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In Memoriam: Rodney Armstrong

In Memoriam: Director and Librarian Emeritus Rodney Armstrong (1923-2021)


April 16, 2021—With sadness, the Boston Athenæum announces the passing of longtime Director and Librarian Rodney Armstrong. His tenure at the BA, fondly remembered by so many in our community, extended for 23 years, from 1973 through 1996.

When he assumed the directorship, he stepped into the very large shoes of Walter Muir Whitehill, and filled them ably. The Armstrong years were very good ones for the Athenæum. Many of his initiatives remain important for the institution to this day. He encouraged deeper involvement by the Board of Trustees, avidly developed our remarkable collections, built our endowment, beautified and improved the landmark building at 10½ Beacon Street, and led a happy community with his personal warmth and encouragement. He set the stage for future expansion into 14 Beacon Street with a purchase of condominium space in that building’s basement and sub-basement. 

A soft-spoken Southern gentleman, Rodney possessed a warm nature, and “presided over high points and low with a twinkling eye and a generous laugh.” Over the course of his tenure he gifted 53 memberships. In 1993, the Athenaeum celebrated his twenty-year anniversary with an exhibition of special collections items acquired during those decades. Some members of the staff still recall the celebratory holiday gatherings at his family’s home on Chestnut Street. He was a devoted partner to his wife, Kitty, as well as a proud father and grandfather.

In recognition of all he accomplished for the betterment of the BA, he was placed in the small pantheon of luminaries honored in our giving societies (along with Hannah Adams and John Bromfield). The Armstrong Society recognizes devoted Athenæum supporters whose cumulative gifts reach $100,000 during their lifetimes.

We remember Rodney’s unflagging support and affection for the Athenaeum with deep gratitude.