March 6, 2018

Remembering Ray Gadke, the 'Unsung Hero' of the Reg

Ray was known for his colorful Hawaiian shirts and his collection of religious statues.

Courtesy of UChicago Magazine

Raymond Gadke (AM ‘66), Reading Room Manager of the Library, passed away on February 26. Gadke’s responsibilities involved oversight of the Reading Room collections, the microforms collections, and periodicals in the library.

Ray joined the University of Chicago Library staff in 1969, after completing his A.M. at the University of Chicago Division of the Humanities in 1966. He worked at Regenstein Library since it first opened in 1971, and began by managing the microforms and microfiches collection. His responsibilities increased during his tenure, and grew to include managing the periodicals and all of the Regenstein reading room collections.

Ray was also known for his unusual habit of collecting religious statues. A story in The University of Chicago Magazine’s Winter 2018 edition highlights the unusual hobby, which began when a closing church in the ’80s asked him whether he knew anyone interested in their statues. Ray continued to collect these statues, donating many away to churches as he received new ones.

David Larsen, Director of Access Services & Assessment of the Library, worked with Ray since joining the library in the ’80s. “He would connect with students and faculty members in a way that few others do, and help people to think a little more critically about their own areas,” Larsen said of Ray.

The group of students who worked under Ray over the decades were sometimes referred to as “Ray’s Rangers.” Clyde Anderson, fourth-year former President of Fiji, worked with Ray his entire time on campus. 

“He lived to help those around him, to be a friend and mentor the people that worked with and under him,” Anderson said. “As the pain of his passing continues to set in, I feel confident in the fact that his legacy will always live on through the lives he influenced.”

Ray also used to put together a daily “On This Day in History” email, which he would send to many of his connections. His February 26th entry included a fact on The Beatles, writing "The Beatles released the "Hey Jude" album (the official title was "The Beatles Again")  in 1970.”

Brooks Dexter (A.B. ’79, M.B.A ’84) worked under Ray at the library in 1976–1977. After his graduation, they stayed in touch, and in May 2015, Dexter and some former student employees raised over $75,000 to fund a Metcalf internship in Ray’s name. Over 45 of Ray’s former students and colleagues, past and present, attended a dinner they hosted to present it to him. Dean Boyer, presenting the check, called Ray an “unsung hero of the University.”

Ray sometimes gave tours of campus to Library staff, leading them through the quad and sharing stories and meanings behind smaller facets of campus, like the gargoyles. 

“He had sort of an institutional knowledge that obviously went back to the sixties, because he had his master’s degree here in the sixties,” Larsen said. “He remembered when Regenstein was built, and when it opened, and it’s amazing, he’d pretty much been in here every day since Regenstein opened!”

Having joined the Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) Fraternity during his time at Knox College in the mid ‘60s, Ray continued to support members during his time here. In an email thread among Fiji alumni forwarded to the Maroon, several members shared their favourite memories. 

Frederick Rayfield, AB 74, AM 77, PhD 80, wrote, “While I see 48 years of friendship with Ray through Fiji, I am well aware of his tentacles of concern and information reaching broadly through the whole University of Chicago community.  He was a different Monster of the Midway, aiding and encouraging so many of us, lighting fuses and suppressing fires.”

Brett Lambo, BA ‘95, chimed in, saying “‚ÄčIf you tried to gather the 30+ years of people who could say ‘Ray really helped me through ___________ when I was in school’, you’d fill Stagg Field. Ted Fogarty reflects on how Ray supported him during a difficult time in his life. “He was there, just as he was for so many of us-took a great weight off my shoulders when no one else in the world probably could have.”

Owen Moore, a fourth year student in the college and member of Phi Gamma Delta, shared his experience in getting to know Ray. “I got to know him pretty well just by stopping by his office every once in a while and talking about anything you could think of.” Owen said, referring to Ray’s comprehensive knowledge of history. “I would stop in and chat with him for hours at a time and loved every second of it.” 

The Hyde Park Union Church held a memorial service for Ray on Wednesday March 14.