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URBANA — Nancy D. Anderson was born on Jan. 19, 1940, to Robert W. Downing and Mary M. Downing in Whitefish, Mont. She died Tuesday (May 12, 2020) at Amber Glen Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Urbana.

She married Thomas F. Anderson in 1963. He survives. Nancy is also survived by her brother, Robert (Valerie) Downing of Philadelphia; sister, Susan (Tom) Videen of Santa Fe, N.M.; four nephews and one niece.

Nancy was blessed to have a loving “second” family of longtime dear friends, Richard and Virginia (deceased) Rose of Bloomington, Ind.; and their children, Victoria (Bruce) Glidden of Rockford, David (Lynn) Rose of Cincinnati, Ohio, Kathryn (Greg) Norman of Orlando, Fla., and Daniel (Carolyn) Rose of Avon Lake, Ohio. She spent many wonderful hours in their company for more than 50 years, and their friendships meant the world to her.

Nancy earned a bachelor of arts (geology) from Smith College, Northampton, Mass., in 1962 and a master of library science from Columbia University, New York, in 1966.

Nancy was an academic librarian for 35 years; 32 of those were at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In the 1960s, she served as librarian for Columbia University’s Lamont Geological Observatory (now Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory) and Department of Geology. She worked in Technical Services at the UIUC Library from 1968 to 1972.

In 1972, she was appointed mathematics librarian, where she rose to the rank of professor of library administration. During her tenure, the mathematics collection more than doubled to nearly 100,000 volumes and was recognized as one of the preeminent research mathematics collections worldwide. The growth of the Mathematics Library was due in no small part to her persistent advocacy for additional financial support from university sources and from gifts and endowments, many of which continue today.

She was also committed to serving her clientele. For example, early in her tenure, Nancy instituted a program for new faculty and graduate students to help orient them to the Mathematics Library and the services available; that program continues to the present.

Her accomplishments had impact not only on the expansion and evolution of the Mathematics Library, but also on the growth and development of the University Library as a whole and on the advancement of mathematics librarianship across the country and internationally. Nancy served in many leadership positions for campus, national and international organizations, including the University Library’s Executive Committee and Administrative Council, the American Mathematical Society’s Library Committee, both the Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics Division and the Science-Technology Division of the Special Library Association, and the Science and Technology Section of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. She had colleagues and friends throughout the world.

Nancy authored three influential books on national and international mathematics research resources. At the time of her retirement in 2000, Nancy was one of the most respected mathematics librarians of her generation. She was very much a feminist and proud of shattering the many glass ceilings encountered, then and now, by professional women. Her remarkable career demonstrates just how successful she was at that struggle.

Nancy was a woman of truly eclectic interests. She had a lifelong appreciation of art. She was particularly interested in Native American and Inuit cultures and acquired an impressive collection of paintings, woodcuts, pottery and stone carvings from those societies.

Nancy adored cats, delighting in 25 feline companions (as well as four beloved dogs) over six decades. She was an avid gardener, indoors and out, with a special talent and love for orchids and amaryllis indoors and for flowers in general outdoors. Throughout her life, she was passionate about the natural world.

She was an intrepid traveler, driven by both her passion for nature and excitement in visiting new and exotic places. She and her husband hiked mountain passes and rainforest trails, voyaged on small expedition ships from Antarctica to Svalbard, and snorkeled over coral reefs from the Caribbean to the Red Sea.

She took thousands of photographs, and delighted in editing and organizing them on returning home. She was particularly relentless about identifying all of the marine fish in her underwater photos – and she did! By the time she ended her travels, Nancy had set foot on all seven continents (and Greenland) and voyaged in all five oceans.

She was a supporter of many causes, including nature conservation, animal welfare, Native American education and liberal political causes. Nancy responded generously and with compassion to friends in need and rooted vocally for underdogs. By any measure, she was the modern embodiment of a Renaissance woman.

Nancy, her family and friends are very appreciative of the care she received from the staff of Amber Glen and Harbor Lights Hospice. They were to a person compassionate, loving and respectful and did their best to make her final months as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Up until her death, the staff could always elicit smiles from Nancy.

Donations in Nancy’s memory may be made to the Champaign County Humane Society. Go to or call 217-344-7297.

Morgan Memorial Home, Savoy, is assisting the family with arrangements. A celebration of Nancy’s life will be held at a later date. Condolences may be offered at

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