June 8, 2023
On Campus

Remembering A Legacy

Family of Former Philosophy Professor Donates Books and Other Items to Thomas Library

The family of Thomas Bruce Birch, Ph.D., who served on the Wittenberg faculty from 1908-1937 as a philosophy professor, recently donated rare books, two of which were published in 1551 and 1607, along with other items that belonged to Birch to the University’s Special Collections archives in Thomas Library. 

Donated items included The De Sacramento Altaris of William of Ockman, which solidified Birch’s international reputation as a scholar, Britannia, Oxford and its story, along with six other books, some diplomas, a certificate of distinction in the name of James Bruce Birch, photos, and other memorabilia.

Birch, who was one of the first two recipients of the Class of 1914 Award, was part of the first generation of Wittenberg connections in the family, which now spans five generations. Birch had four children, two of whom graduated from Wittenberg: James B. Birch, class of 1922, a presidential scholar and member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and Ruth Pontius, class of 1920, a class officer and member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority. His other two children, George and Edwin Birch, both attended Wittenberg as well. James had two children in Katherine Birch Ricciuti and Anthony Birch. Edwin’s daughter, Ruth Birch Stillwell, graduated from Wittenberg in 1950 and was a member of Chi Omega sorority. She later married Roger Stillwell, also a 1950 Witt grad, who was a member of Phi Kappa Psi and the men’s golf team. The Stillwells had two children in Ellen Liebold and Steven Stillwell, both of whom graduated from Wittenberg in 1979 and 1976, respectively. Steven was a member of Phi Mu Delta and the track team while attending, and he later married Sally Stillwell, class of 1977 and a member of Kappa Delta sorority. From the fifth generation, Birch’s great-great granddaughter, Elissa Manchester, who is the granddaughter of Paul and Katherine Birch Ricciuti, graduated from Wittenberg in 2020. Katherine Birch Ricciuti, who passed away in October from cancer before the books could be donated, is the granddaughter of Thomas Bruce Birch.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the Ricciuti family for their generous donation of several books connected to this history of not just our institution but to European history as well,” said Amanda Hartman McLellan, director, Thomas Library. “Special collections offer a tangible glimpse into our past, and this donation will enable current and future Wittenberg University scholars the opportunity to experience that firsthand.”

Paul Ricciuti wanted the books to be donated to Wittenberg in his late wife’s honor and decided to make it a family trip. He, Elissa, and her mom and dad, Kara and Byron Manchester, visited the University on April 11 to deliver the donations in person. Elissa, who did not get to walk for Commencement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was able to re-live the experience by visiting the Hollow and having her photo taken with President Michael Frandsen, who greeted the family members during their tour.

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About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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