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People of the Stacks #10 - Dr. Harold F. Worthley

Dr. Harold Field Worthley


Dr. Harold (Hal) Worthley was born in 1928 in Maine, son of a Congregational minister. He attended Boston University for undergraduate and graduate work, Bangor Theological Seminary and Harvard Divinity School for religious studies, and finally Northwestern University for post-doctoral work. Dr. Worthley served at a number of Congregational Christian and later United Church of Christ congregations, and as associate professor and chaplain at Wheaton College, which he left in 1977 to become our librarian. He had already been the executive secretary/archivist for the Congregational Christian Historical Society since 1971, when John Harrer retired. Dr. Worthley was also editor of the Bulletin from 1976 until his retirement in 2004.

During his 27-year tenure at the library, Dr. Worthley oversaw a great deal of change. He helped weather financial storms when staff members had to buy their own pencils, through to the end when the library was able to have a new climate control system installed for the archive and library stacks. He started in an age of typewriters and retired with computers and a budding library website. He saw that the future of the library was in its archive, and advocated for the first professionally trained archivists to be hired in the early 1990s. In 1999, when the Board was re-organized, he was designated the Librarian/Executive-Director, a position which could not be filled by one person after his retirement.

[]One of Dr. Worthley's greatest accomplishments was his work, Inventory of the Records of the Particular (Congregational) Churches of Massachusetts, 1620-1805, which remains a standard reference to this day for identifying where significant historical church records reside. It provided the necessary documentation that was the basis for later digital projects at the library. He contributed to a number of anthologies, encyclopedias, and journals on a wide range of Congregational church history. Additionally, he traveled around to churches, associations, and conferences presenting his "suitcase seminars", which eventually became the basis of later educational workshops on preserving and organizing church records.

Dr. Worthley, whose first interest was in writing, poetry, and literature, was known for his prosy reports to the board; for his extremely thorough answers to reference questions; and for knowing every inch of the library and archive collections. He and his wife, Barbara, who acted as the administrative assistant for the Congregational Christian Historical Society, built a retirement home in Maine and travel between there and their older home in Norton, Massachusetts.



Mr. Worthley was my professor

Mr. Worthley was my professor at Wheaton, my unofficial advisor, and the person who helped me through some difficult times. It's wonderful to see his kind face again, and to know he's doing well. Such a wonderful man.



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