March 6, 2018

Remembering Ray Gadke, the 'Unsung Hero' of the Reg

Ray was known for his colorful Hawaiian shirts and his collection of religious statues.

Courtesy of UChicago Magazine

Raymond Gadke (A.M. ’66), Regenstein reading room manager, passed away last week.

Ray joined the University of Chicago Library staff in 1969, after completing his A.M. at the University of Chicago Division of the Humanities in 1966. He worked at Regenstein Library since it first opened in 1971, and began by managing the microforms and microfiches collection. His responsibilities increased during his tenure, and grew to include managing the periodicals and all of the Regenstein reading room collections. Ray was also known for his unusual hobby of collecting religious statues.

David Larsen, Director of Access Services & Assessment of the Library, worked with Ray since joining the library in the ’80s. “He would connect with students and faculty members in a way that few others do, and help people to think a little more critically about their own areas,” Larsen said of Ray.

Brooks Dexter (A.B. ’79, M.B.A ’84) worked under Ray at the library in 1976–1977. After his graduation, they stayed in touch, and in May 2015, Dexter and some former student employees raised over $75,000 to fund a Metcalf internship in Ray’s name. Over 45 of Ray’s former students and colleagues, past and present, attended a dinner they hosted to present it to him.

Ray’s intellectual curiosity, warm smile, and friendly disposition went a long way in turning the library into a home for many.

The group of students who worked under Ray over the decades were sometimes referred to as “Ray’s Rangers.” Clyde Anderson, a fourth-year, worked with Ray his entire time on campus. “He lived to help those around him, to be a friend and mentor the people that worked with and under him,” Anderson said. “As the pain of his passing continues to set in, I feel confident in the fact that his legacy will always live on through the lives he influenced.”

Ray was very involved with the community, especially with the Hyde Park Union Church, and would often collect at holiday parties for the food pantry.

He was also a Graduate Brother of the Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity, and he was active in mentoring and staying connected to several Fiji brothers throughout his years at the University.

A memorial service for Ray will be held at Hyde Park Union Church on Wednesday, March 14 at 4:30 pm.