Preston Library has an active Friends group which supports library resources, services, and facilities. Each year, Friends organizes and hosts engaging programs at Preston Library for VMI and the local community. Membership is open to the public. Individuals are invited to join Friends for a contribution of $25 or make a donation to the Friends online.
Contributions to Friends support library needs and make significant enhancements to VMI’s academic program. For more information about the Friends of the Preston Library, contact Preston Library at (540) 464-7228.
The Friends of Preston Library awarded Cadet Ryan Poffenbarger, ’16 with this year’s Camper Award on 5 May, Reading Day. Representatives of the Friends’ Board, Col. Don Samdahl, library staff, and Mrs. Camper’s son, Bob, recognized Mr. Poffenbarger for his leadership and service to Preston Library. Cadet Poffenbarger served this past year as Preston Library’s Head Library Cadet Assistant.
The award’s namesake, Mrs. Frances Camper, was a great teacher and role model for library cadet assistants. Cadet Poffenbarger received a letter of recognition, a certificate, and a cash award. Mr. Poffenbarger is an Applied Mathematics major who will commission in the United States Army Reserves as a Medical Service Corps officer in Ft. Meade. He will be working in air and missile defense at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. We wish all the best to this outstanding cadet.
The Friends of Preston Library hosted its Spring Program on Friday, 22 April at 3:00 p.m. in the Turman Room of Preston Library. Our guest speaker was Mr. Dan Pezzoni, who gave a talk based on his recently published book, The Architecture of Historic Rockbridge.
Mr. Pezzoni gave a stimulating, educational, and engaging program about the architecture of Rockbridge County. Many architectural styles are represented by buildings in the county and Mr. Pezzoni showed examples and talked about their history. Mr. Pezzoni answered a number of questions and signed his new book which was for sale. A good time was had by all.
Mr. Pezzoni’s abundantly illustrated volume captures the rich and diverse architectural history of Rockbridge County including the cities of Lexington and Buena Vista. His book has filled a long-recognized void by tracing the area’s architectural heritage from the eighteenth century to the post-World War II period. It is a beautiful, modern work and an essential complement to the earlier work (1977), The Architecture of Historic Lexington.
The Friends of Preston Library hosted its Fall Program on Tuesday, 27 October at 3:00 p.m. in the Turman Room, Preston Library. Our guest speaker was Col. Turk McCleskey, who gave a talk based upon his recently published book, The Road to Black Ned’s Forge: A Story of Race, Sex, and Trade on the Colonial American Frontier.
Turk McCleskey provided context and background of historical and social relationships in his talk on Ned Tarr, an enslaved Pennsylvania ironworker who purchased his freedom in 1752 and moved to Virginia on the upper James River. One main point of his presentation was that social relationships were more varied and less rigid in the 18th century than what the became in the 19th. Turk’s remarkable account of this true story was enjoyed by all. It provided fresh insight and greater understanding about complexities in social and race relations in early America.
Col. McCleskey is a professor of history at VMI. His well-received book tells a fascinating and unlikely story of frontier life.
“With keen insight and thorough research Turk McCleskey vividly recovers the frontier world of Black Ned. Bold, proud, and clever, Black Ned lived at a crossroads in time and place. On Virginia’s colonial frontier, a forceful black man could prosper as a blacksmith, defend his freedom in court, and marry a white woman. But that defiance eventually provoked resentments that, during the next generation, would close loopholes in the system of racial slavery, gaps that Ned had exploited so resourcefully. McCleskey has worked wonders in recovering and telling Ned’s powerful story.”—Alan Taylor, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, University of Virginia.
The Friends of Preston Library awarded Cadet Patrick Finn, ’15 with this year’s Camper Award in the Periodicals Room of Preston Library on 30 April. Friends’ Chairman Lt. Col. Eric Osborne, Col. Don Samdahl, members of the Friends’ Board, library staff, and Mrs. Camper’s son, Bob, recognized Mr. Finn for his leadership and service to Preston Library. Mr. Finn served this past year as the Head Library Cadet Assistant.
The award’s namesake, Mrs. Frances Camper, was a great teacher and role model for library cadet assistants. Cadet Finn received a letter of recognition, a certificate, and a cash award. Cadet Finn is a Civil and Environmental Engineering major who will commission in the United States Air Force. He will enter flight school following commissioning. We wish all the best to this outstanding cadet.
The Friends of Preston Library will host its Spring Program on Tuesday, 24 February at 3:00 p.m. in the Turman Room, Preston Library. Our guest speaker will be Dr. William C. Davis, who will give a talk based upon his recently published book, Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee–The War They Fought, the Peace They Forged.
Exploring their personalities, characters, ethical and moral compasses, and political and military worlds, William C. Davis, uses substantial, newly discovered evidence on both men to find surprising similarities between them, as well as new insights and unique interpretations on how their lives prepared them for the war they fought and influenced how they fought it.
Crucible of Command is both a gripping narrative of the final year of the war and a fresh, revealing portrait of these two great commanders as they took each other’s measure across the battlefield with the aid of millions of men.
Dr. Davis is one of the nation’s preeminent historians and teaches at Virginia Tech. He has been twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and is the only three-time winner of the Jefferson Davis Prize for Confederate history. He was also awarded the Jules F. Landry Award for Southern history.
