University of Rochester

Major Gift Continues 'Renaissance' of Library

February 8, 1999

The University of Rochester has received a gift of approximately $500,000 from Roger B. Friedlander to renovate two of the most public areas in the landmark Rush Rhees Library: the Welles-Brown Room and the main lobby. Renovations will be done this summer.

A prominent member of the Rochester business community, Friedlander received his undergraduate degree in business administration from the University in 1956, and now serves as a member of the University's Board of Trustees. In 1970, he founded Spectrum Office Products with his business partner, Henry Epstein, who earned his master of business administration degree here in 1980. The company quickly grew into one of the largest office supply businesses in the Northeast. They sold the company to Staples Inc. in 1994.

In recognition of this gift, the library's entrance will be named the Roger B. Friedlander Lobby of Rush Rhees Library.

In discussing his decision to make the gift, he noted that Rush Rhees Library holds many special memories for him. "I worked as a student assistant in the library while I was an undergraduate at the University and helped to reshelve books in the stacks," he said. "I also met my wife Carolyn there when she was using the library while home during her college break."

On a recent campus visit, Mr. and Mrs. Friedlander were concerned that the room and lobby area had lost their original feeling of elegance and comfort. "We are pleased that we can make a real difference in the pursuit of education at the University with this gift to the library," they said.

The Welles-Brown Room was designed as a comfortable reading room for "leisure reading" when the library was built in 1930. In the intervening years, its living-room atmosphere with oak-paneled walls, fireplace, stained glass memorial window, and upholstered sofas and chairs has attracted many public readings and literary events sponsored by the University.

The room is named for Francis R. Welles, Class of 1875, and Charles A. Brown, Class of 1879, who were both active as University Trustees at the beginning of the 20th century. The renovation calls for replacement of the furnishings, installation of new lighting and electrical work as well as a sound amplification system, improved back lighting for the stained glass window, and restaining of the walls. The room will be redone in subtle hues of blue and gold—University colors—to invoke a sense of the University's history and traditions.

Renovations to the main lobby will remove the turnstile barriers and install a new state-of-the-art security system along with cleaning of the brass chandelier and stone walls, and improving wall display cases. Grill work replicating that on the front doors of the library will be installed at the first set of classical Doric columns in the lobby. A new etched glass display inscribed with the seal of the University and signage designating the area as the Roger B. Friedlander Lobby of Rush Rhees Library will be mounted at the second set of columns.

The "Rush Rhees Renaissance"—a $15.5 million initiative to renovate most of the interior of Rush Rhees Library over the next three to five years—was launched this past summer by a similar gift from Trustee Martin E. Messinger, Class of 1949. This gift made possible the renovation of the library's main periodical reading room and its naming for Messinger. The University's overall "Renaissance Plan" is a multi-year effort to strengthen the College, which includes the arts, sciences, and engineering.