandy River was, for many years, an integral part of the Women's Studies Program at Texas Tech. She served the program as library liaison, using her professional expertise as a librarian to build the TTU Libraries' print and multimedia holdings in women's, feminist, and gender studies, and advising faculty from a variety of disciplines in research in those areas. She assisted the program's director and coordinator through her participation on the program's advisory board and as an affiliate faculty member, lending her wisdom and counsel where and when they mattered most. She didn't weigh in on every topic, but when she did, we learned we had better stop and listen. She did not confine her work in women's studies to this campus, but actively engaged with and was recognized by disciplinary groups in her own professional organizations. Perhaps most importantly, she was never too busy to help a student working on a research project: listening patiently, asking the right question to prompt the student to think more deeply, and finally, teaching the student how to use the Libraries' resources to find her own answers not only for this particular project but for future assignments.
Sandy as a friend had the great gift of being able to listen, to know when advice was wanted and when it wasn't (even though you might really have benefited from it), and to make you laugh. She did me the honor of saying I brought light into her life at a very dark time and returned the favor when I most needed it. I admired her strength, her ability to see the world and herself clearly, and most of all, her courage to ask for help when she needed it and celebrate when she could stand-alone again. She was passionate about her family and partner, about keeping in touch with friends, about celebrating holidays, and about serving her university community. We are all the poorer for her passing.
From Librarian Jon Hufford
In remembering Sandy River, the first thoughts that come to my mind are her intelligence, her ability to accomplish a great deal of work in a short period of time, and her willingness to go out of her way to help others. She had a degree of innate intelligence that not many are endowed with, and that intelligence was honed through many years of devotion in the pursuit of the ideals of the liberal education side of academe. She was always actively involved in whatever she did and took on leadership roles regularly, not because she was so very ambitious but rather because her colleagues, recognizing her quick understanding of issues and very excellent speaking skills, wanted her to be their leader.
Sandy was totally supportive of and involved in the educational values and goals of Texas Tech University. She had served for a number of years on the Faculty Senate as member, secretary, and president, and had accomplished much for the faculty and the university during those years. Sandy had also participated for many years in Texas Tech University's Women's Studies Program, served as the program's library liaison, and was a member of the Women's Studies Advisory Board.
She contributed to the library in the same way she contributed to Texas Tech University. Not many of her colleagues were able to accomplish the same amount of work she did, and her work was always governed by careful thinking. Sandy served on several library faculty committees. Recently, she chaired the library's Promotion and Tenure Committee, where she led the efforts to revise promotion and tenure documents and to review the candidacies of several librarians for tenure and promotion and the annual reviews of untenured librarians. The year of her tenure as chair on this committee was a particularly busy one.
Apart from her campus and library contributions, she was also an active citizen in other communities. In particular, Sandy participated over a period of several years in the Association of College and Research Libraries' Women's Studies Section. In 2007 she received the Achievement in Women's Studies Librarianship Award. In announcing her award, the association noted that Sandy had been a former chair of the Women's Studies Section and that she had been a "shining star in the profession and particularly the Women's Studies Section, having served on every committee in the Section."
From Library Professional Deb Moore
Sandy and I had a corresponding friendship, in that we wrote to each other at least once a week (real letters!) for over 40 years. We'd met as students at, what was then, Mankato State College. Before Sandy graduated, we discovered we both enjoyed writing letters. So it began. We saw each other in person every so often over the years, but it was in the writing that I came to know her.
Sandy was the brightest person I've ever known as shown by her many degrees and achievements in the public record. But she wasn't just "book smart," she was also "people smart."
Just a few of the things I learned from Sandy as we chatted about our lives:
- One need not speak to be heard
- Far better to be known as a thinking person than as a reactionary one (careful speech is important)
- Choosing to look for the best in people and situations is a helpful trait, and it doesn't cost a thing
- Listening to someone is more important than "fixing" them
- Things in life are important but shouldn't be taken too seriously
- Laughter and a sense of humor (especially humor a bit on the twisted side) really can be the best medicine
- Unconditional love and friendship is a rare gift – give often
None of the above came easily for me, but Sandy lived them effortlessly.
