Ringling College Library Association

Stephanie Grosskreutz sits in her compact office tucked in a corner of Ringling College’s stunning and spacious Alfred R. Goldstein Library. Don’t be fooled by her small room. Big things happen here. And Grosskreutz gets them started.

She’s the executive director of the Ringling College Library Association (RCLA)—a member-driven, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the ongoing development of Ringling College’s library, students, faculty, and surrounding community.

RCLA was born as a small support group in 1975. A pioneering handful of community leaders started by donating $500 to help a struggling art school build its library. In the years that followed, that small school became a globally recognized art and design college.

As Ringling College grew, so did RCLA. It’s now expanded to nearly 2,000 members, and over the years has given and pledged more than $11 million to Ringling College.

2017 marked RCLA’s greatest success story when the Goldstein Library opened its doors. It was a vision fulfilled. And the result of a long and loving campaign.

This $20 million, light-filled structure is 46,000 square feet. Yes, size matters—but smart design matters more. The stateof- the-art facility is hard wired with the latest technology and protects the College’s special collections with the highest standard of care. It’s a breathtaking, transformative gathering space and a discovery center that accommodates the changing needs of future scholars and artists. The Goldstein Library also welcomes visitors, industry partners, professionals, lifelong learners, and independent researchers to utilize its extraordinary resources.

So, it happened. Ringling College’s library of tomorrow exists today. That doesn’t mean RCLA’s job is finished.

According to Becky Mahoney, RCLA’s president, there’s more to her organization’s mission than brick and mortar.

“RCLA is a catalyst for the educational growth of students, faculty, and community,” she says. “Our new library is remarkable—but it’s only a means to an end. Education is always the goal, including providing scholarships to students in need. We want to see all students attend, graduate, and realize their best potential.”

To serve that goal, RCLA supports the library’s ongoing initiatives, including purchasing books, periodicals, and research materials. As one of the largest cumulative donors to the college to date, it also provides substantial funds for student scholarships—and educates the surrounding community in the process.

“We’re proud of what we’ve done, but we’re not looking back,” Grosskreutz says. “As RCLA celebrates its 43rd anniversary, we’re looking to the future. Our biggest dreams are still ahead!”

Grosskreutz explains, “The College’s new library connects its students to the world,” she says. “In the same way, RCLA brings the world’s best minds to Sarasota. Our annual Town Hall Lecture Series attracts top national and international thinkers and achievers to Sarasota.” Now in its 39th year, this celebrated series has featured such dignitaries as former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; former Prime Minister of England Tony Blair; and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Long before Grosskreutz was tapped to lead RCLA, she helped coordinate the series—as a volunteer. In 2013 she served as the event’s chair. She explains that, while the Town Hall Lecture Series raises community awareness, it’s also an important fundraiser. The same applies to RCLA’s Art Lecture Series, which provides unique opportunities to visit area art exhibitions and hear artists talk about their life and work.

The combined income of these two series has empowered RCLA to donate more than $11 million to Ringling College.

It’s a beautiful financial synergy. According to Mahoney, there’s an artistic connection as well.

Before each Town Hall lecture begins, a selection of short films drawn from the senior theses of Ringling College’s graduating Computer Animation majors is shown. Students also create portraits of each Town Hall speaker. “These portraits have been phenomenal; they’re direct proof of the talent that thrives at Ringling College. Our speakers have been touched to receive them and the students have been just as moved to share their work,” says Mahoney.

By Su Byron | Photo by Matthew Holler (Photography & Imaging, ’11)
Su Byron is a poet and freelance writer based in Sarasota.