GVSU acquires rare book collection written by U.S. presidents

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Valley State University's Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies is receiving a rare and unique collection of books written by U.S. presidents. The loan has been generously made by J. Randall Bergers, former superintendent of the Ottawa County Intermediate School District and education consultant.

The collection, totaling nearly 450 books, spans all 43 presidents and includes first-edition books and signed, limited-edition books, as well as first-person papers and speeches. J. Randall Bergers began collecting the books in the early 1990s and said he chose the Hauenstein Center because of its reputation for excellence and because of his family’s personal connection to Ralph Hauenstein.

“My father and Ralph Hauenstein both served in World War II, were newspaper men before the war and lived in the same retirement community,” said Bergers. “I am so impressed with the quality of the Hauenstein Center and its staff and Ralph Hauenstein for his vision for the center. If I can help lend anything to that effort, I’m pleased to do so.”

Ralph Hauenstein said: “What a wonderful gift. This collection of rare books will serve as a resource for students, faculty and scholars throughout the country. I express my thanks and gratitude to the Bergers family. Scholars from all over the country will come to see this collection.”

The collection includes unique writings like Thomas Jefferson’s memoirs published in 1829 and George Washington’s expense account. It also includes a rare book written by General Dwight D. Eisenhower before he was president, asking his top generals to summarize World War II in three pages. There were only 85 of these books published, intended for his generals and friends.

“The acquisition of this book collection raises the profile of Grand Valley State University considerably,” said President Thomas J. Haas. “This is a coup for the Hauenstein Center that uniquely positions it among presidential studies centers around the country.”

Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center, said: “The Bergers Collection is yet another foundation stone that makes the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies one of the preeminent centers of its kind in the nation. We are privileged to have these key books in American history. No place else can a researcher access all the presidents’ words in one convenient place. This is a world-class resource for any student of the presidency.”

After learning about the Bergers collection, Richard Norton Smith, a nationally recognized authority on the American presidency and former director of the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library, said, “The Hauenstein Center is a jewel in the crown of Michigan.”

Bergers compiled a bibliography from the Library of Congress and said there are about 150 additional books written by U.S. presidents that he’d like to find and add to the collection, which will be housed in the Seidman House on Grand Valley’s Allendale Campus.

For more information, contact the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at (616) 331-2770.

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