At “Gotlieb College” since 1976
By Amy E. Dean
Vita Paladino has been named managing director of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, and Howard Gotlieb, who started the center in 1963, has been named founding director. Paladino (MET'79, SSW'93) has been associate director since 1996.
The announcement was made by Provost Dennis Berkey at a recent Friends of the Libraries reception in Palm Beach, Fla. “Dr. Gotlieb and I wanted to recognize Vita's strong and extensive leadership,” says Berkey. “We waited for the Friends of the Libraries reception to surprise Vita and to let her many friends in that group share in the excitement and celebration of the announcement of her promotion.”
Berkey used the term copilot to describe Paladino's role at the center. “Just as artistic organizations, such as our Huntington Theatre, often have both an artistic director and a managing director working in tandem,” he says, “the Gotlieb Center now has two individuals sharing the leadership role according to their respective responsibilities.”
Paladino has “been at Gotlieb College” for 27 years, she says. She applied for a secretarial position at what was then Special Collections in 1976, drawn by a job description that stated applicants “must be willing to work with authors and famous people.” She was made administrative assistant, then assistant director of donor relations before becoming associate director.
“She started as a typist, sitting in the typing pool,” Gotlieb recalls, “and then, like Eve Harrington in All About Eve, bit by bit she just rose. Since that time she has been my right arm in the administration of the collection, the Friends of the Libraries, the public, and the staff. She has been doing everything but the collecting. She has an amazing rapport with our donors and with our collectees. She has an immense great humor, good old-fashioned common sense, and a huge heart that encompasses our collectees and the staff.”
Paladino will continue to be responsible for all the center's administrative, financial, personnel, and promotional functions, including space planning and organizing events. She will also represent the center within the University at the directors' level, serving as a member of the provost's staff.
“She has amazing organizational skills, both in building an outstanding professional staff and in promoting the center's holdings and events,” says Berkey. Paladino conceived the idea of appointing fellows of the center, for example, and was key in arranging the designation for theater critic, playwright, and director Robert Brustein and journalist, author, and historian David Halberstam. Halberstam was invested as the first fellow of the center in September, and Brustein at the December opening of the yearlong exhibition of his personal archive, Innovator On-Stage: The Life and Work of Robert Brustein.
“The center's place at the University is integral,” says Paladino. “It should be a place where people can come and do research for dissertations and master's degree work and for undergraduates to have access to primary resource materials. The collection is filled with great role models and mentors ready to be exposed to the students.” Among the most intriguing aspects of the collection, she says, are “the secrets of real life. In the papers here, you can discover a fact as well as a secret. Public figures entrust their lives to us. I am a guardian and a protector of a collection worth $65 million and the reputation of the public figures we collect.”
Gotlieb started Special Collections at BU as a repository for the papers and memorabilia of individuals in literature, criticism, journalism, drama, music, film, civil rights, diplomacy, and national affairs. “He has built one of the nation's premier collections of rare books and manuscripts,” says Berkey. “Our collection, now occupying more than 40,000 square feet, compares favorably in many ways to those in Cambridge, New Haven, and Austin.”
The center “is not so large that we do not know our clients,” says Gotlieb. “We have a personal rapport with them that you do not find at the Library of Congress or the National Archives, and that has worked to our advantage.”
Paladino owes a great deal to her team, she says: “What I've learned in this position is that you have to be able to build strong relationships, both with your coworkers and with your collectees. We have built that trust through a hard-working staff that functions like a family.”