For the past couple of weeks we’ve had a patron in the Woodson working in the papers of long time Rice philosophy professor Konstantin Kolenda, ’50. Kolenda, who died at age 68 in 1991, was known to me only in a general way as a well regarded teacher and administrator. I’d also formed the opinion, based solely on photos, that he was a warm and kind person. But the presence of his manuscript collection in the back room presented me with a chance to learn much more.
I started in the most obvious place even though that isn’t where you usually find the good stuff. This time, though, the very first thing I picked up, a short cv, filled me with wonder. It’s an utterly remarkable story of a young man raised in rural Poland, adrift in the borderlands during World War II, ultimately rescued by Houston businessman George Hill, Jr.:
Now digging intently in the boxes full of scholarly papers and correspondence, I found a file that contained carefully folded, nearly ancient newspaper clippings, this first set from 1947:
Among them was a photograph of Mr. Hill and, sadly, a newspaper story about his death only two years later:
I have a bit more to say about all this later in the week.