YOUNG HARRIS, Ga – Young Harris College recently received an extensive comics collection valued at more than $10,000 from Murphy, N.C., resident Andy Rowe. The Andy Rowe Comics Collection was presented during YHC’s annual Family Weekend on Oct. 21 in the Student Organization Loft of the Rollins Campus Center on the YHC campus.
Upon retirement, Rowe moved to Murphy, N.C., and began looking for an institution that would treasure his prized comics collection as much as he does. While settling into his new home, he encountered a service provider who took interest in his collection while installing a new internet connection. After further conversation, he explained to Rowe that his son, a YHC student, would be very interested in viewing the comics.
Rowe had the opportunity to invite that YHC student, senior communication studies major John Lyle Moore, of Rabun Gap, Ga., along with senior religious studies major Emily Todd, of Coral Springs, Fla., and junior art major Khalid Johnson, of Decatur, Ga., to his house to talk about the collection.
As he reflected on his encounter with the three YHC students, he remembered how incredible that time was and how much he admired these students’ passion. Through this connection, Rowe was able to meet Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and Chair of the Department Dr. Chris Richardson, who teaches courses at the College focusing on comics. Dr. Richardson explained that today’s comics are similar to retellings of Homer’s “Odyssey” to ancient Greeks in that they carry on storytelling traditions focusing on heroes, adventures, and overcoming social conflicts.
“Comics are a wonderful tool for acquiring deeper media literacy skills that allow us to better understand the messages we’re constantly dealing with—whether through advertisements, political campaigns, social media apps, streaming videos, or virtually anything else we see daily,” said Dr. Richardson.
During the unveiling ceremony, Rowe explained that before he and his brother learned how to read, he remembers looking through the comics and paying close attention to the pictures. Rowe first read these comics as stories, but later realized that they were developing his character. Rowe recalled that when he was younger, reading comics was looked upon negatively. He shared stories of his mother being criticized for letting her kids read comics. Her response was simply, “At least they are reading.”
Rowe enjoyed reading comics at such a young age and credits them with shaping him into the man he is today. These heroes would always do the right thing and they would never misuse their powers. This message was reinforced every day, every week, every month.
During a conference Rowe attended one year, he encountered someone wearing a Thor costume. Rowe went up to him and said, “How does it make you feel wearing that?” The young man stood up straight, held his hammer high and responded by saying he felt like a “true hero.” This encounter still moves Rowe and reminds him of the influence these heroes have on people.
Rowe’s collection was beneficial not only to him, but also to his family. His daughter was diagnosed with severe dyslexia at a young age and they were told that she would never be able to read. Today she holds a master’s degree and was recently named “Teacher of the Year” by her school. She gives credit to her father’s comics collection for helping overcome dyslexia. For her, it was exhausting to have to focus on words on a page for too long, but with her father’s collection, she was able to look at an image and read some words for short periods at a time.
Before donating the comics collection to the College, Rowe wanted to make sure the collection was going to be used to academically benefit students. “This collection provides academic opportunities for textual and visual analysis that will assist students in a variety of disciplines, including English, communication studies, popular culture, art and graphic design, gender studies, and many more,” said Dean of the Division of Humanities and Professor of English Dr. Mark Rollins. “The College is extremely fortunate to receive such a generous and valuable gift from Mr. Rowe.”
Students also understand the significant impact a collection like this will have on YHC in their own studies.
“I am most excited for this collection because I think it will give the community a chance to see the value in comics,” said Moore, who acknowledges how unique this collection is to the College. “We live in a relatively small community and to be given such a massive collection gives the school a particular image. As a liberal arts college, we value having diversity within each major. Because comics are applicable to most disciplines, we get to really show that positive image off at YHC.”
The Andy Rowe Comics Collection will be housed in YHC’s Zell and Shirley Miller Library outside of the special collections room. Students will be able to check out these comics throughout the year to use for their research.
“This comics collection can be used to trace story arcs, graphic designs, perform content analyses, and examine the works as material objects,” said Dr. Richardson. “It’s an incredible experience to behold this huge addition to our library. They reveal much about our culture, aspirations, social norms, and ideals. It’s thrilling to have a piece of that history here at Young Harris College.”
Many students, faculty, and staff have reflected this same genuine gratefulness for Rowe’s gift. Dr. Rollins said, “We are fortunate to have such generous donors as Mr. Rowe, as well as talented faculty like Dr. Richardson to spearhead the acquisition of this collection. This will benefit students and faculty for years to come.”