In Remembrance of Errol Wayne Stevens

The William H. Hannon Library is deeply saddened by the news of Dr. Errol Wayne Stevens, who passed away on Friday January 17, 2020.

Errol Stevens was the visionary leader of the Department of Archives and Special Collections from 1993 until his retirement in January 2006. When he joined LMU, Errol was charged with reinventing the library’s special collections. His monumental efforts provided the foundation upon which we were able to grow effortlessly into the 21st century. They still echo within the library and across campus.

Errol built a single repository out of two separate units, Special Collections and the University Archives, literally demolishing the wall that had kept them apart. He created regular Monday through Friday public hours of access for the first time, and professionalized the day-to-day business of A&SC by instating its first collections accession system, developing new policies and procedures, and launching a years-long inventory – and discovery – project that revealed the many unprocessed collections that had been hidden for decades.

Stevens lecturing at LMU
Stevens lecturing in the Frank Sullivan Reading Room, late 1990s

Errol also professionalized the department staff, hiring LMU’s first-ever manuscript curators and rare book cataloger, all of whom brought expertise from long-established special collections institutions to help him advance the department as a welcoming, public-facing environment. He was a good humored, inspiring and fiercely protective mentor to his hand-picked team who were devoted to him.

Errol was a historian whose keen understanding and love of learning guided vigorous growth of the collections. Under Errol’s leadership, the department took on the administration of the newly founded Center for the Study of Los Angeles Research Collection, housed then at an off-campus facility. He enhanced the strengths of the existing rare book collection with superb additions, such as the 1485 Brescia edition of Virgil’s Works (still the only copy known to exist within the United States). He crafted two profoundly significant collecting areas for the book collection: the Jesuit Rare Book Collection and the Teaching Collection. The latter collecting area was Errol’s response to his team’s outreach and instruction efforts, his collaborative engagement with faculty and their growing interest in developing class visits and course assignments using special collections materials. It provided justification for new areas of collecting, based upon the university’s curricular needs. Through his strong advocacy, Errol secured an annual budget for rare book purchases as well as a new gift fund established by the Jesuit Community to build the Jesuit Rare Book Collection.

Errol Stevens loved the diverse collections within the department; however he was particularly fond of the Robert and Miriam Kinsey Japanese art collection. He introduced to everyone the enchantment of our netsuke collection and spent happy hours discussing the miniature sculptures with their donor, Robert O. Kinsey. He also prized the Werner von Boltenstern Postcard Collection, promoting it so visibly that gifts of postcards began to pour in. Errol and his understated, dry humor appear memorably in a 1995 episode of Visiting… with Huell Howser, in which he introduced LMU’s postcards to television viewers.

Stevens at Christmas 1994
Stevens with manuscripts curator Janet Evander (left) and University Archives assistant Neil Bethke (right), 1994

Errol launched the library’s digitization efforts, selecting its first digital collections platform and designing its first digital special collection. The Changing Face of Southern California features, of course, the postcards.

While Errol retired just before planning for the William H. Hannon Library began, he had already started to prepare collections for their eventual move, documented space needs, and developed goals for expansion that proved invaluable aids to our planning work.

For all his many lasting contributions to Loyola Marymount University and its legacy collections, Errol Stevens will be remembered with great admiration.

Our hearts are with Errol’s family and friends during this difficult time.

Written by Cynthia Becht, Head of Archives and Special Collections.