"Thanks to the variety of subject matter and media, there is something for everyone in a good library, if you're willing to explore."

Houston, Texas

The stacks and cooling towers of the ExxonMobil Baytown Refinery and Chemical Complex in Baytown, Texas, seem a world away from the quiet stacks and computer terminals of the University of Iowa Libraries. However, Sharon K. Tinker has found a world of opportunity in both places—which is why the 1980 UI graduate and longtime ExxonMobil employee now gives back to the UI Libraries.

“I support the UI Libraries because I want to return some of the good fortune that my college education and degree have provided for me—and because the Libraries system offers learning opportunities not only for UI students, faculty, and staff, but also for all Iowans,” says Sharon, who grew up on a farm near Manchester, Iowa.

This former Iowa farm girl is now the Unit Maintenance Department Manager of the Baytown Refinery, where she works with a team of engineers, machinists, electricians, instrument technicians, and supervisors to ensure that the plant meets its important maintenance requirements.

Through The University of Iowa—and its libraries—Tinker was able to transform her high school passion for math and sciences into this successful career as a chemical engineer. And during her time as a student in the UI College of Engineering, Sharon says she spent countless hours in the UI’s various libraries, including the Main Library, the Engineering Library, the Math Library, and the Chemistry Library.

That explains why she’s chosen to invest so generously in the UI Libraries throughout the years since her Iowa graduation. Sharon makes frequent gifts to Friends of the Libraries and the Engineering Library Fund, and she also has contributed to the Louise Noun-Mary Louise Smith Iowa Women’s Archives, making her first gift in honor of her grandmother, Margaret Tinker.

“The UI Libraries system helps open up the world to inquiring minds,” Sharon says. “It provides amazing opportunities for the students and citizens who are willing to use its resources and make the effort to learn everything they can.”

While Sharon was busy learning as much as she could at the UI Libraries during her days on the Iowa campus, she also was enjoying her time as a student: “I enjoyed so much about the University. Like most college students, I enjoyed the independence of being away from home and making my own decisions. I also enjoyed my studies because of the challenges of learning the engineering concepts.”

In fact, Sharon says she chose The University of Iowa partly because it was actively recruiting female engineering students like her during the 1970s. This choice paid off, launching Sharon on her lengthy career with ExxonMobil in Houston—and even helping her travel to England and Singapore, where she lived during a four-year assignment for ExxonMobil in the mid-1990s.

The UI graduate has shown her appreciation for these professional experiences by not only contributing to the UI Libraries, but also to other areas—including the College of Engineering and the Iowa Impact Fund—on campus. She is a member of The Presidents Club, which recognizes the University’s most generous contributors, and she also is the head of the UI Chemical Engineering Advisory Board.

Sharon’s “love for books” keeps the UI Libraries among her top giving priorities because she believes its resources provide so many benefits to so many different users. “Thanks to the variety of subject matter and media, there is something for everyone in a good library, if you’re willing to explore,” says Sharon.

And thanks to her vision and commitment, other UI students can follow in her footsteps, exploring the Libraries’ resources—and discovering a world of opportunities.