It's over three months that she's been gone. I still can't believe she's not somewhere in the Architecture Library, swamped with the first few weeks of classes, and so tired in the evening that she's put off letter writing for a time. I miss her so. But, when the sadness comes, I try to remember Tennyson's line in Ulysses, "I am a part of all that I have met," and how that so fits the gift Sandy was. For me and for many others (she'd have been surprised!), the person Sandy was, is and will be with us in many ways. And for that, I am grateful.
From Library Professionals Bill and Donna McDonald
She lived life as if each day was a blessing; a gift—not to be squandered on egotistical "me" efforts or meaningless banter.
Our dear friend of over thirty years lived and practiced oneness of life. Sandy saw herself as interconnected with everyone and treated him or her with equal consideration and respect.
For Sandy each conversation was an opportunity to help anyone in her or his thirst for knowledge. She often went much deeper than what was expected from the questioner; fulfilling the primary objective and opening new avenues to be examined. She dedicated her life toward advancement of pure knowledge.
She was strong in mind, body, and soul. Sandy could be outspoken at times, but her sincerity and thoughtfulness made her approachable and easy to talk to. Always learning through Sandy's insightful discussions one could readily reach sound and just solutions to seemingly difficult and complex issues.
A selfless charitable person, Sandy was deeply immersed in civic and professional stewardship. She gave effortlessly of her time and resources toward the advancement of women in the Lubbock area. Those on the receiving end of her philanthropy will sorely miss her selfless dedication.
Within academia her dedication to higher education was yet again a way of giving, as Sandy served devotedly as Faculty Senate president. Beyond these additional duties she was exceptional at performing comfortably in her "realm" as faculty librarian specializing in architecture.
Professional, steadfast, trustworthy, loyal confidante—these are the epitome of what we should all strive to achieve . . . Sandy not only embodied these qualities but taught them by example.
She will always be colleague, mentor, supporter, and teacher. Most important of all, Sandy River was our friend. God speed.
From Archivist Monte L. Monroe
Sandy River will be missed by many faculty, staff, and students at Texas Tech University when the Fall 2012 semester begins. In early May 2012 her keen intellect, strength, and thoughtful spirit slipped away as a result of complications during a routine surgical treatment. A few days before her procedure, Sandy spent an enjoyable interlude supporting her friend and colleague, Dr. Diane Warner, in hosting the "Conference on the James Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community, and the Natural World" at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library (editor's note: see also the ATTT Note in this issue). The conclave brought to campus the top writers in the field, engaging them in intellectual studies with faculty and students from the Honors and English departments. Sandy relished such scholarly campus events. She even stayed late to clean up after the conference. The occasion was the last time many colleagues would see her.
For over three decades Sandy River was a pivotal member of the Texas Tech libraries and university faculty. Her services to the Tech community are too numerous to delineate in a short eulogy. She was elected president of the Faculty Senate, served as parliamentarian, and was recently elected to serve as secretary of that body. Her peers at Tech and nationally highly respected Sandy. She strongly supported the Women's Studies Program and for the last decade had been a mainstay at the Architecture Library, assisting students with research. But what did such duties entail; who was Sandy River, really?
For the author of this brief tribute she was a friend, trusted colleague, and patient mentor. During the 1980s, students in Professor George Flynn's feared historical methods class spent countless hours in the library tracking every type of historical resource, from government documents to microform histories. There was no accessible Internet then, only wooden card catalogues, and the beginnings of a mysterious computerized database. In those days, before technology, highly competent personnel were ensconced at a reference station near the book return area. It took only one request there to discover that Sandy River was a gifted, clever, and determined reference librarian. Anytime classmates had trouble excavating an obscure resource, Sandy was ever ready to assist. When desperate, one prayed that she would be on duty. Numerous "professional" historians now recall following Sandy's energetic form darting here and there through the stacks in search of some elusive tract. She never wavered until an item was found. Over the years many administrators, faculty, staff, and students experienced the same professionalism, intellectual passion, and tenaciousness while working with Sandy. One moment she was helping a student, the next assisting the provost in updating the university operating procedures, always she provided thoughtful and respected leadership in the libraries and the senate, and constantly, quietly, she inspired all in her determination to beat the specter of cancer. Then—in an instant—she vanished, leaving a void of talent and selflessness, which those who knew, respected, admired, and loved her, will miss forever.
