Nell and Tim Laraway posing together at a picnic.

The gift of librarianship: New fellowship honors UB alumna’s legacy and love story


Tim Laraway established a fellowship in his wife Nell’s name for a simple reason: He loved her, and they loved UB.

Tim Laraway established a fellowship in his wife Nell’s name for a simple reason: He loved her, and they loved UB.

He first noticed Nell Tyler in the fall of 1968 while walking from his apartment in the University Heights neighborhood to UB’s South Campus. She lived in the house across the street, and according to Laraway, she had the most beautiful smile he’d ever seen.

Within a few months, the glances from across the street turned into lengthy conversations, and they began dating. While Laraway was initially drawn in by her beauty, it was Tyler’s thoughtful, intelligent and hardworking nature that he found most captivating. Together, they studied and shared adventures—like attending Woodstock and joining anti-war protests on campus. And, when Laraway proposed in 1969, Tyler said yes.

After graduating from UB and getting married in 1970, the Laraways moved to Charleston, West Virginia, to pursue their careers. A graduate of the civil engineering bachelor’s program, Tim was eager to immerse himself in the field. On the other hand, Nell had studied history and education and felt uncertain about the shape she wanted her career to take. It wasn’t until she spoke to her aunt Cornelia, a librarian at Cornell University, that she realized she wanted to pursue graduate studies and a career in librarianship.

Nell Tyler, black and white photo. Wearing a University at Buffalo crew neck sweatshirt.

Nell Tyler sporting a UB sweatshirt during her time as a student.

Nell standing with a mentor at a gathering.

Nell attending a gathering with colleagues from the West Virginia Library Commission.

The Laraways moved to Denver, Colorado, where Tim began a new position at the Department of the Interior. Nell enrolled in the University of Denver’s master’s program in librarianship. She had found her niche and—after completing the program—carried her passion for librarianship as their careers took them to Pennsylvania, Georgia and Ohio. “I kind of dragged her all over the country, but she always adapted,” Tim recalled with a smile.

Their time in Columbus, Ohio, marked a turning point: They became parents to their daughter, Erin, in 1984. Around the same time, Nell joined the Squire, Sanders & Dempsey Law Firm as the head of the law library. “She was a law librarian for the rest of her career—the next almost 20 years. She loved that job,” said Tim. 

Nell’s enthusiasm for law librarianship continued at the Murphy, Young & Smith Law Firm, where she worked as the head law librarian until her retirement in 2015.

Her dedication and desire to help others join the information science field inspired Tim to set up a fellowship in his wife’s honor after she passed away in October 2021. “Her graduate degree meant the world to her. She knew it would open the doors for her to have a career where she could do the things she wanted to do, because she was smart, thoughtful and always wanted to be challenged,” he said.

“That’s why I decided to approach UB about a fellowship in her name. She loved UB when she was there.”

The generous gift moved Dan Albertson, professor and chair of GSE’s Department of Information Science. “UB meant so much to this family. Our profession meant so much,” Albertson said. “Those factors went into deciding to connect with us and to give us a gift in honor of Nell. It is a very special thing to be part of someone’s major life discussion and decision. 

“People recognize our profession as being one of service and helping people, and so it’s special when people give back,” he continued. “It’s just indicative of our wider profession.”

The fellowship seeks to recruit and retain information science students, focusing on those who express financial need, and have the potential for academic and professional success. Albertson reports that a “very worthy” candidate was awarded the fellowship for the first time in 2023. 

“Scholarships have a tremendous impact on what we do and, on our students,” Albertson said. “It’s a lifelong gift.”

Nell stands next to governor signing document.

Former West Virginia Governor Jay Rockefeller attended one of the Commission’s events. Nell was an advocate for library funding and support from state and local governments. 

Now that the fellowship has taken effect, Tim finds comfort in knowing that his wife’s legacy lives on. “When she died, I lost my best friend. … She was a really important person to me. And she always wanted to help. That’s what this fellowship is about,” he said.

“I know she’s smiling about this right now.”