What prompts two Rutgers graduates in Texas, who don't often return to New Jersey, to give generous support to the Rutgers University Libraries over 20 years after graduating? Credit fond memories and a firm vision of the essential building blocks for a superior university.
Debbie and John Gatlin knew each other from New Brunswick High School and were among a select few of their peers who decided to attend Rutgers in 1974. They continuously bumped into each other on College Avenue, at the student mailboxes, at Brower Commons, and other campus locations. By the end of their freshman year they were going steady, and they were engaged during their sophomore year. They were married six months after graduation and look forward to celebrating their 25th anniversary in January, with their 16-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son.
As commuter students during their college years, they worked to help pay for their schooling and did not have many opportunities to enjoy the typical college experience. But they did get to sample some aspects of the Rutgers life, which remain vivid till this day. Debbie remembers walking in the snow on College Avenue on a pleasant winter day, weather she does not often see now as a Texas resident. John remembers the joys of attending most of the home games for the undefeated 1976 Rutgers basketball team.
Both of them also recall the support they received from the Rutgers University Libraries. Debbie often found the books she needed at Alexander Library and checked them out for more leisurely reading at home. John found that the Library of Science and Medicine provided the best quiet spaces for study and spent many hours there between classes.
Their lives have brought them far from Rutgers. John now works as an engineering manager for ExxonMobil in Houston, overseeing engineering support for the company's pipelines and gasoline storage terminals. Debbie works as a substitute teacher at the Woodlands elementary school and also works in the school's library. Yet they haven't forgotten the strong education they received at Rutgers or the role of the Libraries.
They have generously supported Alexander Library and Special Collections for a number of years, with their gifts magnified three for one by the matching gift program at ExxonMobil. The matching gift program matches every dollar donated by an alumni to their school with three from the company, for any academic program or unit at the school.
Debbie and John decided to tour the Libraries when they were in New Jersey on a family visit in August 2001. They found it quite remarkable how much had changed since they had been on campus. John commented that "Alexander Library is much larger than when we were there, and it offers a lot more space for students to study. And so many resources are now available electronically - it's very impressive."
John and Debbie understand clearly that supporting the Libraries provides strong ripple effects for the entire university. As Debbie put it: "Without a strong library system, the whole education system breaks down." John added: "Our gifts to the Libraries benefit everyone who attends Rutgers, both today and well into the future."
The Libraries are grateful to the Gatlins for their wise vision and warm generosity.
Last updated April 23, 2004