University of Rochester

Major Gift Restores Periodical Reading Room in Library

July 23, 1998

A gift of $500,000 from Martin E. Messinger, a University Trustee who received his undergraduate degree in 1949, will allow for the complete renovation of the main periodical reading room in Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester. In recognition, the room will be named the Martin E. Messinger Periodical Reading Room.

The Periodical Reading Room, along with the Great Hall and the Welles-Brown Room, are the three historic "grand old rooms" of Rush Rhees Library on the University's River Campus. Prominent in the room are six panels containing bronze medallions with the figures of Newton and Helmhotz, Pasteur and Darwin, Edison and da Vinci, Plato and Kant, Adam Smith and Herodotus, and Shakespeare and Goethe. The room is surrounded by bookcases for several thousand current periodicals. Above the bookcases are inscribed the names of more than 50 other great figures from world history.

The gift by Messinger and the naming of the reading room in his honor was announced at a recent Board of Trustees dinner by President Thomas H. Jackson. Messinger made an earlier gift toward the renovation, but his most recent commitment will cover the full cost of the project.

Work on the restoration began July 6 and will be completed by September. The Boston firm of Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott serves as architectural consultant for the project.

Plans call for refinishing the walls and tables, installation of new electrical wiring with data lines, removal of florescent ceiling lights added in the 1960s and replacement with new pendant lighting to resemble the original 1930s fixtures, as well as the addition of a new floor surface and furniture.

Messinger, a Rochester native, is a resident of Harrison, N.Y. He is a general partner in the New York City investment firm of Neuberger & Berman. Until 1968, he resided in Rochester and was employed by Merrill Lynch.

In a letter to Dean of River Campus Libraries Ronald F. Dow about his decision to make the gift, Messinger wrote: "When I went to the University, my father had recently died. I skipped my fourth year of high school and came to the U of R. I spent a lot of time studying and writing in this room. It makes a formidable impression on visitors, applicants, and students. I find the plans for the project very exciting."

A formal dedication of the Messinger Periodical Reading Room will be held this fall.