Born in Portland, Maine, James Augustine Healy was a great philanthropist and one of our major benefactors. He began his gifts to Colby in 1948. The college awarded him an honorary degree in 1955.
Student scholarship: Read a brief biography of James Augustine Healy written by Jui Shrestha, Class of 2007, Special Collections Assistant.
JAMES AUGUSTINE HEALY AS DONOR
Healy’s initial gifts to Special Collections were part of his Cuala Press collection and his first editions of novels by Irish-American James Brendan Connolly. Throughout the ’50s, he continued to add to his collection and also gave items for the Miller Library reference and circulating collections. In addition to his own gifts, Healy facilitated donations from other benefactors.
In 1954, Curator Carl Weber announced that Healy had decided to donate his entire personal library of modern Irish literature. The vast extent of this gift necessitated the building of a new reading room, which was funded by Healy and designed by Colby’s preferred architect, Jens Frederick Larson. The Healy Room was dedicated, in 1962, to Healy’s parents.
Healy became increasing dissatisfied with the curatorial decisions made by Curator Weber’s successor, Richard Cary, concerning his collection, especially the Connolly materials. President Strider noted to Cary in March 1965 that Healy had become embittered at having devoted so much of his life to a collection that he thinks is unappreciated and will not be used. In August 1965, Healy wrote angrily to Strider that Cary had buried the Connolly Collection within the contents of the Robinson Room.
In 1975, he repeated his wishes to revoke his 1955 honorary degree and to have the names of his parents removed from the Healy Room plaque. He made arrangements to relocate selected materials from his collection to the Hoover Institute at Stanford University and urged Brenda Connolly, daughter of James Brendan Connolly, to consider removing the materials from her father she had donated. Healy died in July 1975 feeling deep bitterness and outrage toward Colby for its apparent lack of regard for his wishes.
Following Healy’s death, several significant changes resolved major points of contention. Richard Cary retired as Curator in 1975 and was replaced by Special Collections Librarian Fraser Cocks. In 1976, Cocks relocated the Connolly materials from the Robinson Room to the Healy Room. Also in 1976, the college granted funds to produce an analytical guide for the Healy Collection. It was published in 1978.
Annual Report of the Curator of Rare Books. Colbiana Collection. Colby College Special Collections.
Annual Report of the Librarian. Colbiana Collection. Colby College Special Collections.
James Augustine Healy donor file. Colby College Special Collections.
Report of the Special Collections Librarian, 1975-1976. Colbiana Collection. Colby College Special Collections.
The personal library of James Augustine Healy documents in rich detail the Irish Literary Renaissance. The Healy Collection also contains many unpublished materials – letters, manuscripts, notebooks and artwork – which are described online.