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It was Sr. Cyrille Gill, OP ‘22, who unlocked a fascination in Carole Herzog Walton ’59 for the Middle-earth adventures of J.R.R. Tolkien. 

In class at Rosary College, Sr. Cyrille spoke of afternoon teas with the author while she studied at Oxford in the early 1930s—and how Tolkien, a professor of Anglo-Saxon language there, would share the unfolding story of a new character he created called a “hobbit.” 

“Sr. Cyrille said, ‘I am once removed from J.R.R. Tolkien and now, you students are twice removed,’” recalled Walton, who became a teacher herself and taught Tolkien’s The Hobbit in her classes. 

Sr. Cyrille’s connection to Tolkien extended to his family. In 1993, his daughter Priscilla wrote Sr. Cyrille a personal letter, thanking her for acknowledging the 100th birth anniversary of her father the previous year. This summer, Walton donated that letter and Sr. Cyrille’s copy of the book The Tolkien Family Album, a historical account of the family published to mark Tolkien’s centenary, to Dominican University. The items are now part of Dominican’s special collection archives.

“I thought it was time for Dominican to hold these memories dear—as Sr. Cyrille held them dear,” Walton said. “I think she would be glad that her name and Tolkien’s name are linked in this way. Not many people were let in on the first line of a book that has become so important.”

The two remained close for decades and Walton said she was touched when Sr. Cyrille gave her the book and letter shortly before she died in 1999 at the age of 101. 

“Priscilla Tolkien’s letter provides a tangible link to the most important years of Sr. Cyrille’s life and to the origins of her lifelong mission to inspire in her students the same love of literature that Tolkien helped inspire within her,” said Steven Szegedi MLIS ’08, archivist and special collections librarian at Dominican University.