After 40 years and a distinguished career at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Katherine “Kay” Walter, professor and chairperson of Digital Initiatives and Special Collections at University Libraries and co-director of the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, will retire at the end of December.
An online celebration for Walter will be held at 3 p.m. Dec. 18. Register to receive the event link. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln community is also invited to share messages for Walter in video or written format.
After reflecting on the many accomplishments and service she has provided the libraries and the university, Walter feels it has “been a great privilege to work with many wonderful people and to be part of groundbreaking work.” She believes so much in the work of the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, a center she helped found, that she and her family donated to the center’s 2010-2015 National Endowment for the Humanities challenge grant to support early career digital humanities scholars.
When asked about her career, Walter mentions two major achievements — acquiring many more manuscript collections and books to expand the University Archives and Special Collections and establishing the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. Walter was instrumental in building partnerships and collaborative projects between the libraries and College of Arts and Sciences, digital humanities centers at other Universities, federal funding agencies and foundations. She also brought in $12 million of internal and external humanities grants to the libraries which made many Center for Digital Research in the Humanities projects and collaborations with other institutions possible.
During her time as chair to the Archives and Special Collections, and then the Digital Initiatives and Special Collections departments (1998-2020) Walter was instrumental in acquiring many fine manuscript collections and books to support scholarship. Important subject areas covered included works in literature, history, Czechia, fine arts, politics, science and agriculture. With Deans Hendrickson and Giesecke respectively, she selected the 2nd & 3rd millionth volumes of the Libraries — the Shakespeare First Folio and a first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
Walter’s biggest achievement may be the work she did, in partnership with others, to establish the CDRH. She led the Electronic Text area within the University Libraries in from 1998-2003, precursor to the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, and collaborated with then chair of English Linda Pratt and colleague Ken Price in applying for Programs of Excellence funding. She credits senior vice chancellor for academic affairs Rick Edwards for his support of their application.
“In the application we stated that, if successful in receiving the PoE funds, E-text would apply for official center status under the new name,” Walter said.
She worked closely with Gail Latta, former associate vice chancellor of academic affairs, and Barbara Couture, former senior vice chancellor of academic affairs, on the application for center status. In June 2005, the Board of Regents approved the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities.
Walter has been very engaged with external organizations, including collaborating with Neil Fraistat (Maryland Institute of Technology) to start an international network of digital humanities centers – centerNet. The organization is a registered 501(c)3 offering education, advice and support to center directors and center members, especially graduate students. For many years she served on committees and on the board of directors of the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services. In 2016 and 2017, Walter served as the chair of the Humanities Nebraska Council—one of several leadership positions she has held in statewide organizations.
Walter’s plans for retirement do not include slowing down. She currently serves on the board of NeighborWorks Lincoln and both her and her husband, Tim Rinne, have worked with other neighbors to establish the Hawley Hamlet Neighborhood Garden, for which they are receiving a national award.
Share a written or video message for Walter online.