Lorna Kardatzke is the woman with a plan – a plan to keep Louisiana Tech’s students, faculty and staff yearning for more.
More historical documents, that is. In February, Kardatzke loaned letters penned by Charles Dickens to the university, and one of them was discovered to have been unpublished.
“I’ve been in touch with Leon Litvack, one of the editors of the Dickens letters, and he was the first one to tell me that the letter was unknown,” said Dr. Rick Simmons, director of the Center of Educational Excellence and an associate professor of English. “He confirmed it and was really excited.”
Simmons said it looks like the additional Dickens letter Tech received from Kardatzke is another uncataloged Dickens letter.
He added that Tech now has handwritten documents by all three notable 19th-century British Poet Laureates – Robert Southey, William Wordsworth and Alfred, Lord Tennyson – in the collection.
“I can’t imagine there are many places in the world that have the work of these three men in their own handwriting in the same room,” Simmons said. “Other than a few years at the beginning and the end of the century, those three men were Poet Laureates during the majority of the 19th century.”
Kardatzke and her husband Jon visited Tech’s archives, located on the fourth floor of Prescott Memorial Library, on Thursday, March 12 to see the Dickens letters displayed, along with other items they have loaned the university, including a 17th century biography of Queen Elizabeth and several other framed and matted letters written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Wordsworth and several others.
“It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful,” Kardatzke said when viewing the display, which is open to the public. “I’m really thrilled to see it. All of these are very dear to my heart, but the university is very dear, too.”
Kardatzke’s father, Frellsen Smith, taught technical writing at Tech from 1938 to1972 and was replaced by Dr. Ed Jacobs, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
“This is so great for Louisiana Tech,” said Dr. Donald Kaczvinsky, director of the School of Literature and Language. “This quality of documents in North Louisiana is great. I’m bringing my students here every single quarter.”
Kardatzke has collected letters and documents written by a variety of literary greats, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert Frost, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Byron and several others. She even gave a letter written by Mark Twain to Dr. Pat Garrett, an English professor, who loaned the document to Tech’s archives. Peggy Carter, university archivist, said the items on loan were of great value to the university.
“We’re so thankful and excited to fill this room with items (they’ve) collected over the years,” Carter said.
The Kardatzkes founded the Museum of World Treasures, which displays their historical collection of various world documents and artifacts, some which Jon Kardatzke started collecting when he was 16 years old.
“I consider Ruston home and always will,” Lorna Kardatzke, who lived in Ruston as a child, said. “To be part of the Tech scene is really exciting for me. To have this connection to Tech is very important and special, and I will continue to bring signed manuscripts as long as they want them.”
She added, “We will bring more.”
Written by Judith Roberts