Michael Heaston’s support of WSU libraries speaks volumes about his love of books

His most recent gift enabled University Libraries to acquire its 2 millionth item

WSU President John Bardo, left, and Don Gilstrap, dean of University Libraries, were among those who attended a reception to celebrate the 2 millionth volume acquired by University Libraries. Michael Heaston, center, provided funding for the library to buy a rare copy of the Wyandotte Constitution for the state of Kansas, shown in the photo.
WSU President John Bardo, left, and Don Gilstrap, dean of University Libraries, were among those who attended a reception to celebrate the 2 millionth volume acquired by University Libraries. Michael Heaston, center, provided funding for the library to buy a rare copy of the Wyandotte Constitution for the state of Kansas, shown in the photo.

When Michael Heaston’s love of American history collided with his passion for collecting, an unusual and rewarding career was born.

    Heaston, former curator of Special Collections for WSU Libraries, is a nationally known rare books dealer with his own business in Eastborough, Kan. A WSU graduate, earning a bachelor’s degree in history in 1966 and a master’s degree in history in 1969, Heaston has shared his success generously with his alma mater, giving primarily to University Libraries and the history department.

    That spirit of philanthropy made news in September when Heaston funded the acquisition by University Libraries of its 2 millionth volume — a milestone in its own right, but especially exciting because of the prestige of the piece. The acquisition was a rare printing of the Wyandotte Constitution for the state of Kansas.


“Books are the foundation stones for universities and for the culture of mankind." 

- Michael Heaston

    “It is the foundation for the great state of Kansas and the freedoms we know today,” Heaston said of the Wyandotte Constitution. “I hope students, faculty, university administrators and citizens of Wichita will be proud that this most important Kansas document is located in Ablah Library.”

    Although the handwritten Constitution of the state of Kansas is held by the Kansas State Historical Society, the copy acquired by University Libraries is one of only three known to exist in the United States. The Newberry Library in Chicago and Harvard University Libraries in Cambridge, Mass., each owns other printings.

    Heaston’s love of collecting began as a child. He recalls hunting for Lincoln pennies with childhood pals in Wichita and, while a student at East High, scouring the countryside around Wichita looking for picture postcards of Kansas, stamps and county plat books with his friend Hal Ottaway.

    “We traveled in style in a 1950 Packard which Hal's father gave him,” Heaston said. “It was great fun until we were hit from behind. We jumped out to check the damage and the bump of the Packard just had a dusting. The other car, not so lucky. Packards were built like tanks.”

    While at Wichita State, he was influenced in his love of history by the late Ross Taylor of the
 American Studies department and, as a graduate student, by William Unrau, distinguished professor of history emeritus. 

    “Dr. Unrau had the greatest impact regarding studies, directing my thesis and fostering my interest in the American West,” Heaston said. “I then began collecting books about the West and have been selling them since 1976.”

    He made a significant gift in 2010 to support the Craig Miner and William Unrau Fund for Graduate Students in the history department. His belief in the importance of a great university library prompted several more substantial gifts.

    “Books are the foundation stones for universities and for the culture of mankind,” Heaston said. “Libraries need donor support or angels, as many university administrations and endowment associations do not provide sufficient funding to establish a truly great library system.”

    University Libraries is grateful for people like Heaston and all others who support its pursuit of excellence, said Don Gilstrap, dean of University Libraries. In a recent master planning study for WSU, students identified the University Libraries as the heart of the WSU campus.

    “When friends of Wichita State are considering where to invest philanthropically,” Gilstrap said, “the University Libraries is one area that has immediate impact for all students and faculty at WSU.  Mike Heaston has been such a great supporter, and I hope others might see the value in how he leads by example.”

 

circle arrow If you would like to help University Libraries provide the best resources and learning environment for students, please contact Lynette Murphy, WSU Foundation senior director of development for the College of Health Professions and University Libraries, at 316-978-3441 or at lynette.murphy@wichita.edu.

Velma Wallace

 
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