Endowed directorship honors Mercantile Library’s tireless leader

John Hoover

The newly completed John Neal Hoover Endowed Mercantile Library Executive Directorship honors the library’s current director, John Hoover. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The oldest library west of the Mississippi might have disappeared years ago without the contributions of John Hoover. To celebrate and continue Hoover’s legacy at the St. Louis Mercantile Library on campus, the University of Missouri–St. Louis has established a permanent endowment in his name.

More than $2 million of the record-breaking $31.2 million contributed to UMSL during the past fiscal year helped fund the newly completed John Neal Hoover Endowed Mercantile Library Executive Directorship, ensuring ongoing support for the key leadership role that Hoover currently fills.

“Not only is this permanent endowment a fitting way to honor John, it makes it possible for us to maintain that caliber of leadership for future generations,” said Lyle Brizendine, senior director of development for major gifts. “The positive impact it can have is just immeasurable.”

The fundraising campaign drew support from nearly 100 individuals, including a lead anonymous donor who gave $1 million. The success is further proof of Hoover’s strong connections with library members and the UMSL and St. Louis communities, said Julie Dunn-Morton, curator of the Mercantile’s Fine Arts Collection.

“The naming is really a fitting tribute to John’s 30 years of dedication to the Mercantile Library,” Dunn-Morton said. “John’s ability to engage people with the library and its collections is among his greatest contributions here.”

Another contribution that stands out to those familiar with Hoover’s tenure is his leadership during the late 1990s. At the time, the Mercantile was struggling to endure at its original location in downtown St. Louis where it was founded in 1846, and a major organizational shift was in order.

“John was instrumental in organizing and carrying out the move of the library to UMSL,” said Chris Dames, dean of libraries. “He works tirelessly to promote the library and grow its collections. His efforts bring visitors and attention to UMSL from around the world.”

It’s difficult to overstate the value of the library’s presence on campus, Brizendine added.

“The Mercantile contributes enormously to the depth and breadth of research at UMSL,” he said. “Opportunities for our students and faculty are tremendously enriched. And the library would not be in existence today without John Hoover.”

With collections concentrating on Western Expansion, the development of the St. Louis region and the American rail and river transportation experiences, the Mercantile continues to expand its reach, drawing researchers and visitors from near and far. The library’s endowments and books funds have grown dramatically in recent decades, primarily through collaboration, cooperation, and the cultivation of local friends and supporters of the library, and Hoover’s perseverance has been central to those efforts, according to Brizendine.

“John is an active member of the American Antiquarian Society, former president of the Bibliographical Society of America, and he has worked with many other organizations to promote appreciation of the arts and humanities,” Dames added. “The newly endowed executive leadership position honors his 30 years of dedicated service, and it will also ensure that UMSL attracts the best candidates to continue the long tradition of inspired leadership at the Mercantile Library after his tenure has ended.”

The successful completion of the endowed directorship brings the total number of endowed positions associated with the Mercantile to five – three in the library itself and one professorship each in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business Administration.

Learn more about some of the Mercantile’s rich cultural resources such as the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library, the Mercantile Library Art Museum and the John W. Barriger National Railroad Library by visiting the library website or in person. Free public tours are conducted from 2 to 3 p.m. every Sunday during the summer.


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