From Librarian Susie Sappington
Sandy and I were friends for almost thirty-five years. During the last twenty of those years she sent me a handwritten letter every week. Even with the advent of email she insisted that we continue to write, because email is no substitute for a letter. My friend stood by her principles, and as a result, I have a treasure box filled with her letters.
Sandy was a remarkable human being and the perfect friend. We had many good times together, and supported each other through the hard times: the deaths of our parents, the birth of my child, relationship changes, professional difficulties, and two years of Saturdays as we sat through our library science program. I admired her intelligence and her strength of character; she knew who she was and what she believed. She was uncompromising in her principles. Sandy was a highly disciplined person with strong ethical standards that she held to unfailingly. I remember her as a good listener who taught by example and managed to hold people accountable without being judgmental, and who gave advice only when asked. She was thrifty, but generous and open hearted, with a delightful laugh and a wonderful sense of humor.
And Sandy was always a grownup, no matter what happened. She said the only control we have over what life brings us is how we choose to react. When she got her cancer diagnosis she wrote:
"I don't think this is going to kill me. I do think I'm not going to like much of it though, and one of my hopes is that I don't lose my general good humor. I'm hoping I can always find something amusing."
Well, the cancer didn't kill her, at least not directly, and she never lost her sense of humor, even when the treatments were truly awful. She kicked her Midwestern adaptability into high gear and proceeded to live her life on her own terms. She stayed active in her profession and fully engaged in living her life until her last day on this earth. She ran her race; she fought the good fight; she kept faith with herself and with those who loved her. Rest in peace, sweet sister, you've earned your rest.
From Professor Richard Meek
There are many brilliant and talented colleagues at Texas Tech University but only a few who make one look forward to returning to work each day. Sandy River was one of those. Not that we saw each other that often. Her office was over in the library in the College of Architecture and mine in the School of Music. I always anticipated attending meetings where we were both in attendance to enjoy her ready smile, throaty laugh, and calm demeanor. Sandy would usually sit quietly, eyes marking each participant's contribution, then in a few words make a comment clarifying an issue with a question or summation, often keeping us on track. In private discussions before a meeting I was always amused when mentioning a particular problem to be addressed I would hear the familiar chuckle and "Well . . . perhaps we ought to . . . "
I did not get to know Sandy long. We first met when I began a term on the Faculty Senate, and she was the reigning president. I use that term deliberately as her term began with more than the usual demands. The Faculty Senate coordinator was hospitalized for much of the fall session and unable to provide all the usual senate office services. In addition she began her term the year of President Bailey's arrival and with the selection of a new provost underway. Bailey immediately had her assigned to the Provost Search Committee, and the Revenue Enhancement and Allocation (REA) Task Force. The REA Task Force was the beginning of the major evaluation of the university structure as a whole. It helped produce a twelve year plan for the development of Tech into a Tier One university by developing goals, and by identifying the Responsibility Center Management (RCM) budget model as the best decentralized budgetary structure to meet those goals. There quickly came many other committees involved in the university restructuring, such as the Strategic Planning Council and the RCM committee, that as Faculty Senate liaison, she continued work from her past term as president. These were in addition to the many committees the senate president normally belongs such as the Library Committee, the Chancellor's Outstanding Teaching Awards, the Horn Professor Selection Committee (ex officio), and the Provost Council. Sandy was also a member of the Women's Studies Advisory Board.
Sandy was an exceptionally well-organized individual. It was my privilege to have President River not only pass the gavel as president of the Faculty Senate but provide a complete dossier of the committees and schedule of duties of the office. Not wanting to lose her command of institutional history I was pleased she accepted to serve as parliamentarian during my tenure in office. We continued to work together also as officers of the Tech chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). On one particular meeting she was unable to attend as secretary and asked me to record the proceedings for the minutes. I recall turning in a short number of notes for what I thought a rather boring meeting only to find upon reading her minutes at the next meeting that the previous session was evidently quite fascinating.
Sandy River exhibited the indomitable spirit of a cancer survivor and played a significant role in the development of our university. Many others and I will miss her presence tremendously but treasure her memory. How many others? A memorial service for Sandy will be held on Friday, October 12, 2012, between 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. in Kent R. Hance Chapel on the Texas Tech University campus. Come see.
