When Rudolph Clay started working at the University nearly 30 years ago, he joined the audio-visual unit of Olin Library as a technician.
Now, Clay is one of the most recognizable faces at the library, thanks to both his longevity and his rise through the ranks to his current position of head of reference.
Clay was honored with the Gloria W. White Distinguished Service Award in a May 23 ceremony in Edison Theatre, part of the Staff Day celebration.
“I was flabbergasted,” Clay said. “I couldn’t believe it. I have been an employee here since 1979, and I had known Gloria White and witnessed firsthand her commitment to the University, to anyone she met, and to the larger community.
“I was very, very happy to even be nominated for this award. And then to win was wonderful.”
In his time at the University, Clay has earned a master’s degree in library science, a master’s in human resources management, and has been promoted within the University several times.
His responsibilities include assisting students and faculty with research needs; working with the Department of English in Arts & Sciences to incorporate library instruction into the Freshman Writing Program curriculum; serving as subject librarian for the African and African-American Studies Program in Arts & Sciences; and serving as a lecturer on research materials in African and African-American Studies.
In addition, Clay has taken the time to assist in diversity outreach efforts for student and faculty recruitment and worked with the Ervin Scholars and Mellon Fellows programs.
He is also working with Gerhild Williams, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor and the Barbara Schaps Thomas and David M. Thomas Professor in the Humanities in Arts & Sciences, and James E. McLeod, vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, to develop a database to support minority recruitment for faculty.
“It’s part of the culture of the University,” Clay said of his willingness to help others and serve on various committees. “Gloria White was a prime example of that. She was interested in the well-being of others, and people who talked with her got a clear sense that she was a great citizen of the University.
“You were encouraged to follow in her footsteps and find opportunities for service. The University is filled with people who are certainly worthy of receiving this award, but it’s definitely humbling.”
People have described Clay as someone who is always willing to assist with any project, big or small. He is genuinely enthusiastic about what he does, making him a valuable resource and mentor to those who have had the opportunity to work with him.
“Within the libraries, Rudolph has been a mainstay of reference for years,” said Shirley K. Baker, vice chancellor for information technology and dean of University Libraries. “He is a strong subject specialist, and he is a superb reference librarian.
“But he also has a University life. He is involved with so many different constituencies trying to forward the aims of the University; he is just always ready to step forward and help. He’s a real member of the University.”