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Mahns' gift benefits Ohio University Libraries

By Jack Jeffery

Robert Mahn's legacy of devotion to Ohio University continues after his retirement from the University. A $1 million gift from Mahn and his wife will support the Ohio University Libraries with the establishment of the Robert E. and Jean. R. Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections.

Ohio University Libraries are ranked among the top research libraries in North America, and the Mahns' gift will create an equally elite archives and special collections department by providing funds to aid in the recruitment and retention of top-notch staff, to support the acquisition of new material, to renovate the facilities and to enhance technology to make more of the collections available electronically.

"This gift, one of the most generous ever received by the Ohio University Libraries, is especially gratifying for me, because of my great affection and respect for Bob and Jean Mahn," said University Libraries Dean Julia Zimmerman. "Many years ago, Bob founded our archives as the University's historical repository. Jean has become a passionate advocate for this unique part of the library.

"With their generosity, the Mahns have given us the means to transform the center's physical space, to enrich our collections, to enhance our technology for better control and access and to develop and recruit a top-notch staff. In sum, they've given us the ability to maximize the potential of this outstanding facility as a center of teaching, learning and preservation of our cultural and historical legacies," she added.

Mahn's name is synonymous with administrative excellence and integrity at Ohio University. During his 51-year career, he filled a variety of posts at Ohio University while serving under seven presidents. In 1967, he accepted the position as university archivist and records officer, relying on skills he acquired during his former position as a junior archivist with the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Even after a full-time archivist was hired in 1972, he continued to be actively involved with the University Archives. As assistant to the president and secretary to the Board of Trustees, Mahn managed the paper flow in the president's office and was responsible for all official records of the board.

In the early 1980s, he visited the archives on a regular basis to research issues for the president and the board, to retrieve critical documents or to ensure they were being properly organized and preserved. Perhaps no one knew the University's organizational structure and inner workings better than he. To this day, large sections of the archives reflect Mahn's faithful attention and organizational skills.

"I've witnessed many eras at Ohio University, eras that brought great changes in technology, infrastructure and enrollment. While I firmly believe that you must embrace change, the University's history is priceless. Much of this history is in the University Archives waiting to be discovered. Currently, the libraries are working to enhance the Archives and Special Collections; we wanted to be a small part of that," he said.

Mahn received an honorary alumnus award from the University in 1955 and earned the title Secretary Emeritus of the Board of Trustees in 1984. Jean Rohde Mahn was born in Saskatchewan, Canada. She has been involved in philanthropic activities throughout her life, including helping to raise funds for Canadian hospitals. In 1989, the Mahns married and spent five years in Canada before she returned with him to Athens, where they currently reside.

Jack Jeffery is a media specialist with University Communications and Marketing.

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