I have the most important position on campus. I know this because John Borchert told me so. He told me this the very first time we met, as I was beginning my tenure as the University of Minnesotaís map librarian fifteen years ago. And folks, he was quite serious! I remember saying to myself: "I think Iím going to like this guy."
Two years later, as John was set to retire, I suggested to Dick Skaggs, then Chair of the Geography Department, that we ask John to lend his name to the Universityís map library. Dick thought it was a great idea and an appropriate honor for both John and the map library. We took John out to lunch and made the pitch. Johnís reaction was memorable. He said he always ran these things by Jane first, but not this time. He didnít have to think about it. His answer was yes.
And so, we have had the privilege of being the John R. Borchert Map Library ever since. We hope our work will always honor his memory and I want to say thank you to Johnís family for thinking of the map library at this difficult time.
During his alleged retirement, John was a frequent visitor to the map library and to my office. Usually, he came in to do research. He spent a lot of time looking at maps of the U.S. Railway Mail Service around 1920, a pet project of his. John knew his way around the map library, of course; but I would usually offer to pull out the maps he needed, so that I could get to see them through his eyes. What a treat that was! Maps were so central to his intellectual endeavors and no one could glean more from a map than John. Sometimes John came in just to talk. We talked about the future of the Borchert Map Library and ways to more broadly share our treasures, which span six centuries of mapmaking and geographic thought. We talked about sprucing up the map library a bit. We talked about maps, our common bond. We talked about our travels. We talked about life. I will so miss our chats.
The poet Hannah Senesh wrote:
Even as we say goodbye to him today, the light of Johnís intellect and humanity will continue to shine upon us all. May his memory forever be a blessing.
Director, John R. Borchert Map Library
April 28, 2001