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Dana Professor of English and Kirby Librarian are both recognized for more than 30 years of service

June Schlueter, who is retiring as Charles A. Dana Professor of English after 31 years, and Mercedes Benitez Sharpless, who is retiring as librarian of Kirby Library after 32 years, have been elected to emerita status and were recognized tonight for their service to Lafayette at the annual pre-Commencement reception, dinner and awards ceremony. President Daniel H. Weiss read the citations.


Few things reveal more about a teacher than the recollections of former students. For one self-proclaimed “ward,” the boundaries of June Schlueter’s classroom were endearingly elastic. His eager mind was fed by discussions of literature and culture on June and Paul’s front porch, with food of a different sort provided in their kitchen. For another alumnus the rewards of close reading in June’s classes included the box brimming with books he received as a graduation gift. The June Schlueter Study-Abroad Fund attests to the lessons appreciative students have learned from her far from College Hill.

For 31 years June has been a model for faculty as well as for students, remaining an influential teacher and scholar even during the 13 years when she augmented the title of Charles A. Dana Professor of English with that of Provost.

Nowhere on campus has June been more fully at home than in Skillman Library. She uses its collections for teaching and research; she values its staff as resources and friends; and she has written or edited more than a dozen books in its catalog. With frequent co-author Paul, she generously supported Skillman’s renovation and expansion, a gift acknowledged through the naming of the Schlueter Rare Book Room. A more recent commitment from the two of them supports an important lecture series on the art and history of the book.

To conclude our tribute to your exemplary service as professor and provost, June, we have chosen to paraphrase a writer who is considerably less gifted than your beloved Bard but whose words hold special resonance on this campus: You’ve read, you’ve studied, you’ve examined, you’ve listened, you’ve reflected, you’ve mentored, you’ve collaborated, you’ve published, you’ve inspired, you’ve planned, you’ve planned some more – and out of all this you’ve inscribed your highest ideals on the shape and substance of a grateful college.


Without a hint of hyperbole, chroniclers of Lafayette’s history and architecture use adjectives such as “elegant” and “magnificent” to describe the library on the second floor of the Kirby Hall of Civil Rights. Thanks to the devoted stewardship that Mercedes Sharpless has provided over the past 32 years, this remarkable gem has become even more prominent in campus academic life, growing from 12,000 volumes to more than 30,000 and broadening its scope to include materials related to government as well as to law.

Mercedes’ contributions as librarian have encompassed far more than adding and filling bookshelves. An invaluable educational partner for faculty and students in several departments, most notably Government & Law and Foreign Languages & Literatures, she has strengthened ties between the library and the classroom. Her expertise has also been instrumental in the development of Skillman Library’s impressive Spanish language book collection.

She began her Lafayette career not long after the College became coeducational and has been a tireless advocate for women on campus and throughout the Lehigh Valley. She always reserved a special place in her heart – and home – for international students, who returned the favor by proudly introducing her to their families at commencement as the person who had eased their loneliness by offering advice and encouragement, an understanding ear, and a delectable alternative to the typical undergraduate dining experience. Lafayette’s chapter of the national Hispanic honor society was but one of many organizations to which she devoted her talents and energy. Students honored her unique contributions to campus life by presenting her with a special diversity award.

Mercedes, you have been a superb librarian, a delightful colleague, and a spirited contributor to the Lafayette community, and we look forward to your continued involvement in retirement.

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