“Every great university should have a great rare books library,” insists Stuart Rose 76BBA, the namesake of Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, Board of Trustee member, and head of the collection committee of the Folgers Library Board of Governors, the top Shakespeare rare book library in the world. An entrepreneur turned book collector of international fame, Rose’s admitted “obsession” with books, combined with his great loyalty to Emory, have helped elevate the university’s archives – recently renamed the Rose Library – into what past curator and visiting professor Kevin Young calls “a living collection that would look very different without Stuart’s support.”
As a child growing up in a “normal” family of four in New Orleans, Rose first dreamed of owning his own business. The child of a stockbroker dad and a homemaker mom, Rose set his sights on obtaining a business degree from Emory in the 1970s. He came away with not only a first-class business education but a growing appreciation for the humanities that would change the course of his life.
“It was a great education,” Rose recalls, citing a literature class taught by Bill Fox as a major influence.
“To this day, no one works harder than Emory in terms of people putting in hard work and being enthusiastic about learning," he said. "Emory made me think big versus just thinking locally. I learned how to be in business and make the world a better place. And of course, to do that you first need to make money.”
Upon graduation, Rose moved to New York and began working for Bain & Company, where he “learned management strategy for big companies,” citing Bain himself as an early influence. Rose then acquired four consumer electronic stores called Niederhoffer and Co., where he learned much about “valuing business and buying and selling businesses.” In 1980 that company became RexAmerican Resources, currently on the New York stock exchange under the REX symbol, one of the largest and most successful alternative fuel companies making ethanol. Rose is the founder and executive chairman. Around this time, Rose moved permanently to Dayton, Ohio to run his business.
He also began his largest passion: collecting rare books.
“Book collecting is an amazing field,” Rose recalls. “This hobby has taken more time than my business.”
Rose admits he probably doesn’t collect in the “right” way.
"Most people become experts in one field, say science or literature," he said. "I’ve tried to go into every field—religion, philosophy, architecture, you name it, I’ve gotten into it. And I’ve tried to buy all the very best, the high spots in each field.”
Past curator of both Emory’s literary collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Kevin Young insists Rose’s collecting style is spot-on.
“I had the good fortune of seeing his private collection and I was immediately struck by the resourcefulness of the collector and the excellence of the collection,” Young said. “I was struck by the quality of the books. Stuart knows what he wants and he wants the best copy that he can find. He had a copy of On the Road, with a jacket that talks about Kerouac in the time in which it was published. It’s a unique copy that teaches us about the history of literature.”
Rose’s passion for influential books that have changed the course of history have left an indelible mark on Emory’s collection.
“He not only donated money, he donated his own books to the library,” Young notes. “Books are the holder of information and vehicles for knowledge in a broader sense. Stuart recognizes the way books are telling in ways little else is.”
When Rosemary Magee, former director of the library archives, first received her director appointment, she began working side-by-side with Rose to build the collection.
“He coached me along the way, offered advice as needed, and then gave me the opportunity to make my own calls and decisions,” Magee said.
A gift from Rose in 2013 made possible Emory’s purchase of a collection of rare manuscripts by some of the world’s great poets. In the fall of 2015 Emory’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL) was renamed in honor of Rose, out of recognition for his ongoing support and significant gift to MARBL.
“Over the time I’ve known Stuart, he has often called to say that he heard of a collection or a rare volume that the library might like to consider," Magee said. "This is how we acquired a first edition of David Walker's 19th-century anti-slavery book, 'Appeal,' owned and signed by W. E. B. Du Bois. Only a few first editions of 'Appeal' are known to exist, and Stuart brought this distinctive volume to our attention.
Rose cites Emory’s commitment to encouraging student interaction with the books as one of the reasons he donates.
“Every school says that all students can use the library," he said. "At Emory they actually do it, and most don’t. At many colleges, the students don’t know they have one of the greatest college libraries in the world. At Emory, they use the books in the curriculum.”
Today Rose’s passion includes spending times with this wife, Mimi, and their five daughters, two of whom are in the process of deciding which college to attend. He is currently seeking first editions by Plato, Machiavelli and Cervantes.
“Is there a magic to books? Yes. To me, the fact that I’m reading a book that changed or entertained the world for hundreds of years is magical – especially a first edition or a manuscript that has scratch-outs," Rose said. "How do you think of something like gravity? Or putting a plane in their air? Or writing a play? I enjoy books more than anything else.”