The portraits above the reference desk in Ablah Library honor Frank Ablah and his wife Nellie and Harvey Ablah and his wife Leona. These two brothers and their wives represent two branches of an important family in the University Libraries’ history.
The Ablah family emigrated to Wichita in 1907 from Lebanon. Frank and Harvey’s father, J. S. Ablah, began selling groceries and other goods and then moved on to the hotel supply and real estate businesses. Many members of the family continue to work and invest in the Wichita community today.
Although the early generations of the Ablah family in Wichita had limited formal educations, they possessed a great appreciation for learning. They made certain that a college education would be available to their children and grandchildren. This appreciation for education coupled with civic responsibility led the family to make a gift to the University in 1960 that resulted in Ablah Library.
The gift from the Ablah family included title to a parcel of land located at the northwest corner of 1st and Water in downtown Wichita. It also included the title and all income from the Colorado-Derby office building located on that site. The University issued revenue bonds to pay costs of completing the office building, and used the gift and the proceeds from the office building to help pay for a new library building on campus and to establish endowment funds for the support of library collections and services.
The new library was named in honor of the Ablah family and greatly expanded the library capacity on campus with its opening in 1962. Today WSU students, faculty, and other library users continue to benefit from the original endowments as they use many of the Libraries’ collections and services.
The portraits were provided to the University Libraries by their children and placed above the Ablah Library reference desk in 2007 in recognition of the tremendous impact that this families’ gift has had and will continue to have on generations of WSU students, faculty, staff, and community library users.