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Young Harris College Alumni Honor Beloved Librarian

September 2014

When Young Harris College alumni recall their time in the Enchanted Valley, the memory of former Head Librarian Robert “Papa Rich” Richardson is often one that stands out. That is why several members of the Young Alumni Council banded together to honor the former SPAT Club and Quantrek Club advisor by organizing a grassroots giving initiative aptly named “The Papa Rich Project.”

“YHC and the community there pushed me outside my comfort zone and forced me to grow as an individual. Quite possibly the most influential of those people was Papa Rich,” said Jeff Doke, ’92. “To say he was bigger than life is true both metaphorically and close enough to being true literally. He was a storyteller, a philosopher and a voice of reason.”

The group, which includes Doke, Skip Breeden, ’99, Mandy Nichols, ’98, Matt Anderson, ’03, Michele Turner, ’95, Steve Davenport, '85, John Trotter, '91, Alex Fairchild, '07, and Holly Gunter Royston, ’01, decided to memorialize Papa Rich by raising funds to name a circulation desk in the new Zell and Shirley Miller Library in his honor.

“A lot of my memories of Papa Rich are associated with Duckworth Library,” explained Breeden. “While I was excited about plans to build a new library in the Rollins Campus Center, I felt like I was losing that association. I thought it was only appropriate that Papa Rich be honored in some way in the new facility.” 

With their goal in mind, the team created a Facebook page dedicated to the initiative and developed a “Pineapple of Progress”—stemming from Papa Rich’s love of Jimmy Buffett—to track their success and keep people engaged. 

“A lot of people came together to make this happen,” said Breeden. “In fact, so many people contributed to this project that it became more of an organic, grassroots movement than a centrally planned and organized effort.”

The effort saw a substantial amount of first-time donors to the College, and Breeden attributed that to Papa Rich’s deep connections throughout the YHC family. 

“The relationships formed on campus impact us for life and keep us connected,” said Breeden. “Papa Rich developed a lot of meaningful relationships with students, faculty and staff. This project was successful because it connected giving with people’s personal relationships with Papa Rich.” 

Now, a new generation of YHC students will have the opportunity to learn about Papa Rich’s legacy thanks to the dedication of these alumni. 

“He had a significant presence on campus and was beloved by many,” Breeden said. “It’s important that his contributions to the YHC community—which were substantial—be remembered.”

“You always knew when Papa Rich was around and you were always glad when he was,” added Doke. “To us, he will never be forgotten.”

For more information about The Papa Rich Project, contact the Office of Advancement at (706) 379-5173.