The Rice community, and Fondren Library in particular, lost a great friend last week. (Here is her obituary in the Chronicle.) Ferne Hyman spent thirty years here, beginning in 1968 when her beloved husband Harold came to teach in the Rice history department. She started with a half-time job in the Gifts and Exchanges department, but her talent and drive was immediately apparent and she went on to hold positions of increasing responsibility in reference and collection management. At her retirement she was assistant university librarian, director of special services and a member of the Fondren Executive Committee. The photo to the left was taken at Homecoming in 1997, when Ferne and Harold were honored by the Friends of Fondren Library for their long service to the intellectual life of the university.
That doesn’t even begin to cover it, though. Ferne just made an impact on people. Her devotion to students was second only to her devotion to her family. She was a woman with wide-ranging abilities, a formidable intelligence, a strong will and a very large heart. As a graduate student, I benefitted enormously from her kind generosity in matters both academic and personal. She had preposterously high standards, and a seemingly unshakeable faith that the student in front of her would somehow be able to meet those standards. Her guidance was an invaluable part of making that happen. Her service to the Brookwood Community after her and Harold’s retirement reflects exactly the same care for the needs of others that distinguished her years at Rice.