Staff and Students Say Goodbye to Loved Librarian


Western Photo

Joe Sullivan

Fatimah Dixon, Staff Writer

In the East building across from the Spanish hallway is the library, a sanctuary for loners, book-lovers, and friends of the library, alike. Walk inside the library and a man– tall, grey haired, a cup of coffee in one hand, a book in the other hand, and a large smile willing to accommodate to anyone’s needs–would greet you. And although the man, Mr. Joe Sullivan, passed in early March, his spirit and attitude lives on through his students, teachers, and throughout the Raider community.

If anyone has spent 30 minutes or more in either library, they would run into Mr. Sullivan. There, he would be willing to help with finding a library book, letting students borrow office supplies, helping students print paper, ordering new books, etc. Other times, Mr. Sullivan was simply good company during lunch, which is the way senior Nicholas McAllister said he will remember the librarian.

“(I first met Mr. Sullivan after) I checked out a book from the library,” McAllister said. “We started to talk (and) from there, I helped him with his PowerPoints and he gave me coffee. We were friends, and I always hung out with him.”

When it came to their conversations, McAllister said he and Mr. Sullivan talked a lot about books and politics. While drinking coffee and eating pecans, they also discussed things such as music and exchanged stories. 

“He was always willing to share (food and drinks) he brought with him that day, insist(ing) for me to have some,” McAllister said. “He told me of a time when he taught classes prior to Randall and he jumped on the table to surprise his class and stop them from talking. In doing so, he ripped his pants and had to call his wife for new ones.”

According to McAllister, Mr. Sullivan was a “wonderful, friendly and knowledgeable” person who loved meeting new people.

“Mr. Sullivan used to own a farm and grew up on one working for his father,” McAllister said. “He also woke up every morning at 5 or 6 and walked his dog.”

Although Mr. Sullivan will no longer accompany McAllister during lunch, this will not deter McAllister from eating there. Instead, McAllister said he “will continue to go to the library nearly everyday for lunch and keep an eye on (Mr. Sullivan’s) library and books.” The roles that Mr. Sullivan assumed– a librarian, friend, life coach, and a teacher– will live on through McAllister as he plans to help organize the remaining book talks for the rest of the year. These same sentiments McAllister has of Mr. Sullivan are shared with government teacher, Aaron Faver.

“My earliest memory of Mr. Sullivan is going into the library and him helping me find something,” Mr. Faver said. “As our relationship deepened, he became less of a librarian and more of a friend.”

According to Mr. Faver, he and Mr. Sullivan were able to connect on a deeper level to discuss politics. However, their similarities did not end there.

“I found out that he was a Catholic,” Mr. Faver said. “So, he was my sponsor whenever I decided to join the Catholic Church. Then, we got to be really good friends. We used to have lunch together a lot. One of the things I enjoyed about visiting with him was that he was somebody you could talk to and he would just listen to what you were saying.”

When describing Mr. Sullivan’s personality, Mr. Faver said he was a listener. Even during their political talks, Mr. Faver said Mr. Sullivan was never pushy and did not talk over anyone. Instead, Mr. Faver said he simply wanted to “communicate with you and was like that with everyone.”

“I think everyone really felt comfortable around him,” Mr. Faver said. “I never felt like he was being past or being future, I always felt like he was present.”

When a person is confirmed in the Catholic Church, they are supposed to choose a patron saint. When it came time for Mr. Faver to choose his, he had trouble and looked to Mr. Sullivan for guidance.

“I connected with three or four different patron saints,” Mr. Faver said. “I kept switching them. Joe Sullivan was standing behind me with his hand on my shoulder. We’re in front of a huge congregation and I kept changing my mind. He would say, ‘Aaron, you’ve got to choose one.’ And I would say ‘Timothy,’ or ‘Michael,’ or whatever. He kept saying, ‘You’ve got to choose one.’ That’s one of my fondest memories because we both just got such a good laugh out of that.”

Another feature Mr. Faver and Mr. Sullivan had in common was their interest and respect for Robert Kennedy, which surprised Mr. Faver. According to Mr. Faver, reading a biography on Robert Kennedy in college “changed his life.”

“The fact that he was speaking so well of someone I thought so highly of surprised me,” Mr. Faver said. “I didn’t know that there was anyone at Randall that was a Bobby Kennedy fan. The were so many different things to surprise you about him because he didn’t talk about himself a whole lot. When my son was about to be born, we got a little card from (Mr. Sullivan) that said he had spent an hour praying for (my son). It was completely out of the blue. It was a wonderful gift before he was born. It meant a lot.”

Anyone who came to know Mr. Sullivan would say that he was no ordinary librarian. Instead, he was a man full of smiles who was willing to help any and everyone. He ordered books for anyone wanted to add to the library’s collection, shared his love of books through book talks, and was thoroughly involved in improving the student body.

“Mr. Sullivan loved teaching, his students, and his family,” McAllister said. “We will all miss him dearly, but for all of us who saw him everyday, there will be no one else like him.”