From Librarian Diane Warner
Just a week before she passed away, I introduced Sandy to David Quammen, a writer who spoke at the Sowell Collection Conference, and I said, as I always did, "This is my good friend Sandy." I told David that Sandy had been on the conference steering committee because I wanted to acknowledge her role in the conference's success. Sandy demurred, insisting she hadn't done very much. But she had, in fact, done a great deal. Months earlier, when I asked Sandy to help me, she agreed, but said she wasn't sure what she could do that would be of any use. She'd do anything I wanted, except make phone calls. As I remember it, my reply was: "When I'm completely stressed, and we both know I will be, you can help by giving me a good talking to." That's what she did. I called her frequently during the months leading up to the conference, and I was in her office in the Architecture Library at least four or five times in the two weeks immediately preceding it, just talking out my worries—travel, publicity, menus for the banquet, oh my! Each time she listened, sympathized, told me it would probably all work out fine, and if some things went wrong, well, not everything was under my control anyway! Each time we visited, she sent me away with the feeling that I should, and could, get over it and get on with it.
Just a week before she passed away, Sandy was active, engaged, smiling, participating in the intellectual life of the university, being a friend, supporting me during each conference day. She attended almost every Sowell Collection Conference event, including the banquet, where she could not eat, and the entire day of paper sessions on Saturday. I sat beside her during many of the sessions and was so grateful that she came even on her day off.
On Friday, May 4, when I left Sandy's room in ICU to try to get some work done at the SWC/SCL, I found an envelope with her handwriting in my inbox. In the days between the conference and her last procedure, Sandy found time to send me a copy of Utne Reader with an article about one of the Sowell Collection writers, and her note asked if I was rested yet from the work of conference duties.
Sandy always had time for those small gestures of friendship. I know I wasn't alone in receiving these kind gifts and attentions. When I went to tell another campus colleague of Sandy's death, she told me that Sandy had appeared in her doorway unannounced one day, with a present, and singing "Happy Birthday." Just thinking of that makes me smile.
Sandy River was a good friend. At times, I hear her voice still talking to me. Still telling me to get over it and get on with it. Her death, so early, is a tragedy, but sharing her life and her enthusiasm for living was a joy. I have missed her these past months and know I will continue to miss her—when I write a letter or report that needs a critical eye, when I have a question about library P&T procedures, when new movies come out that she might want to see, or when my favorite college basketball team loses a critical game. (Sandy would call me after a loss, saying, "Those boys can't expect to win if they can't shoot free throws, and the turnovers!" And then she'd laugh.) I'm grateful to have known her. With her other dear friends and family, I mourn her loss.
Summary by Provost Bob Smith
For those who knew her and those who did not have the privilege, a picture of Sandy River emerges from the above testimonies. It is a portrait of a wise person—someone who was not only a lifetime learner but also one who used learning to care for and serve others. Sandy's portrayal is also one of great humility, honesty, kindness, and a keen sense of humor. Indeed, Sandy would likely have appreciated the comic Mort Sahl who proclaimed that it is too bad that you miss your memorial service because so many people say such nice things about you. And, you usually only miss it by a couple of days!
In honoring and celebrating Sandy's life we have taken a significant amount of time to be thoughtful and caring in casting our reflections and understanding of a extraordinary former member of the Texas Tech and world communities. Sandy's life has left an indelibly positive mark on the souls of many of us. As noted by Richard Meek, we hope to further honor and celebrate her contributions next October 12 between 3:00 and 4:30 p.m. in the Kent R. Hance Chapel, just a few yards southeast of the Alumni Association Complex on the TTU campus. We hope that many of our colleagues and Sandy's friends will join us on that date and at that memorial event.
About the Authors
Don Dyal is dean of Texas Tech University Libraries.
Lewis Held is associate professor of biological sciences and a longtime member of the Faculty Senate at TTU.
Jon Robert Hufford is a librarian at TTU.
Esther Sundell Lichti is TTU coordinator of women's studies (retired).
Bill McDonald is a unit coordinator in TTU Libraries.
Donna Sue McDonald is a unit manager in TTU Libraries.
Richard Meek is a professor of music at TTU.
Monte L. Monroe is an associate archivist at TTU.
Debra Moore is a library assistant in the Parks Library at Iowa State University, Ames, IA.
Susie Sappington is a librarian at the University of Texas at Arlington (retired).
