Edwina Whitney (1868–1970) was the second and longest-serving head librarian at UConn, then Connecticut Agricultural College. Upon retiring in 1934, she earned the rank of emeritus librarian and an honorary Master of Letters — the only honorary degree UConn awarded an employee during its first century of existence. The Edwina Whitney Residence Hall, still an active residence hall, was built in 1938.
International House (originally the Whitney House), 1964
Edwina Whitney, circa 1930s
Edwina Whitney, circa 1968
Whitney’s connection to the University ran deep. She was born in a small white house next to Mirror Lake. Old Whitney Hall, named after her father, became the first major campus building in 1881. Hired by UConn in 1900, she worked solo in a cramped two-room library, its 8,000 books illuminated only by kerosene lamps. By the time she retired, the library was electrified and its collection had quadrupled in size. These improvements reflected what Whitney saw firsthand: UConn’s rise from country farmstead to premier state university.
For her 100th birthday, UConn President Homer D. Babbidge presented her with a plaque (above) and a cake with 100 candles. She even received birthday greetings from President Lyndon B. Johnson and Connecticut Gov. John Dempsey.
By Michael Rodriguez
Photos by University Archives