L to R: Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer, Nancy Beard, and Westport Book Sale Ventures President Jocelyn Barandiaran during the build-up to the Library's transformation project

The Westport Library has long endeavored to be a place of discovery and education, where patrons of all ages can explore what interests them and grow as leaders and thinkers.

Now, the Library will have the opportunity to do so like never before.

The Nancy J. Beard Foundation has bestowed a landmark pledge to The Westport Library to create the Nancy J. Beard Lifelong Learning and Education Fund. The fund will support educational courses, lectures, special workshops, and hands-on training activities, leveraging the Library’s classroom and laboratory spaces to sustain, educate, and engage the local community.

The gift is the largest in the Library’s history to support operations.

“The Westport Library has a strong historical identity as a center for knowledge and learning, a resource for personal development, and a place to gather for cultural and community engagement,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “This generous gift will allow us to build on the work we’ve done and expand the reach and the scope of our programming. We are incredibly grateful to Nancy and the entire Beard family for their generosity, support, and belief in us and our mission.”

[Related: Westport Library Q&A: Nancy Beard]

A particular focus of the fund will be on expanding Library programing and supporting Library assets. That includes mobile technology and the Verso Studios’ video and TV media suite, as well as the Library’s recording studio and post-production suite.

“The Westport Library is a hub for the community, a gathering place, and a place of learning and conversation,” said Nancy Beard. “We love that the Library is active in the community and that is open and accessible to everyone. We hope this gift allows it to stay that way and to expand its great work so it can be a beacon for the community in the years to come.”

Nancy and her husband, Gene, moved to Westport in 1969 and have been active members of the community. (The couple currently reside in Florida but return to Westport often.) The Beards made their first donation to the Library 26 years ago and have given regularly since that time, notably in supporting the Library’s 2019 transformation project. Prior to that, Nancy was involved with the Cub Scouts — she started her volunteer work in Westport as a den mother — served as a teacher’s aide in the elementary and middle schools, and volunteered with both the Red Cross and Norwalk Hospital.

In addition to its support of the Library, the Nancy J. Beard Foundation has given to the Church of the Assumption, Yale University, Save the Children, the Mercy Learning Center, Norwalk Hospital, and various food pantries. Gene Beard also established the Beard Center for Leadership in Ethics at Duquesne University and was a significant contributor to the Eugene P. Beard Faculty Fellowship in Ethics at the Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Center.

“Giving back to the community has always been important to us, which is why we wanted to create this endowment fund for the Library,” Nancy Beard said. “Westport is a special place, as is The Westport Library. We want to do everything we can to grow that sense of community, and we’ve always viewed the Library as central to that role. We’re excited to see this fund make a difference, and we’re thrilled to play even a small role in supporting the Library’s future.”

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