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April 27, 2017

Obituary: Eugene Sawa

obit.eugenesawaEugene Sawa, head of the government documents, maps and microforms unit of the University Library System (ULS), died April 8, 2017. He was 61.

Sawa pursued his library career after 20 years at West Penn Power (which became Allegheny Power), first as a lineman and then in the account collections department. In 2002, while working toward his B.A. in history here, Sawa became a ULS student employee in the Hillman Library Current Periodicals Room.

By 2005, he had become head of current periodicals/microforms. Previously, he oversaw the Stark Listening Center for playback of vinyl records.

In 2012, with the reorganization of Hillman and the formation of the research and educational support unit, Sawa took on a number of other duties and projects relating to the reorganization and storage of collections previously under his supervision.

While working in ULS he completed his master’s degree in library science in 2006, adding credits in the history of art and architecture program.

Paul B. Kohberger Jr., assistant University librarian for research and educational support, knew Sawa during his entire ULS career and became Sawa’s supervisor in 2012.

Kohberger says Sawa was a tremendously knowledgeable and valuable colleague.

“He was always willing to help other people out on their projects,” Kohberger says. “He was very supportive of staff members who maybe did not have as big a voice in the ULS. We never hesitated to put him on committees, so we would use his expertise.”

He also recalls Sawa telling stories about his work with the power company.

“He was always laughing and smiling,” Kohberger recalls. “He would always see the humor in situations. He was just fun to have around.

“He was the kind of person who got along with everybody,” Kohberger adds — particularly when Sawa took shifts at Hillman’s information desk. “He was always very responsive to their needs and very professional in his interactions.”

Abby Jacobsen, library senior specialist at Hillman, says Sawa “had a passion for helping people and always went above and beyond to make sure that faculty, staff and students alike got whatever help they needed.

“It was very apparent that he did not just help people because it was his job,” she says. “He genuinely enjoyed helping people with their research. Behind the scenes he was a strong advocate for the staff at the ULS, and always made sure that everyone’s voice was heard. Eugene was an institution and used his influence to constantly push for better service.”

Jacobsen too recalls Sawa’s smiling presence at work: “You could be in the worst mood ever, but if he started laughing, you could not help but join in. He constantly surprised me, and I will miss him. We all will.”

Hillman coworker Justin Wideman worked with Sawa in the microforms department.

“I knew Eugene as a person with a tough exterior but a warm personality,” Wideman says. “If he could choose how he would be remembered, I think he would choose to be a caregiver, animal lover and friend. I say caregiver because he liked to take care of the people close to him when they were sick or injured.”

Wideman recalls Sawa’s affection for his cat Novi. “He was also a great friend and boss to me. On numerous occasions when the stress of life or work was weighing me down, he was there for me to talk to and he would try to help if he could. The loss of Eugene has been felt not only by myself but the entire library system.”

Sawa is survived by longtime partner Laura Rickert.


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