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Michael Alex Mossey Library underwent construction in ‘70 and ‘71 Courtesy | Library Archives
Michael Alex Mossey Library underwent con­struction in ‘70 and ‘71
Courtesy | Library Archives

Walking into the campus library, vis­itors run across a plaque beside the painting of a young boy, “Mike” Alex Mossey. The plaque says little about the boy, whose joyful life ended in tragedy, but whose legacy at Hillsdale lives on.

Michael Alex Mossey was born on Oct. 2, 1954 to two Hillsdale alumni, Donald Mossey ’51 and Jane Mossey ’52. Mossey’s mother gave birth to him in Elkhart, Indiana, just over two years after grad­u­ating from Hillsdale. 

While at Hillsdale, Jane Mossey was a cheer­leader and a member of the Chi Omega sorority. 

Her husband Donald Mossey came to Hillsdale after serving with the United States Navy in the Pacific theater of World War II, according to the South Bend Tribune. At Hillsdale, he was a football player and pres­ident of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity.

Donald Mossey gave his fra­ternity pin to Jane Mossey, for­merly Jane Hill, in 1951. On August 15, 1953, the couple had their wedding in Kala­mazoo, Michigan, the South Bend Tribune reported. In the fol­lowing years, Jane Mossey gave birth to Michael Alex Mossey, along with three other children.

As a boy, Mossey lived with his family at a house just beside the St. Joseph River in Elkhart. When he was just 11, tragedy struck.

At 3 p.m. on July 17, 1966, Mossey became involved in an accident while boating with his friends on the river. After the accident, Mossey was trans­ported to the Elkhart General Hos­pital, where the young boy passed away 11 days later on July 28, 1966.

It was dev­as­tating for my parents as well as for the rest of the family, but remember I was ten, Mark eight and Lanie four,” Mossey’s sister, Merril McCarthy ‘79 said.

McCarthy said one of her favorite mem­ories with her brother was when they used to take car rides with their grandparents.

“Mike loved to hear our grand­father tell King Kong stories,” she said. “We always wanted to ride in the car with our grand­parents so we could listen to grandpa Brian tell those stories.”

Library Director Maurine McCourry said she empathizes with the Mossey family’s loss. 

I can’t imagine the grief the Mossey family must have expe­ri­enced with the sudden loss of a child,” she said.

In the fall of 1968, two years after their son’s death, Donald and Jane Mossey com­mitted $500,000 to fund the con­struction of what we now know as the Michael Alex Mossey Library. Mossey’s parents made this gift in their son’s honor.

I don’t think it was a sur­prise that they named the library for him,” McCarthy said. “He was a bright kid and loved to read, so it made sense.”

Mossey Library was envi­sioned to be “much more than a library as we have known them in the past,” according to Hillsdale College’s library archives.

“The beau­tiful addition to our campus will make pos­sible a great increase in resource material for our stu­dents,” the records read. The library would “house not only thou­sands more books, but will also make pos­sible the use of vast new resources.”

The building was ini­tially pro­jected to cost $1.5 million, according to library archives. While the Mosseys’ grant didn’t cover the entire cost, records show that their grant was the “initial impetus toward real­ization of this mag­nif­icent building.”

Con­struction on the new library began in April 1970, and the building was com­pleted in August 1971.

We are grateful that they chose to honor Mike’s memory with the gift of a library for the college,” McCourry said. “I know the new building was sorely needed.”

Donald and Jane Mossey remained active in the college com­munity for years after they donated to build a new library in their son’s honor.

According to library archives, Donald Mossey would go on to win the college’s highest honor, the Freedom Lead­ership Award, in 1998. He would also serve on the college’s Board of Trustees, becoming its longest-serving member as of 2003.

Jane Mossey would go on to become pres­ident of the Women’s Board of Com­mis­sioners, vis­iting the school mul­tiple times per year and attending Center for Con­structive Alter­na­tives lectures.

“My parents were already involved at Hillsdale, they loved the school,” said McCarthy.

On Oct. 1, 1971, Mossey Library was ded­i­cated with a plaque that still adorns the building’s entrance today.

“The sparkle in a child’s eyes, the laughter of dis­covery, the zest for truth, the serenity of thought­fulness, the hope for tomorrow,” the plaque reads. “All these dwell in this structure for youth, now ded­i­cated as the Michael Alex Mossey Learning Resources Center.”

“You just wonder what he’d be like today if he was still alive,” McCarthy said. “He’ll live on there long after we are gone.”