Mary Lou HARKNESS

Obituary
  • "As a student I worked in the USF library in the late 60's. ..."
  • "I met Mary Lou when I applied for a job at the USF..."
    - Pat & Larry Floyd
  • "Mary Lou was the consummate librarian, an intrepid traveler..."
    - Antoinette Farrell
  • "Mary Lou was one of our first friends when we came to USF..."
  • "I met Mary Lou almost as soon as I started working at USF..."
    - James Teske

HARKNESS, Mary Lou 88, passed away on May 13, 2014 in Tampa. She was born Mary Lou Barker in Denby, SD, where her father ran the general store on the Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation. Mary Lou and her brothers walked or rode horseback to the rural two-room school, but by her senior year she moved to Gordon, NE to live with family friends, where she graduated as valedictorian. Mary Lou went on to earn her BS from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, NE. Mary Lou attended U of Michigan for two semesters of post-graduate study, and earned her Master's in library science from Columbia University. Mary Lou was recruited as the fourth employee of the University of South Florida in 1958. In 1962 Mary Lou traveled to Nigeria to help set up a national library system. In addition to Nigeria, her lifelong travels took her to Namibia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the UK, a Danube river cruise, and to Iceland. During her 30-year tenure with the USF Library, Mary Lou assumed the role of library director in 1968, the first woman to hold that title at any Florida university, and one of the few nationwide. She retired as director in 1988, but continued as a librarian until her retirement in 1991. She married Dr. Donald Harkness, a USF professor, in 1967. They spent 23 wonderful years together. Marylou became a beloved part of Don's extended family. Mary Lou was passionate about women's rights and politics. She was active in the Athena Society, the USF Women's Club, and many other causes and organizations, along with being an active fundraiser and grass roots campaigner for local candidates. Along with her love of books and reading, Mary Lou had a love of people; she and Don cultivated life-long friendships, on which they placed a high priority. She was beloved by all her family and was surrounded by them in her final days. All knew her as loving and fun, with a wry wit, and as a feisty woman of principal to be admired. She is survived by her brother, Boyd Barker, 89, two nieces, two nephews, two daughters, six grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. A celebration of life service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 31 at the University Village Auditorium, 12401 North 22nd Street, Tampa. Flowers may be sent to UV to the attention of Marcia Fulford. Donations may be made to the USF Foundation, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620. Please indicate In Memory of Mary Lou Barker Harkness, for the Tampa Campus Library or the USF School of Music.
Published in the Tampa Bay Times on May 20, 2014