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Jeffrey Kaimowitz, former curator of the Watkinson Library at Trinity College, dies at 78

Jeffrey Hugh Kaimowitz, 78, of West Hartford, died Nov. 9, surrounded by his family, including his wife Llyn Kaimowiz and his son Simon.

Raised in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., he was the son of William Louis Kaimowitz and Ruth Sarah (Greenfield) Kaimowitz. His father co-owned a construction and development company started by his grandfather, a Polish-Jewish immigrant.

Kaimowitz earned a BA from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati. At both, he majored in Classical Languages, Latin and Greek, and studied under some of the most renowned classicists and archaeologists of the time. He was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and won prestigious Fulbright and Woodrow Wilson Fellowships. He also spent a year in Greece at the American School for Classical Studies. 

After teaching Latin for several years at Miami University in Ohio and later at Trinity College in Hartford, he obtained a position in the Spencer rare book and manuscript collection at the New York Public Library (NYPL), where he put his background in language, including a reading knowledge of many European languages, to good use. 

He loved the world of rare books and enjoyed sharing his knowledge through various articles, still used by scholars, about items in the Spencer collection. While at the NYPL, he earned a Master of Library Science degree at Columbia University, following which he took a position as curator of the Watkinson Library, the rare book and scholarly research library of Trinity College, where he remained until his retirement 32 years later. At the Watkinson Library, Kaimowitz developed plans to make it stronger and more comprehensive. He constantly searched for manuscript collections that would offer students rich, fresh fields for their own research. He also built up book holdings that rounded out topics in need of greater depth, and began topical collections that offered reference material for modern scholarly concerns. 

As he built the library, he also shared the library. He reached out to faculty to introduce them to the library’s collection and thereby greatly increased the number of classes that were taught in the library, supporting a wide variety of topics. He invited in outside speakers for programs that were open to students and the general public alike. He created exhibitions of library holdings that demonstrated how the books told stories about important topics in history, such as Renaissance religious movements or South American revolutions, and wrote catalogs that became reference works for library users. 

He also engaged in several personal projects on his off hours. Most notably, he created a highly praised translation of Odes of Horace, published by Johns Hopkins Press, that captured the meter and emotional experience of the odes, while also using his own poetic skills to capture their beautiful language. 

A learned man, he read widely in history, art, and world cultures, including Jewish history and culture. He read Latin and Greek over breakfast every morning, except for Saturdays when he read the Bible in Hebrew, and he studied and read Classical literature with several friends. 

Kaimowitz loved nature and hiked with family and friend in parks throughout the U.S. and many other countries. He and his wife, Llyn, shared many other hobbies, including book design and printing on their home printing press, listening to music from the Middle Ages to modern orchestral music, with subscriptions to the Hartford Symphony and the Hartt Chamber Series, and reading together aloud. In the past year, he and his wife read Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, a work of incredible power and humanity. He greatly loved travel, especially planning trips that allowed him to go off the beaten path and get to know people of other cultures. He visited many countries around the world and most of the United States. 

He was extremely humane, charitable, good-natured, and ethical. 

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by his sister Carol Kaimowitz of New York City and Essex, Conn., and his brother-in-law and sister-in-law Ralph and Francene Conrad of Norton, Ohio. 

Memorial donations may be made to the Kaimowitz Family Fund at The Emanuel Synagogue, 160 Mohegan Drive, West Hartford, CT, 06117 or to the New Israel Fund, www.nif.org. 

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