Konstantin Kolenda, ’50, A Free Man in a Free Country

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.:

Kolenda vita nd 048

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:

Kolenda Post June 25 1947 1 050

Kolenda Post June 25 1947 2 051

Among them was a photograph of Mr. Hill and, sadly, a newspaper story about his death only two years later:

Kolenda George Hill Jr nd 049

Kolenda Post November 3 1949 1 052

Kolenda Post November 3 1949 2 053

I have a bit more to say about all this later in the week.




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8 Responses to Konstantin Kolenda, ’50, A Free Man in a Free Country

  1. marmer01 says:

    Konnie Kolenda was probably the sweetest man at Rice. Very kind, unassuming and generous with his time when I knew him in the 1980s.

  2. Bill Harris says:

    Thank you for this. I took an introductory philosophy course from him and (I hope) got a lot from it. He was also a very nice man, as marmer01 has said. I think he was a WRC associate, too.

  3. E55 says:

    Here’s a fascinating and extensive transcript of an oral history project interview of Raymond Hill’s son by a Harris County historian. (I didn’t know Harris County had historians – or, for that matter, an oral history project.) http://www.harriscountytx.gov/CmpDocuments/20/Oral%20History/OH06Hill.pdf

  4. Kathy says:

    I did not have Dr. Kolenda for any classes (I’m allergic to philosophy) but my friends who did always had nothing but good things to say about him. There just seems never to be an end to the amazing stories connected with WWII. I wonder a little about what was not said in this biographical material: “during the subsequent German occupation he (Dr. K) was sent to do factory labor in Germany” and “he (Mr. Hill) learned that Konstantin had no family.” This sounds like he was a Holocaust survivor to me.

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