Worth writing about: former

John Adams

The University libraries received their largest private donation of books Wednesday, gaining more than 11,000 from Elmer Andersen, former governor and former chairman of the Board of Regents.
Movers emptied his basement library, the contents of which were collected during Andersen’s lifetime and include Mark Twain’s first print of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
Throughout his life, the 89-year-old Andersen has enriched the lives of Minnesotans as a businessman, politician, environmentalist, philanthropist and most recently as a donor to the University’s library, giving his personal collection consisting of more than 11,000 books valued at about $800,000.
“Books should be bought to be read and kept for reference. I’ve felt comfort just from having Ralph Waldo Emerson on the shelf,” Andersen said.
“Today is going to be a tough day,” he added, while a crew of movers stacked boxes of his collection into three moving vans.
Andersen’s gift became the largest book donation the University has ever received, topping an earlier donation made by Andersen and his wife, Eleanor.
Through a donation of books and financial support, the Elmer L. and Eleanor J. Andersen Horticulture Library was established at the University arboretum in Chanhassen, a suburb of Minneapolis. Dedicated in 1974 and expanded in 1988 through support of the Andersens, the collection of books has an estimated value of more than $2 million.
Since beginning his book collection at age 15, Andersen’s library grew into a collection centered on Minnesota writers, rare books of fine print and subjects like bookmaking. After a life of corporate giving and political service to Minnesota, Andersen said he donates with a motto: “Give until it feels good, not until it hurts.”
After meeting his wife at the University, Andersen graduated in 1931. He worked his way up to be president of the H.B. Fuller Company, a Fortune 500 company, while establishing a record of corporate philanthropy.
As a state senator, and later as governor from 1960 to 1962, he was instrumental in the establishment of Minnesota’s only national park — Voyageurs, in north central Minnesota — as well as instituting several social programs, such as the Fair Employment Act and special education reform. Andersen calls himself a liberal Republican.
Andersen’s contributions to the University are not only through philanthropy, but also service.
He served as chairman of the Board of Regents from 1975 to 1979 and later was instrumental in the University’s selection of Nils Hasselmo as president in 1989.
But it was not only his relationship with the University that spurred the gift, it was the mutual interest he found in University President Mark Yudof and Library Administrator Thomas Shaughnessy.
“I think many librarians are information retrieval experts,” Andersen said. “Shaugnessy loves books, as does Mark Yudof.”
Andersen’s collection will be stored temporarily in the University library’s vault until the completion of the Minnesota Library Access Center on the West Bank where it will join the Special Collections and Rare Books section.
“His love of the University goes far beyond the libraries,” Shaughnessy said. He estimated that Andersen’s collection is the largest private collection in the state, but his contributions are not only in books.
“He has contributed to the quality of life for Minnesotans in so many ways it is unbelievable,” Shaughnessy said.