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An endowment at the competitive edge

by William G. Schmitt, Notre Dame News and Information

January 13, 2009

Tags: Alumni, Awards

The University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Libraries and undergraduate and graduate students in the Mendoza College of Business are among the beneficiaries of a distinctive gift that Notre Dame received this year from a generous—and anonymous—alumnus.

This benefactor says he wanted to make a special expression of his gratitude to Notre Dame for the education he received and for the “vast professional alumni network which has helped me immensely in various business and professional communities.” As a result, the libraries now have an “entrepreneurial spirit endowed business librarian” position supporting the ever-increasing needs at Mendoza and at the college’s Mahaffey Business Information Center (part of the Hesburgh Libraries).

The endowed business librarian position carries no benefactor’s name, but it does reflect the anonymous donor’s recognition of changing times in the professional world, where he says “information is power” and there is a torrent of data available.

“Librarians are unsung heroes to a certain extent,” says this unsung benefactor, who decided to bestow funding that would help both the libraries and business students. “I felt it was important to do something with respect to business students who need to be able to process a tremendous amount of information” as part of “a practical approach to business education.” For motivated students teamed with a highly skilled guide to the universe of facts and databases, “it can be a very collaborative situation,” he points out.

The generous individual behind the new position is anonymous, but the holder of the new position is not. He is Stephen M. Hayes, the former “business services librarian,” who has overseen the Mahaffey Center since it opened in 1995 and who has become known at Mendoza as an expert in and teacher of what he calls “competitive intelligence.” He also has been part of teams teaching case studies in business research and a new “research challenge” initiative for undergraduates.

Hayes calls the endowment of a business librarian position “visionary,” recognizing and nurturing a connection between the development of entrepreneurial skills and the mastery of information that supports good judgment. This collaborative approach to research goes way beyond merely “answering a question” with the limited knowledge gleaned from an Internet search engine.

The endowment will immediately support the expansion of the libraries’ business resources in support of Mendoza’s aspirations. Hayes says he will be involved in a number of collaborations to stay at the cutting edge of corporate responsibility, sustainability, and the role of information in those pursuits as they are conducted in the realms of corporations, entrepreneurship and academia. An endowed business librarian can contribute to “producing the best-quality students as well as moving the college forward and the University forward in support of its mission,” he says.

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