In Memoriam: January 2019Interviewed January 2019
Nathalie McCulloch loves libraries. And she puts that love into action. She was on the advisory committee for Sarasota’s reinvented Selby Public Library built in 1998 and ensured that Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ new master plan would incorporate a cutting-edge research library. McCulloch also helped spearhead support for Ringling College of Art and Design’s stunning Alfred R. Goldstein Library, which has become a dynamic hub for students, staff, and community members. Inside, you’ll even find a group study room with her name on it: “Nat’s Study.”
Nostalgia isn’t her driving force. McCulloch knows that the technology-rich library of today is far different from the library of her childhood. She’ll remind you that, despite the transformations of the information revolution, one thing hasn’t changed. Libraries still serve a vital purpose.
“Libraries have to adapt to the times,” she says. “The Alfred R. Goldstein Library has done exactly that in a wonderful way.”
She describes the new library in lyrical terms. It’s an oasis of state-of-the-art learning. A discovery center for 21st-century knowledge seekers. A gateway to world-class digital collections and resources. Above all, it’s a constant work in progress.
“Ringling College’s library is designed to meet the needs of the scholars of today and tomorrow,” she says. “As technology changes, the library changes with it. It’s a never-ending adventure.”
She adds that technology is only a means to an end. Nurturing a community of learning is always the point. Like traditional libraries, the College’s library is a warm and inviting gathering space. “It’s a true sanctuary for mind and spirit,” she says. “Students connect on a human level there.”
McCulloch smiles just thinking about it.
“Our library is a colorful place, a delightful place, and a welcoming place,” she says. “You want to be there.”
McCulloch recently created the Nathalie McCulloch Endowed Library Fund at Ringling College. It will help build the College’s book collections, assist with the purchase of library materials, launch new programs, including an Artist in Residence program, and provide robust library services to students.
McCulloch’s passion for giving is strong. And it’s always been a part of her.
That passion was forged in her childhood home. It was further refined when she went away to the Brimmer and May School in Boston. “They taught us early,” she says. “We learned the principles of the spirit of volunteerism in our freshman year. It stayed with me.”
McCulloch volunteered at the Boston Hospital as a student. Her philanthropy didn’t stop after graduation, marriage, and all the passages of life that followed. When McCulloch and her late husband John moved to Casey Key in 1976, she didn’t wait to continue her life of service. She immediately sought worthy organizations and events to lend her expertise and support.
When she met Dr. Larry R. Thompson, she knew she had found the right place—and the right person leading it.
“The inheritance of art and civilization is a fragile, beautiful treasure,” she says. “Larry is a brilliant visionary and, through his leadership, Ringling College is passing that treasure on to the next generation,” she says. “I’m so happy to be a part.”
By Su Byron
Su Byron is a poet and freelance writer based in Sarasota.