“This refreshingly new comparative study rises above overworked analyses of strategy and tactics and concentrates on character and personality. For those who like their history human, here is the starting point for an accurate understanding of what Lee and Grant meant—to each other as well as to the nation they molded.”—James I. Robertson, Jr., author of Stonewall Jackson.
Please join us for a stimulating, educational, and engaging program by Dr. Davis on Generals Lee and Grant. Refreshments will be served and books will be available for sale and signature by the author.
The Friends of Preston Library hosted its Fall Program on Thursday, 13 November at 3 p.m. in the Turman Room, Preston Library. Our guest speaker was Mr. S. C. Gwynne, who gave a talk based upon his recently published and best-selling book, Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson. The book has received outstanding reviews. For example, Peter Cozzens, author of Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign wrote, “Rebel Yell is the best biography of Stonewall Jackson I have ever read. . . . A magnificent achievement, Rebel Yell represents a milestone in Civil War literature.”
Stonewall Jackson has long been a figure of legend and romance. As much as any person in the confederate pantheon, even Robert E. Lee, he embodies the romantic Southern notion of the virtuous lost cause. Jackson is also considered, without argument, one of our country’s greatest military figures. His brilliance at the art of war tied Abraham Lincoln and the Union high command in knots and threatened the ultimate success of the Union armies. Jackson’s strategic innovations shattered the conventional wisdom of how war was waged; he was so far ahead of his time that his techniques would be studied generations into the future.
Mr. Gwynne wrote, “The book is the result of a lifelong interest in the Civil War and particularly in Jackson, whom I consider one of its most compelling characters. The book is really about transformation: how an unpopular and highly eccentric college physics professor becomes, in the space of fourteen months, the most famous military figure in the western world. I have made a series of research trips to various archives and battlefields. It’s title comes from the fact that Jackson invented the Rebel Yell, a pretty impressive thing to put on your resume.”
Mr. Gwynne spoke to a group of about 90 persons and presented a stimulating, educational, and engaging media presentation on Jackson–which included the “Rebel Yell.” The author answered questions following the talk and signed his book Rebel Yell.
The Friends of Preston Library awarded Cadet Megan Scheetz with this year’s Camper Award. Friend’s Chairman Col. Eric Osborne, Col. Don Samdahl, library staff, and Mrs. Camper’s son, Bob, joined by family members recognized Ms. Scheetz for her leadership and service to Preston Library. Cadet Scheetz worked in Preston Library’s circulation services department and served the past year as the Head Library Cadet Assistant.
The award’s namesake, Mrs. Frances Camper was a great teacher and role model for library cadet assistants. Cadet Scheetz received a letter of recognition, a certificate, and a cash award. Cadet Scheetz plans to go to China to teach English following graduation. We wish all the best to this outstanding cadet.
The Friends of Preston Library’s Spring Program will be on Tuesday, 25 March, at 7 p.m. in the Northern Auditorium, Leyburn Library, Washington and Lee University. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Don Hopkins, who will give a talk based upon his recently published book, Robert E. Lee in War and Peace: A Photographic History of a Confederate and American Icon. We are co-hosting this program with Washington and Lee University: the Friends of Leyburn Library and Lee Chapel. We have not done this before, but think it will be an enjoyable event to get us together.
Robert E. Lee is well-known as Confederate general, and educator in later life, but most people are exposed to the same handful of images of one of America’s most famous sons. Nearly seven decades have passed since anyone has attempted a serious study of Lee in photographs. Don Hopkins’ painstakingly researched and lavishly illustrated Robert E. Lee in War and Peace, has ended this wait.
William C. Davis, award-winning Civil War author, Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, Virginia Tech stated: “This is an iconic revelation. In decades of photographic research, I have never seen several of these Lee images. Equally impressive is the background research that Hopkins employs to provide context and enriched meaning to each image. His work deserves to be acclaimed a milestone in Lee biography as well as in the broader field of Civil War photographic history.”
Born in the rural South, Donald A. Hopkins has maintained a fascination with Southern history and military history since he was a child. He served in the Vietnam War as battalion surgeon with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, “The Walking Dead,” and was awarded the Purple Heart medal and Bronze Star with “V” for valor. In addition to published papers in the medical field, he has written several Civil War articles and three books including The Little Jeff: A History of the Jeff Davis Legion, Cavalry, Army of Northern Virginia, for which he received the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal. Dr. Hopkins is a surgeon in Gulfport, Mississippi, where he lives with his wife Cindy and their golden retriever Dixie.
Please join us for a stimulating, educational, and engaging program on General Lee. Refreshments will be served and books will be available for sale and signature by the author. Lee Chapel will also host a book signing for Dr. Hopkins from 3:00-5:00 p.m. in the Museum. A signed book can be pre-ordered by contacting Margaret Samdahl (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by calling the Lee Chapel Museum Shop (540) 458-8095.
The Friends of Preston Library hosted its Fall Program on Thursday, 14 November, at 3 p.m. in the Turman Room of Preston Library. Our guest speaker was Dr. Richard A. Straw, who gave a talk based upon his recently published book, Rockbridge County: The Michael Miley Collection. Dr. Straw showed several examples of Miley’s photographs which illustrated his artistry and innovative techniques. These photographs provided a fascinating insight of life in Rockbridge Country following the Civil War.
Dr. Straw is a professor of history at Radford University. He specializes in the American South and teaches courses about the Old and New South, Appalachian history, and Southern music. He earned his doctorate at the University of Missouri.
See also the nice write-up on Dr. Straw by Radford University.