New director: Hoover a ‘whiz kid’ leader
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · May 04, 2011

The Illinois State Historian and a noted authority on Abraham Lincoln, Thomas F. Schwartz — who called Hoover a “whiz kid” for two presidents — will become the director of the Hoover Library-Museum.
Schwartz’s appointment takes effect on July 5.

“The (Hoover Library) is a distinguished research institution supported by an expert staff telling the stories of The Great Humanitarian,” Schwartz, 56, said. “I am honored by this appointment and I look forward to advancing the mission of the library.”

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero made the announcement Monday morning.

“Mr. Schwartz’s extensive experience and knowledge of research library and museum practice will strengthen both the Hoover Library and National Archives,” he said. “We all look forward to working with him on new and exciting projects.”

Schwartz also serves as the chief historian for exhibits and content at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and is director of Research and the Lincoln Collection in the Lincoln Library.

Andrew Hoover, grandson of the 31st president, said he and daughter Margaret were pleased with the selection.

“Tom’s leadership at the (Lincoln Library), his respect among Lincoln scholars and, most particularly, his experience making Lincoln understandable to popular audiences will be invaluable,” he said. “Herbert Hoover’s life and legacy are still largely unknown and there is a great opportunity to communicate his accomplishments to popular audiences in Iowa and nationwide.”

Hoover Association Executive Director Becky Allgood said she met Schwartz face-to-face only recently.

“But I am looking forward to him coming and working together to improve Hoover’s hometown,” she said.

Schwartz will replace Tim Walch, who retired April 1. John Fawcett is currently serving as the interim director.

Walch said Schwartz is an “excellent choice.”

“It’s an honor to be succeeded by someone with his experience and achievement,” Walch said.

Schwartz said the “challenge and opportunity intrigued me.”

“Hoover has a lot of Lincoln in him,” he said, noting that Hoover admired Lincoln. “I think it’s a story that needs a wider audience.”

Asked if he can use the position to make a significant impact on public perception of Hoover, Schwartz said he is “certainly going to try.”

“I think the times are right for people to take a second look at Hoover,” he said. “There are many things about his life and his philosophy of life that comport with current times.”

Schwartz said that while Lincoln may be one of America’s most popular presidents, and Hoover is one of the most maligned and misrepresented, both still need their story explained in such a way that it is remembered — and remembered accurately.

“His presidency is not the pinnacle of his career,” Schwartz said of Hoover. “He was a boy orphaned at 10, a millionaire by 40, a whiz kid and wonderboy of (presidents) Harding and Coolidge, he saved nearly a billion lives over the course of his career — these are incredible stories.”

And even though the Great Depression began during Hoover’s presidency, Hoover “was considered the most able to deal with the task,” he noted, pointing out that many of Hoover’s actions were carried forward by President Franklin Roosevelt.

Schwartz said he plans to move to West Branch. He and wife Cathy have two children: Jacquelyn, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, and James, who will attend Concordia University in Seward, Neb., in the fall.

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