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Susan Karant-Nunn, Toetie Oberman, Ute Lotz-Heumann, photo by Mia Schnaible

Above: Regents' Professor Susan Karant-Nunn, Toetie Oberman and Professor Ute Lotz-Heumann, who holds the Oberman Chair. The Oberman Chair was filled in 2008 after an international search. Lutz-Heumann was selected from the Humboldt University in Berlin. Photo by Mia Schnaible.

The Heiko Oberman Chair

Seven years ago in this magazine, we reported that the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies -- a small but prestigious unit -- was trying to raise $2 million to endow the Heiko Oberman Chair.

“I was The impetus for the ambitious goal was that before his passing in 2001, Heiko Oberman, founding director of the Division, promised to donate his extensive library to the UA if it could raise the money to endow a faculty chair.

Regents’ Professor and current Division director Susan Karant-Nunn explains: “If there were not a chair — that is, someone actively teaching doctoral students in this field on campus — the books would go unused.”

Thanks to an army of devoted supporters, the endowment is complete! Because of the generosity of more than 520 donors, the Division will always have a top scholar in Reformation studies, and UA Special Collections now holds one of the most impressive collections of medieval and Reformation documents in the county.

photo by Mia Schnaible

Above: A display of rare books at the banquet in October. Photo by Mia Schnaible.

In 1998, the Oberman research library was appraised at $1.2 million and said to be the largest collection of its kind remaining in private hands in North America. Oberman accumulated a library of more than 10,000 volumes, some of which are quite rare, including more than 100 original Martin Luther texts and more than 60 John Calvin texts. The library also contains writings from the Second Vatican Council and is thought to be the only complete holding of this kind outside of official Catholic Church archives.

To symbolize the transfer of the Oberman library to Special Collections, four of Oberman’s grandchildren each passed a volume of Heiko’s most valuable title, “Opera d. Huldrychi Zuinglii” (1545), into the hands of Carla Stoffle, the dean of UA Libraries, during a celebratory banquet in October.

“I used to fantasize about the day when we could announce, ‘the Oberman Chair Endowment is complete!’” said Karant-Nunn, who worked tirelessly over the years alongside senior program coordinator Luise Betterton and staff member Sandra Kimball, as well as dedicated community members, especially the fundraising committee (which along with Karant-Nunn and Betterton, included Richard Duffield, chair, Sandy Hatfield, Ginny Healy, Hester Oberman, Toetie Oberman and John Schaefer). Their efforts to keep the fundraising momentum going were strengthened by an anonymous benefactor who established matching gift challenges.

“I would like to thank all the donors for their indispensable part in our collective triumph,” said Duffield. “Many donors contributed because they wanted to retain Heiko Oberman’s incomparable legacy for the University of Arizona.”

photo by Mia Schnaible

Above: Karant-Nunn viewing a manuscript in the Oberman research library. Photo by Mia Schnaible.

For more information, contact Lori Harwood at 520-626-3846 • Editor