I am going to forego my usual editorial to honor the memory of an amazing person who was so important, not only to the library, but to me personally.
I first met Dr. Charlotte Ferencz, or Sari (her Hungarian nickname), back in the ’90s, when then vice president for Academic Affairs, Joann Boughman, introduced us. Sari had just received the first UMB Life Sciences Achievement Award, a precursor to the Researcher of the Year Award. Jo had worked with her on the landmark Baltimore-Washington Infant Study, and somehow she knew we would all be fast friends. And we were.
Sari was born in Hungary in 1921. Her family moved to Germany and then onto Montreal, Canada, where she later received her medical degree from McGill University. She eventually ended up as a fellow under Dr. Helen Taussig at Johns Hopkins. I believe it was there she discovered her lifelong passion for pediatric cardiology. She shared great stories about the difficulties of being a woman in medicine, and of her great fondness for Dr. Taussig. In particular, she had a wonderful story about a Jamie Wyeth portrait of Dr. Taussig.
By the time we met her, she was finishing up her illustrious and influential career. In 2001 she established the Charlotte Ferencz Endowment supporting congenital heart disease resources at the HS/HSL. Later she broadened the intent of the endowment to include support of her collection, her website, and digitization projects.
Somehow, back in 2005, we convinced her to develop a web page on congenital heart disease. Basically, it became an online textbook at a time when there wasn’t much of anything online, let alone a textbook. Since it was revised in 2009, it has been viewed by over 13,000 users from all around the world. She was tickled by idea of the worldwide impact and loved working with library team members, Patricia Hinegardner and Brad Gerhart, on the project.
In 2008, Sari received the HS/HSL’s highest honor, the Theodore E. Woodward Award, awarded to someone who “enthusiastically and meaningfully advances and supports the work of the Health Sciences and Human Services Library.” The Charlotte Ferencz Collection was established under the watchful eye of Rich Behles, Historical Librarian. (Historical Collection Pages) – (Digital Archive).
As time went on and her health began to fail, Sari’s world became smaller. Yet even then our relationship continued to grow in depth and richness. Over many cups of tea, as we visited at her apartment, she shared wonderful stories, pictures, and mementos of her family, her career, and her thoughts on the world in general. And she loved to hear about the outside world from us. She was so sharp, and could be wickedly funny.
About a year ago, I was deeply honored to have her ask me to deliver the eulogy at her funeral, which I did on October 25. How practical and courageous for her to plan ahead! And how Sari! I read somewhere that people come and go, and that everyone has been in your life for a reason – to teach you or to love you or to just experience life with you. I am thankful for all the ways Sari Ferencz taught me, loved me, and experienced life with me.