Margaret Mae Gross

Honored by:Warren B. Kuhn
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Margaret Mae Gross - affectionately known for nearly half a century throughout Iowa State University simply as "Margaret Mae" - was one of those remarkable women of immense talents and quiet dedication, who in her selfless devotion to the ISU Library has truly earned an honored place in the private history of the University. Respected and admired by decades of admiring faculty, staff and students who unashamedly called upon her for assistance, she epitomizes the tradition of devoted service to the University that was and is the determining central spirit of Iowa State. Margaret Mae retired on August 31, 1989 as Assistant to the first Dean of Library Services, capping more than 48 years of service to ISU - a record of service approached by few others in the university’s long history. "Rewarding years" Margaret Mae calls them, "dedicated to the cause of better Library service for all the University."
Born in Greene County, Iowa in 1924, Margaret Mae grew up in and near Ames attending the Story County country school of Clearview, and graduating from Ames High School. Her family managed farm and dairy operations in Story County; her parents "Dutch" and Maggie Gross were widely known and beloved in the county community . On June 2, 1941 - literally almost the day following her high school graduation - Margaret Mae began her work at the ISU Library as a Library Clerk.

Over the succeeding years her title changed as she rose in responsibility to Secretary Administrative, Secretary Administrative Assistant, and Assistant to the Dean of Library Services. In these capacities she served as close advisor and invaluable assistant to all three of the Library’s chief administrators during those years that spanned the tumultuous times of vast institutional growth and change, from the eve of World War II to the present day. She received the Superior Service Citation in 1975.

What made her unique talents so immensely valuable were not only the five decades in the Library which gave her an unparalleled understanding of its organization its requirements and most of all its pivotal central role within the University, but equally an intimate, hard-won knowledge of every detail of the Library’s work at all levels. No task was ever too humble to engage her attention, no one who needed her help was ever turned away, nor did they long remain uncaptivated strangers.

In troubled times she added stability and guidance, in the years of explosive expansion, as the University and the Library broadened their mission, she brought enthusiasm and hard effort; to all she gave patient counsel and competence. Hers was a lifetime of selfless devotion, the first to arrive and almost the last to leave, serving hours eagerly before dawn and long after dark, uncomplainingly giving her life to the Library and the University. She was a shining example of those often unsung heroines whose daily, patient efforts have maintained, strengthened, and formed the heart of Iowa State's long march to excellence.

Summing up a life of service is too often marred by the weakness of words; to capture the essence of such a life is to recognize the contribution and the affection of those who felt its glow. Perhaps most notable as illumination of why Margaret Mae occupies so well-remembered a place among those whose lives she touched are the letters and notes that continually come to her from former staff and students - those who pushed the booktrucks, reshelved the tomes, and answered the questions within the Library - and who now years later themselves, as fathers and mothers of staff and students, their temples tinged with gray, have never forgotten her kindness or her gentle warmth when they needed it most.

In her retirement, Margaret Mae has carried on an unending correspondence, bringing joy to many who today are often forgotten in the rush of a changing academic world. Her understanding and love of the Iowa soil, too, keeps her busy as she raises fruits vegetables and herbs on a paradise-like acreage not far from Ames and the campus. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow the 19th century American poet perhaps best expressed the value of such achievements as hers - achievements made but a step away from one's own garden, but whose reach has influenced the stars: "That is best which lieth nearest Shape from that thy work of art!"

Bless you Margaret Mae for your "work of art" and thank you!

MY REASON FOR HONORING MARGARET MAE GROSS: Margaret Mae Gross was for 22 years my tireless creative and totally dedicated colleague in the most recent expansion and development of the Iowa State University library. .... Warren B. Kuhn Dean of Library Services Emeritus Iowa State University 1967 - 1989