Inspirational Love of Literature
Inside Richard Macksey’s house, books are literally everywhere. They stretch from floor to ceiling, filling the house and spilling into what was once the garage. Professor Macksey calls himself a “pack rat,” and to step inside is to be surrounded by texts—on subjects ranging from philosophy to film to cooking. Among the hidden treasures are a first edition Chinese translation of Joyce’s Ulysses and a 15th-century annotated edition of Virgil’s Aeneid. “Students like to joke that they’ve found a presentation copy of the Ten Commandments in the stacks here,” says Macksey. “But seriously, among the books dearest to me are the presentations from Hopkins teachers, students, and colleagues.”
For more than half a century, Macksey has inspired his students, stirring in them a love of literature and the arts. Decades after graduating, many still recall the seminars Macksey taught in his home, and his unforgettable, ever-expanding library.
The collection, for now, is invitation-only, and those invited students and colleagues flock to Macksey’s library, looking for facts, wisdom, inspiration, or, sometimes, just a good story. And thanks to Macksey’s generosity, the books and their ambience will continue to enrich the Johns Hopkins community for generations to come: He has bequeathed his entire collection to the Sheridan Libraries.
Comprising more than 70,000 books, a large collection of manuscripts, and some art works, all worth an estimated $4 million, the gift was made in honor of his late wife, Catherine, a French scholar and Hopkins professor. Catherine was a marvelous storyteller, a gracious host, and a true partner to Macksey, working with him on translations and editing his work over 40 years of marriage.
In 2010, the university will break ground on the Brody Learning Commons, an expansion of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library that will include the Dick Macksey Seminar Room, a re-creation of the room in Macksey’s house where he held classes, surrounded by his collection.
These books, and this space, will represent all that Macksey has brought to Johns Hopkins and instilled in countless students—a passion for knowledge and lifelong learning, and a deep, abiding love for the written word.