College Archivist Eric Hillemann Publishes "A Beacon So Bright: The Life of Laurence McKinley Gould"

Jan 29 2013 12:00 pm
Gould Library Athenaeum, Carleton College

Carleton College archivist Eric Hillemann has published "A Beacon So Bright: The Life of Laurence McKinley Gould," chronicling the namesake of the College's library—a man who served for thirty years as a professor of geology and as Carleton's "colorful and charismatic" fourth president. On Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 12 p.m. in the Gould Library Athenaeum, Carleton will host a special booksigning event celebrating this new publication. Carleton President Steve Poskanzer will introduce Hillemann, who will give a brief presentation on the new biography. A complimentary lunch will also be provided for the first fifty attendees. Copes of "A Beacon So Bright" are available now at the Carleton Bookstore, located in the Sayles Hill Campus Center, and online at and

Drawing upon rich resources in the archives at Carleton and elsewhere, Hillemann provides a detailed chronicle of the remarkable man who created of Carleton—and, many would say, of his own life—"a beacon so bright" that it would serve those who study there as a guide for their entire lives. "While Carleton College likes to think of Larry Gould as its own, he commanded a national and international reputation as a world class scientist, explorer, spellbinding lecturer, and spokesman for liberal education"

Laurence M. Gould had the opportunity to direct NASA or a major foundation. There were even those who urged the polar explorer and eminent geologist known as "Mr. Antarctica" to run for the US Senate or the presidency. Gould chose, instead, to devote his considerable talents toward furthering the fortunes of higher education in general and of Carleton College in particular.

In his thirty years at Carleton (1932-62), seventeen as president, he was immensely popular with students and alumni while also presiding with an authority that today would be unthinkable. His students and younger colleagues were his family, and he was equally at home with eighteen-year-old students, major scientists, business leaders, and influential politicians. He had a zest for life, whether trout fishing, sledging in sub-zero Antarctica, enjoying a concert, or leading an academic conference.

Carleton President Emeritus Stephen R. Lewis Jr. observes, "Eric Hillemann has written a fulsome, lively account that does justice to this multifaceted giant. It is rich in personal details but also puts Gould's life into the context of world and national events of the day. Many states and other institutions claim Laurence McKinley Gould, and Hillemann's account shows why."

In 2011, Carleton also reissued a special publication of "Cold: The Record of an Antarctic Sledge Journey," Gould's firsthand account of his historic five-person, 1500 mile dog sled journey through Antarctica while serving as second-in-command on Richard E. Byrd's first expedition to that frozen, beautiful, mysterious and dangerous continent. Written during the era of heroic exploration over 80 years ago, the book remains a classic example of polar literature.

This event is sponsored by the Office of the Dean of the College. The Gould Library Athenaeum is located on the north end of College Street on the Carleton campus. For more information, including disability accommodations, please call (507) 222-4303.

A Beacon So Bright