As a part-time librarian while at Swarthmore, David Peele ’50 saw volumes of dusty old books — and mischievous opportunity.
Although he never actually borrowed them, Peele signed many of the books’ lending cards and stamped them.
“He imagined future students and faculty finding his name in obscure volumes and being amazed at the number of books he ‘read,’” Peele’s widow, Marla, recalls. “That was David’s puckish way of leaving his mark on the library and of living on after he was gone.”
That legacy grew earlier this fall, when Marla donated Peele’s beloved collection of MAD Magazine to McCabe Library. Featuring the first 118 issues as well as 11 issues of the accompanying comic Panic, the collection was offered up in memory of Peele’s love of laughs.
It bolsters McCabe’s second-floor periodicals section, on the heels of the donation of comics from Richard Lamb ’88, in 10 professionally bound volumes.
While a collector might cringe at the thought of bound comics, “it’s impossible to not smile when thinking about the care and consideration David had for his collection,” says Maria Aghazarian, digital resources and scholarly communications specialist.
Peele had that effect on people from his earliest days at Swarthmore, from which he earned a bachelor of arts in history and, in 1954, a masters in history. His citation in The Halcyon is that of a “master of ceremonies, script writer, straight man, and top comedian of collections (by peele).” Peele wrote satirical pieces for and took good-natured jabs from The Phoenix, in which a December 1955 headline proclaims “Old Dave Prowls S’More Campus Again” and Peele’s talent at his beloved ping-pong met dispute.
In between degrees at Swathmore, Peele earned bachelors and masters degrees in library science from Case Western Reserve University. He returned to Swarthmore as assistant librarian, primarily in circulation, for Carnegie Library (the precursor to McCabe), before embarking on a career as librarian with the City University of New York.
Peele loved to write, Marla remembers, and published both seriously and satirically for many professional library journals. He returned to Swarthmore for homecoming ceremonies, delighting classmates with poems and skits.
When Peele died in 1985, Marla established a library endowment fund in his name. Earlier this year, she emailed McCabe staff to offer the MAD collection to somewhere it could be enjoyed. It represents a “unique element” of the library’s collections, says Aghazarian, not just for Swarthmore classes centered on comics and popular culture but the enjoyment of the community.
“We’re grateful to Marla for such a generous donation and are honored to hold these volumes in David’s memory,” says Aghazarian.
It cements Peele’s connection to his alma mater, as well as to kindred spirit Alfred E. Neuman, who burst onto the scene as the face and soul of MAD in between Peele's stretches at Swarthmore.
“David would be delighted to know that his treasured MAD Magazine collection will now be shared with the Swarthmore community,” Marla says.