Transforming Olin Library

Evelyn and Eric Newman, pictured with a Blaeu atlas of the Americas.

Posted by The Spirit of Washington University January 8, 2016


This story originally appeared in the fall 2015 edition of The Spirit of Washington University.

Combining the best of library and museum experiences may seem like a daunting task to most. For philanthropists Eric, JD35, and Evelyn Newman and Washington University Trustee Andy and Peggy Newman, the concept hit home.

Eric Newman, a leading numismatic scholar and collector, and his late wife, Evelyn, a former marketing expert and successful fundraiser, worked as a team for 75 years. "Every night at the dinner table there was always animated discussion of the newest charitable project they were working on," says their son, Andy. "It was fascinating and inspiring to watch their creative partnership in action."

With the generosity of the Eric P. and Evelyn E. Newman Foundation and the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society (EPNNES), the Newmans have provided the lead gift—$10 million—for the needs of John M. Olin Library. Their commitment will transform Olin Library into a bustling crossroads with new entrances on the building's north and east sides, as well as a destination for students, researchers, and visitors from around the world.

Evelyn Newman, whose imagination and creative flair inspired many aspects of the project, passed away on September 1.

"My mother was delighted to see so many of her ideas for the space being implemented in the physical plans," Andy Newman says," and we will all work hard to fulfill her vision."

The project will include the renovation of Olin Library's first, second, and third floors and levels A and B below. A four-story glass tower, to be called the Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration, will rise within the atrium of Whispers Café, which will be expanded. The tower will feature display areas along its perimeter for special collections and other rare materials. Each level will provide interior spaces for instruction and programs that encourage social interaction and intellectual discourse, with one level focused entirely on the theme of exploration and adventure, one of the Newman family's passions.

The couples also have donated an extensive collection of ephemera that is strongly aligned with the libraries' current holdings and will support teaching and research in many disciplines, including history and law. The Newman Ephemera Collection includes a broadside of the Declaration of Independence printed in Newport, Rhode Island, by S. Southwick and dated July 13, 1776, and a Blaeu atlas of the Americas, published in 1665 by Joan Blaeu and his father, Willem.

Included in the Newmans' commitment is a gift made in 2014 by EPNNES to fund the Newman Numismatic Portal, an online research tool that will become the ultimate resource for the study of coins and currency. The family also is donating Andy Newman's collection of Scientific American magazines, dating from its first issue in 1845.

"The Newman family has generously contributed to the success of Washington University and its many centers of excellence," Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton says. "Their remarkable support of the University Libraries represents the cornerstone of our plan to meet the needs of scholars and libraries into the 21st century. They will share the best of their scholarly expertise, extensive travel, adventurous spirit, and creativity to bring a spectacular vision for the Newman Tower to life."

For nearly five decades, the Newman family has provided strong support and leadership for a range of schools and programs at the university. In addition to the University Libraries, their interests have included the schools of Medicine and Law, and the Olin School of Business.