David Westley on Gretchen Walsh

In the African Studies Library (ASL) Gretchen kept us together. There is no other way of putting it. When she went on a vacation we took a deep breath and muddled through until her return. Now we are at sea. The details of daily life with their new demands are not as important as the sure footing she gave us with her presence. Excuse the mixed metaphors. It's difficult to find adequate words.

One of the most important of her gifts was her patience. I arrived at the ASL in the winter of 1989 with virtually no experience with computers. She deftly took me through the labyrinth as I marveled at the lack of a return carriage. After a while I had a rudimentary knowledge and my skills grew. Never did she lose her calm.

Her patience extended to her reference work. I have a mental picture of her sitting at the computer with a young female undergraduate spending up to an hour as she guided her through the various sources and helped her to avoid the pitfalls of research on an exotic topic. I resolved that after she returned from her vacation - the vacation from which she never returned - that I would sit down with Gretchen and ask her to demonstrate to me how she did it. At first I was afraid that I would never know but then I remembered all the published work she had left behind that is of lasting value to anyone in the field.

Gretchen had an extraordinary sense of humor. Her office walls were plastered with cartoons from the New Yorker (and with wildlife pictures as well). But it was her continual banter as we continued the daily work of furthering the cause of education about Africa that stays with me. Someone will "take her place" but no one will replace her.

David Westley, PhD
African Studies Library
Boston University

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