Marilyn Stokstad, the Judith Harris Murphy Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art History, has made a contribution that will renovate Spencer Research Library.

Former professor's gift will help renovate Spencer Research Library

A generous gift from a retired KU faculty member and noted art history scholar will leave a major mark on KU Libraries this year.

Marilyn Stokstad, the Judith Harris Murphy Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art History, has given $250,000 to KU Libraries to create a new interior reception space and remodel the reading room at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. The renovated space, to be named the Marilyn Stokstad Reading Room, will be more open, inviting and visible — key qualities at the library, where researchers spend most of their time in the reading room because the collections do not circulate and are preserved in closed stacks.

“As a world-renowned author and researcher in her own right, Dr. Stokstad clearly understands the importance of the Spencer Research Library not only for faculty and researchers on campus, but throughout the world,” said Lorraine Haricombe, dean of KU Libraries. “I am so pleased that Marilyn has chosen to support this effort, which will have such a positive impact on scholarly research at KU. I feel this project will be a fitting tribute to her support and her contributions to KU as a scholar and teacher.”

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library has been dedicated to the preservation of the extensive collections of books, manuscripts, photos and other items since its opening in 1968. Stokstad hopes that her contribution to the libraries will encourage students and researchers to explore the collections that deepen our understanding of the vast histories of the world.

“Both the Spencer Museum of Art and the Kenneth Spencer Research Library have always felt like home to me,” said Stokstad. “As a medievalist-art historian, you need both a museum and library in which to do your work. At KU, we are fortunate to have world-class institutions in both cases.”

Stokstad, a member of the KU Libraries Board of Advocates, has been a longtime supporter of KU Libraries, with deep ties to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library and the Murphy Art and Architecture Library. She has previously established a generous endowment to support the art history collections at KU Libraries.

The Stokstad Reading Room project will include an enclosed consultation/teaching space for small groups within the reading room, a new central service point to make using the collections easier for visitors and a new interior entryway. Infrastructure improvements include more power outlets and upgraded wiring, essential to 21st century researchers, and new flooring. Construction is slated for summer, with completion anticipated by the start of the fall semester.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Stokstad has chosen to support the Spencer library,” said Beth Whittaker, head of Spencer Research Library. “I hope this renovation will be the first of several major improvements to the building, retaining its historic character while allowing us to transform the way researchers, students and the public experience our outstanding collections.”

Stokstad has been a generous donor to KU throughout her career. In addition to the libraries, she has supported the Spencer Museum of Art, the Hall Center for the Humanities, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Lied Center of Kansas.

Made possible through a gift from Helen F. Spencer in honor of her late husband, the Kenneth Spencer Research Library and its staff are dedicated to the preservation of diverse collections ranging from Kansas historical records to national political documents. For more information, visit

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