The Reverend James K. Thomann ’60 firmly believed that quality education is impossible without a great library, while also noting that technological resources are essential to keeping libraries relevant for today’s students. Half of Thomann’s estate will support Whittier College in this forward-looking endeavor, with the other half supporting his local Huntington Beach Library.
“The Rev. Thomann’s generosity during his life has made so much possible for Wardman Library,” says Library Director David McCaslin “His bequest further cements his legacy at the College and ensures that we can fund the improvements to technology, operations, and student support that will enhance the Poet learning experience and continually expand resources for generations to come.”
The bulk of Thomann’s $400,000 bequest will be used to establish The James K. Thomann ’60 Endowed Library Fund. This endowment will exist in perpetuity and will support needs such as: purchasing textbooks for course reserve, which enhances equitable access to resources necessary for student learning; support of spaces like the LIS classroom space, to ensure campus facilities meet the needs of the modern student; professional development for library staff, to ensure competencies in new technology, research workflows, and learning design; and more.
Two additional endowed funds will also be created: The James K. Thomann ’60 Endowed Scholarship for Service to the Library and The James K. Thomann ’60 Endowed Fellowship. The scholarship will support a current student, ideally in their senior year at Whittier College, who has worked at Wardman Library in some capacity during their time on campus. The fellowship program will support one student in completing project-based work in the Library each summer. Consistent with Thomann’s wishes, this mentored fellowship will focus on the maintenance and upgrades of Wardman Library’s technological resources and digital archives.
Finally, a small portion of Thomann’s bequest will be used immediately to support technology and modernization projects required in group study areas and the Special Collections space inside Wardman Library.
As a Whittier College student, Thomann was inspired to become a minister by Professor C. Milo Connick’s New and Old Testament classes. A career clergyman and member of the California-Pacific Conference (a regional body of the United Methodist Church), Thomann credited Professor Connick with inspiring him to go to seminary school and for introducing him to a local program that would enable him to attend for free.
Thomann would typically serve a five-year role at a given church, then move on. He served all over southern California as an associate pastor, never wanting the full-time role of parish pastor. He lived conservatively and had the freedom to travel whenever he wanted, amassing along the way books on the topics of Cicero, the Latin language, Roman history, and Buddhism. His most rewarding clergy placement was Huntington Beach, where he made friends and found community. Upon retirement, that’s where he decided he wanted to remain.
Before his passing, Thomann shared a passage in the book “Open Your Mind, Open Your Life: A Book of Eastern Wisdom,” by Taro Gold, that resonated with him because it reminded him of Whittier:
The essence of education is not to transfer knowledge;
it is to guide the learning process, to put responsibility
for study into the students’ own hands. It is not the
piecemeal merchandising of information; it is the
bestowal of keys that allow people to unlock the vault
of knowledge on their own. It does not consist of
pilfering the intellectual property amassed by others
through no additional effort of one’s own; it would
rather place people on their own path of
discovery and invention.
- Tsunesaburō Makiguchi
Thanks to Thomann’s generosity, generations of Whittier students will have additional resources during their own path of discovery.