Grove City College will be the repository of the personal library of former Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.
The gift comes through the generosity of his wife Ginny Thornburgh and her sons, who have agreed to donate to the College more than 2,000 volumes amassed over Thornburgh’s lifetime of public service.
“Dick was an avid reader and collector of books,” she said. “This collection represents his many interests and the many influential and inspiring people he was blessed to work with over his decades of service.”
Thornburgh, a Pittsburgh native and Republican, was a well-regarded and respected state and national leader from the 1970s until his death in 2020 at the age of 88.
“Dick Thornburgh was a great Pennsylvanian, a great lawyer, and a great leader who I had the privilege of working for at the U.S. Department of Justice,” College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 said. “Grove City College is so grateful for the gift of this wonderful collection. Students will benefit from the breadth and depth of these volumes for generations to come.”
During his time as governor, Thornburgh rose to national prominence with handling of the state’s response to the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, the worst in U.S. history. The Thornburgh collection includes many volumes and original memoranda and writings related to the crisis.
As head of the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Thornburgh battled white-collar crime, drug trafficking and oversaw the prosecution resulting from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. He played a key role on the national stage during a pivotal moment in the nation’s history – the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.
Thornburgh also served as Undersecretary General of the United Nations from 1992-93.
“The collection’s depth is impressive and reveals a real thirst for knowledge,” Director of College Archives and Galleries Hilary (Lewis ’09) Walczak said. “I remember well his extensive marks and annotations in the briefing materials I prepared for him in the early 1990s,” added McNulty.
“Thornburgh had a habit of marking up books and many in the collection include his handwritten annotations, including the Three Mile Island material. They show his thought process and observations about what was a major historical event,” she said. That material and an autobiography that includes copious notes for his editors have historical and archival significance, Walczak said.
Grove City College Trustee William J. Mehaffey ’64, a longtime friend and Thornburgh adviser, helped secure the former governor’s library for the College. Currently housed at the Thornburgh residences, the books will ultimately become part of the Grove City College Henry Buhl Library collection.