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Gary R. Purcell Scholarship Endowment

Gary R. Purcell Scholarship Criteria

This award honors the memory of professor Gary R. Purcell, the School’s founding director. This scholarship will go to a student who shows unusual promise as a leader in the field of information sciences, in research and innovation, intellectual activity, and creativity and management. It is an award for overall excellence, rather than excellence in any one particular area. “Leadership” is defined as the ability to make a significant change for the betterment of a group of people, a technology, or institution and to advance the intellectual discipline of the library and information sciences.

The Purcell Scholarship is open to all applicants regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age or veteran status with the following restrictions:

  1. The scholarship will be available to students who are currently enrolled or have been admitted to the Graduate School, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
  2. Financial need (in the broadest sense) may be a factor.
  3. The student(s) awarded this Scholarship shall have demonstrated successful academic performance.
  4. The award shall be given to student(s) enrolled in the School of Information Sciences.
  5. A student who held the Gary R. Purcell Scholarship in a previous year shall have preference in the selection procedure in subsequent years with all other things being equal.

Purcell Scholarship Application


About Gary R. Purcell

Gary R. Purcell

Gary R. Purcell, formerly professor at the School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, passed away on 6 May 1997 in his sleep at home. Gary was well known as a leader in library education, especially in reference work and government information.

He began his library career in 1957 as a library assistant in the State Library of Idaho at Boise. He soon fell in love with library work and become a vigorous advocate for library service, and later library education. His professional interests also reflected his education in government and politics, his undergraduate major at the University of Utah. Moving to Seattle, he began the MLS program at the University of Washington and worked as a library assistant at the Seattle Public Library. After graduation in 1959, he went to Enoch Pratt to be a reference assistant in social science and government publications. He would continue to develop his interest in public libraries, social science reference, and government information throughout his career.

Formal classroom instruction began in 1961 with an appointment as instructor in the Department of Librarianship at Western Michigan University. In 1965, Gary left Kalamazoo to enter the doctoral program at Case Western Reserve University and to teach as an instructor. He earned his Ph.D. in 1975 in library and information science. In 1971, Gary left Cleveland to come to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville as the first director of a newly created Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Under his leadership, the school developed quickly into a solid ALA-accredited program. Health problems caused Gary to return to full-time teaching in 1990 and eventually to retire prematurely September 1994.

Gary was a leader in both library service and library education. He served as president of the ALA Reference and Adult Services Division (1984-85), president of the Association of American Library Schools (1978-79), and president of the Tennessee Library Association (1978-79). He also served as a member of ALA Council in 1987-91 and 1969-71.

Gary R. Purcell received several notable awards during his career. The Tennessee Library Association awarded him the Frances Neel Cheney Award in 1987 for his “outstanding contribution to books and librarianship.” In 1985, he shared with his co-author, Gail Schlachter, the ALA Knowledge Industry Publications Award for the outstanding contribution to the library literature during 1983-85, Reference Sources in Library and Information Services: A Guide to the Literature. This book, Gary’s major contribution to the library science literature, was the first single guide to reference literature on library service and was widely acknowledged as an impressive, classic contribution to the literature. It was published by ABC-Clio in 1984. Both Case Western Reserve and the University of Washington schools of library science selected Gary as a distinguished or outstanding graduate.

Gary co-authored three notable monographs: Linking the U.S. National Technical Information Service with Academic and Public Libraries with Charles McClure and Peter Hernon; GPO’s Depository Library Program A Descriptive Analysis with Charles McClure and Peter Hernon; and Collections of U.S. Government Publications with Peter Hernon. While Gary will be remembered for his publications and professional service, many of us recall his goodness as a colleague, mentor, and teacher. Gary smiled and laughed easily. Despite difficult physical problems, he was invariably positive and cheerful. He always had time to help with a problem or offer an encouraging word.

As Keith Cottam said, “In his kind and unassuming way, he touched many, many lives in uplifting ways.” Gary encouraged both students and colleagues to “reach further and climb farther.” He was a scholar who entertained all sorts of queries and interesting hypotheses. No matter what was said, Gary always listened thoughtfully and responded lovingly. Keith Cottam put it well when he said that Gary was a “giant of great faith and good will, of genuine goodness.” He made a difference in many lives. All who knew him loved him.”

Contribution: William C. Robinson’s “In Memorium: Gary R. Purcell.”

Purcell Scholarship Criteria and Application

Follow the link if you would like to contribute to the Gary R. Purcell Scholarship Endowment Fund.