Ruben Weltsch was the first head librarian at Stony Brook and a long-time member of the History Department.
Though it may seem strange to liken the extremely modest and gentle Ruben Weltsch to John Toll, they both shared the characteristic of being in the right place at the right time and of having a vision, or an agenda, they worked to pursue. Ruben Weltsch presided over the building of the collections of the Melville Library at a time when there was an ample budget, money to hire staff (including many part-timers, often faculty and grad-student wives), and a lively market for new and used books. He pushed to see that the collections grew as quickly as possible and to this day many of the treasures on the shelves are in place because of his enlightened and acquisitive approach. Faculty were encouraged to provide lists of books, to point the library towards collections of unusual materials, and to help develop holdings in journals and in other-than-English materials at a time when standing orders with major presses were the accepted policy.
Ruben Weltsch was a graduate of Amherst College and he received his PhD in history from the University of Colorado, under the tutelage of S. Harrison Thompson, the foremost American scholar of medieval Bohemia. Weltsch turned his dissertation into Archbishop John of Jenstein (1348-1400), offering the tale of this important late medieval prelate in English so it could reach a wide audience. In addition, at a time before electronic communication became the norm, Historical Abstracts was a major bibliographical and reference guide for the academic history profession and Ruben was a tireless contributor to it for many fields in early-modern and central European history. At various times, when other duties permitted, he also taught courses in the History Department.
After his formal retirement Ruben served the Melville library for some years as a volunteer. He was one of the pillars of the annual sale of un-needed duplicates and other items that were offered to raise funds. More recently he served as a volunteer in the music library, even long after he was its interim director in the late 1980s. In these labors on behalf of the music library his love of music, his concern for books and collections, and his generation-plus commitment to some aspect or other of the University were all brought into play.
Long before it became a trendy form of activity, Ruben Weltsch walked to work. His path took him along a series of shady streets, to and from work, and he took quiet pleasure in being so close to a University he had served so well, and for so long, in numerous capacities and roles. After living in near-by Setauket through his long career and his retirement, Ruben and his wife Pat, who survives him, moved to New Paltz to be near their daughter Debbie and her children. His son Dannie lives in Washington, D.C.
To say that the head of the library loved books and scholarship seem an appropriate final tribute from a colleague who met Ruben while being interviewed for a History Department position in the very early days of the University.
Joel Rosenthal (with help from Andrew White and Karl Bottigheimer)