Bob Smith is provost and senior vice president at TTU.
Diane Warner is librarian for the Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community and the Natural World at TTU.
Editor's Note: After the October 12, 2012, memorial service (attended by more than 200 colleagues and friends of Sandy River), we encouraged contributors to the service to share their thoughts in a revised version of the original article. This epilogue provides documentation from the leader of the service, Dr. Jerry Koch, Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, TTU.
Welcome and Introduction. Thank you for being here this afternoon. This is the start, really, of a process that honors the life and love of Sandy River. We'll have some time now for stories, music, and pictures. We'll follow from here across the way to a reception in her honor at the McKenzie-Merket Center. More stories to be sure. And on your way out, you'll get a flyer announcing a scholarship that's been set up in her name. Sandy's legacy continues as we contribute to learning.
We begin with an audiovisual presentation from Sandy's friends and colleagues at the library.
From Here. Brian and I got together a couple of weeks ago to talk through what this day would be about. And I asked him how he was doing. He told me someone had given him a Buddhist fable that he said seemed to help. It goes like this:
One day, we are told, a woman who had lost her son came to the Buddha, still deep in grief over his death. The Buddha told her to go to each house in the village and to get a grain of rice from each home in which no tears had ever been shed. The woman set out on her mission; she visited each house in the village; but, of course, she didn't get a single grain of rice. So, he went to the next village, and the next; she was gone for almost a week, and finally, she returned to the Buddha. She hadn't received a single grain of rice for her bowl.
Love and loss are universal experiences. They are two sides of the same coin. If loss were not inevitable, we would grow complacent in our love until it was lost, as well.
We all know that today isn't the first, or certainly the last, time we will experience these emotions. And every time we do this, two questions come to mind. Specifically today: "How am I a better person because I knew Sandy?" "How is our world stronger because Sandy lived?"
As to the first—I am better because Sandy was humble.
Academics spend a lot of time, it seems, running around with our thumbs in the air, calling attention to this great big plum they just pulled out of the pie. It seems we forget that when even our greatest achievements go back into the pie, they make the whole much stronger than the sum of its parts. Sandy's accomplishments in the academy were many, various, and significant. They all went back into the pie, where she knew they belonged. Every time. Every single time! Perhaps you noticed in the slideshow there was a picture of Sandy holding a framed certificate. That was her career achievement award from the Association of College and Research Libraries Women's Studies Section. The scanning and projecting of the picture largely washed out the details. I rather think that would be her preference.
It's kind of a paradox. We show our best when we bear witness to Sandy's humility.
As to the second question—Our world is stronger because of Sandy's courage.
This was very obvious, of course, in her cancer fight, and through the rigors and risks of treatment. But I think all of that reflected the courage that seemed at the core of her being.
I was on the Faculty Senate when Sandy was elected president. I remember the first meeting of her term, which was also the first time President Bailey addressed the body. His presentation brought up a lot of issues, which were pretty important to the faculty. When he finished, I think it was Lewis Held that asked a rather pointed question. And I remember thinking that, if he wanted to, the president could give a helpful and direct answer. When he hesitated, I saw Sandy give him a look from the podium as if to say, "Well?" So he talked for another couple of minutes addressing the question—but not answering it. Then he sat down. His thumb in the air! At which point Sandy straightened to her full height of 4 foot 14 and gave him a more muted version of that same look. With a few well-chosen words, she very deftly made room for him to finally answer the question without losing face. Which to his credit, he did. At that point Guy Bailey and Sandy River caught each other's eye, and they both gave a little nod of mutual respect.
Our world is stronger because Sandy was brave.
Librarians are a lot like pharmacists. They know a whole lot more than they are generally asked to share. So when you do ask, you really learn something. I will go from here just a bit more likely to let humility win out in my life: to be braver than I might otherwise because of what I learned from knowing Sandy, and respecting her work and way of life.
We will move from here in a minute to the reception across the way. And don't forget about the scholarship. But now, for a moment or two, please join me in reflective meditation.
Reflective Meditation and Benediction. Our spirits converge in the experience of love and loss. We draw strength from the courage that comes from loving and from sharing grief together. We honor love's blessing with humble gratitude.
Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold on to what is good; return no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak, and help the suffering; honor all people; love and serve ... and, as Sandy taught us, "Show some enthusiasm!"