April 17, 2024

Celebrating 50 Years - Renn Memorial Library Turns 50 Years Old

Rhoda Maclaughlin-Ramirez and Kim Peri celebrating

In 1971, the estate of Nell Renn donated to Cowley College with a special request - That the money go toward constructing a library named after Nell’s late husband Oscar “Jack”, a former Cowley Instructor and Kansas Legislature. The college broke ground on the project in September 1972, just before the construction of the Walker Industrial Technology and Kerr Tech buildings were announced. 

Two years later, in March of 1974, Renn Library was officially open for business following Nell’s generous $270,000 contribution. A dedication ceremony took place in April with guest speakers Senator Bob Dole and Governor Robert Docking, for whose son the Docking Dormitory was named 20 years later.

At the ceremony, Senator Dole expressed, “This library building will serve as the center for the educational activities of this fine educational institution. And within it, students will -- for years to come -- find information, enlightenment and hopefully, challenge to their intellectual development and growth”.

Here we are, fifty years later, still honoring both Oscar “Jack” Renn and the legacy Senator Dole anticipated. Staff from the library celebrated throughout the day on Tuesday, April 16th inviting faculty and staff to drop by to peruse old photos, artifacts from Nell and Oscar, and building blueprints.

The Director of Library Services, Rhoda MacLaughlin-Ramirez, expressed, “Kim Peri and I thoroughly enjoyed researching the history of Renn Library, specifically Oscar and Nell Renn. We knew that the library was built in honor of Oscar and that he was a well-loved and accomplished man. What we didn’t know was that the less publicized Nell was just as amazing. They were both dedicated to serving their community and their country. Although she never had children of her own, Nell had an unwavering commitment to young people and their well-being. In 1954, she was appointed by President Eisenhower to serve on the White House Conference for Youth. 

Fortunately for us, even death could not stop Nell’s generosity and compassion for others. She wanted the library to be a legacy to her husband, which it is, but it is a legacy of Nell as well. The original goal of Renn Memorial Library was to serve as a learning “hub” for the College, with a focus that represented “student learning beyond books.” Those are things we still strive to be, fifty years later. 

We hope that Oscar and Nell would be pleased with the legacy that they left behind. We are certainly thankful for their continued contributions”.

Here’s to another 50 Years!

Hunter Ferguson | Integrated Communications Specialist
Cowley College
125 S. 2nd Street
Arkansas City, KS 67005