Special Collections 
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Administrative History

Named in honor of Miguel de Cervantes's fictional character, Don Quixote, the Quixote Center was founded in 1976 in Mt. Ranier, Maryland, as a non-profit social action organization on a quest to create a more just world. In its long-standing mission statement, the Center described itself in this way:

"The Quixote Center is a gathering of people who will work and play -- with laughter, to reach for stars that seem too distant to be touched, or too dim to be worth the effort. We will try to be friends with persons in need, and to celebrate life with people who believe that the struggle to follow Jesus in building a world more justly loving, is worth the gift of their lives."

The Center's principal co-founders, William Callahan, S.J. (1931-2010) and Dolly Pomerleau, rooted the organization in Roman Catholic social teaching. Both shared a vision of progressive social reform that often brought the Center into conflict with Catholic Church leadership. Controversial causes championed by the Center included gender equity in the Church -- including the ordination of women to the priesthood -- ministry to gays and lesbians, and sympathy for the workings of Liberation Theology in Third World countries such as Nicaragua and El Salvador. Tensions between Father Callahan and his Jesuit superiors reached a climax in 1991 when Callahan was expelled from the Society of Jesus.

The heart of the Quixote Center's work lay in programs established to achieve lofty ends. The programs varied in success. Brief descriptions of the major programs at the Quixote Center are included in the scope and content note attached to series 5.

Administratively, the Quixote Center was very decentralized and egalitarian. The organization had a board of directors, but it seems to have been a relatively weak body that looked to the staff to drive the organization. All full-time employees at the Quixote Center shared the common title of Co-Director, and each drew the same amount of salary. Consensus was the favored method of decision-making. The Center's programs and the performance of its staff were evaluated communally at monthly staff meetings.

The Quixote Center continued its quest for social justice after the death of William Callahan in 2010 and the retirement of Dolly Pomerleau in 2011. The Quixote Center is based in Brentwood, Maryland. For information on its current operations, visit the Center's website.

Scope and Content

The Quixote Center records are arranged into seven (7) series.  The arrangement scheme within each series varies. 

Series 1: Board of Directors, 1977-2011 [bulk 1999-2011] (0.9 cubic feet), documents the functioning of the Quixote Center's Board of Directors. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically. The heart of the series is the body of semi-annual meeting files, which include agenda, minutes, reports, and policy statements from the board's meetings. Some files are more complete than others. A significant gap in the records exists between 1982 and 1997: Information about the board's activities during these years might be gleaned from files spread across series 2 and series 5. The staff meeting files in series 2 may be the best place to start for information about the board's activities during some of these missing years. 

Series 2: Administrative Files, 1975-2012 (4.2 cubic feet), contains information that tends to relate more to the Quixote Center as a whole rather than to one of its particular programs. For files of a more program-specific nature, see series 5. Administrative files cover such things as the center's general correspondence, finances, fundraising, and strategic planning. The entire series is arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically. Of special note are the monthly staff meeting files; in addition to minutes (varying widely in quality), these files can contain informative handouts and other supplementary material. Unfortunately, there is a gap in surviving meeting files from 1982-1987. This series also contains personnel-related files. Some of these files are restricted to protect the privacy of former employees. Individual employees were sometimes evaluated as a group activity at staff meetings. These evaluations have been removed from the files and restricted.

Series 3: Photographs, Audiovisuals, and Electronic Records, 1976-2009 (7.3 cubic feet) are combined in this series, with photographs constituting the vast majority of the material. Each format has been grouped into its own sub-series; these are described in a separate series-level scope and content note.

Series 4: Publications, 1972-2009 (1.2 cubic feet) is further divided into two sub-series: The Newsletter sub-series (0.6 cubic feet) is arranged alphabetically by title and contains runs (sometimes incomplete) of newsletters associated with the Quixote Center's many programs. These newsletters have also been cataloged in Marqcat. The other sub-series contains Books and Articles (0.6 cubic feet) published by the Center. The inventory is arranged chronologically by year of publication. Bound books were separated from the collection, catalogued in Marqcat, and shelved according to Library of Congress call number with the other books in the Department of Special Collections. The remaining publications in this sub-series are stored with the Quixote Center records themselves.

Series 5: Programs, 1975-2010 (20.1 cubic feet), is by far the largest series within the collection. It has been further divided into seven sub-series, each corresponding to one of the major programs undertaken by the Quixote Center. The exception is the final sub-series -- Miscellaneous -- which groups together several smaller initiatives that did not merit their own sub-series. Each program has been described in a separate series-level scope and content note.    

Series 6: William Callahan Papers, 1943-2010 (2.7 cubic feet), consists of the personal papers of Quixote Center co-founder, William Callahan. The files are arranged alphabetically by subject or by type of document. The series contains correspondence that documents Callahan's difficult relationship with the Jesuits and his eventual dismissal from the Society -- much of this correspondence was made public at the time of the disputes. Personal correspondence between Callahan and Dolly Pomerleau is contained within Pomerleau's papers. The correspondence is sealed until January 2020. Additional photographs of Callahan can be found in series 3.1.

Series 7: Dolly Pomerleau Papers, 1972-2011 (0.9 cubic feet), contains personal records donated by Quixote Center co-founder, Dolly Pomerleau. The files are arranged alphabetically by subject. Most of the collection's photographs of Pomerleau can be found in series 3.1. The personal correspondence between Pomerleau and William Callahan is collected in this series; however, the letters are sealed until January 2020.

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