Archiving Generosity

painted portrait
This original oil portrait of John Batterson Stetson was given to the university by the family of Lewis Stetson Allen after his death.

For years, Susan Ryan admired Lewis Stetson Allen’s passion for serving as family historian. Ryan, dean of the duPont-Ball Library and Learning Technologies at Stetson University, could always count on Allen bringing any factual errors in the library’s archives to her attention. He did so “very politely,” and Ryan considered the successful marketer, banker and financier a trusted primary source.

Allen, a great grandson of university benefactor John Batterson Stetson, died in January 2015, but his guiding influence on the library remains. Shortly before passing, he established the Lewis Stetson Allen Archives Endowment Fund to “provide resources necessary to protect, preserve and digitize the university historical archives.”

The Stetson family history is included in that preservation, of course. Yet, Allen’s giving extends far beyond, benefiting the library in a variety of ways. Most directly, each year funds from the endowment will enable broader amounts of historical material to be catalogued and digitized. Already, many of the university’s materials are catalogued dating back to the 1800s, with much of it digitized. Also, the endowment will help showcase the library’s dozens of private and special collections.

Such efforts are part of Ryan’s overarching goal of “doing the library the right way.” She continually asks: “What does this library have that no other library has?”

A tip of the hat to a late great grandson for providing one new answer.

To view the library’s archives, go to

by Michael Candelaria, editor of Stetson University Magazine