Carnegie Mellon University

Commencement Weekend

May 19 - 20, 2018

Vivian Davidson Hewitt (MM 1944)

Retired Chief Librarian, Art Collector and Distinguished Awards Recipient

Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

Vivian Hewitt

Vivian Davidson Hewitt has enjoyed an illustrious career as a prominent librarian and African-American art collector.

After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Library Science in 1944 from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University, Hewitt became the first African-American librarian at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh’s Wiley Avenue Branch. She later moved to Atlanta and took a position as a librarian and instructor at Atlanta University’s School of Library and Information Science, where she taught and mentored other young African Americans entering the profession.  

In the early 1950s, she moved to New York and became a researcher for Crowell-Collier Publishing. She prides herself on serving as the first African-American Chief Librarian for the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Council on Foreign Relations, and President of the Special Libraries Association for which she traveled to conferences around the world.

Hewitt and her husband John’s love for art led them to beginning a cherished collection of Haitian art and purchasing African-American art from friends who resided near their Harlem home in New York.

“The Hewitt Collection” eventually was purchased by Bank of America and recognized in 1998 as one of the finest African-American art collections in the world, touring the U.S. for 10 years during construction of the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, N.C., now its permanent home.

Hewitt was a member of over 15 organizations and has earned more than 14 honors and awards, including the Distinguished Service Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and a Distinguished Alumni Award from Carnegie Mellon. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Special Library Association and recently, as sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth II, became a DAME after many years of dedication to the Order of St. John.