Sheila Dowd
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Sheila T. Dowd

September 6, 1925 - March 2, 2015

Sheila T. Dowd, the University of California at Berkeley's head of library collections for 15 years, died peacefully at her home in Mill Valley on March 2, of complications of Alzheimer's disease. She was 89.

Born to Irish immigrants in Berkeley and reared in Walnut Creek, Dowd displayed an early love of books and libraries. She received degrees as an English major, cum laude, from the College of the Holy Names in 1947 and in library science from U.C. Berkeley in 1948. She served two years as a librarian with the U.S. Army in Heidelberg, Germany, and two more with the U.S. Information Service in Marseille, France.

In 1953 Dowd launched a 35-year career at the U.C. Berkeley library. For two decades she developed its principal map collection. In 1974 she was named head of the Department of Collection Development and Reference Services, where she shaped the library's overall collections, oversaw 65 librarians and built a national reputation. Upon her retirement in 1988, she was awarded the university's highest honor, The Berkeley Citation, for distinguished service.

Those who knew Dowd recall her wit, erudition, spirit, curiosity, love of conversation, and impeccable prose style. She loved travel, especially in France and Ireland; 19th-century novels, especially those of Trollope, Austen, and James; the poems of William Butler Yeats; Italian opera and mid-20th century American pop standards; the Democratic Party of FDR; and the Roman Catholic Church. She was generous and loyal to family and a legion of friends. She had a ready smile and a full and lovely laugh. She touched many, and she'll be missed terribly.

Survivors include her step-sister, Patricia McCormick, of Novato; six nieces and nephews; Father James Walsh, a cousin, of Sacramento; and many relatives in County Kerry, Ireland.

A funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Thurs., April 9, at Our Lady Of Mount Carmel Church, 3 Oakdale Ave., Mill Valley. A memorial will be held from 5-7 p.m. on Fri., April 10, at the Morrison Reading Room, Doe Library, on the U.C. Berkeley campus. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Sheila T. Dowd Endowment for the Western European Collections, sent to the Library Development Office, 131 Doe Library, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000.


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Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Mar. 22 to Mar. 29, 2015.
Memories & Condolences
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4 entries
April 8, 2015
Deepest sympathies on the loss of this wonderful family member.
March 31, 2015
My wife Carli, and I, would love to be present at the Memorial for Sheila. Unfortunately we have commitments for that date that prevent our attendance.
Sheila will always be remembered among our favorite people in our lives. If it were not for her and her generosity I would not have had such a fulfilling career as Map Librarian at UCSC, and as Founding President of the Western Association of Map Libraries. She turned down the leadership that we sought for her, all to my benefit. She will remain in our hearts for her kindness and gentle presence.
Stanley D. Stevens
March 29, 2015
Sheila was a wonderful humane caring person who treated everyone with respect and compassion. For younger staff members at the Library, she was a shining light. I am grateful to have known her.
David Kessler
March 24, 2015
I wish to extend my condolences to the family of Sheila Dowd. The pain and sorrow you are experiencing now is very hard to bear, but time will lessen your grief. May you find comfort from the God of all comfort at this difficult time as you move through this mourning period.
L. Jenkins
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