This page is new as of December 5, 2003. I have long wanted to start collecting stories of contemporary people who learn significant "academic" material due to unusual interest and effort, often after their formal education ends. This is a start. If you know of a story I should include, please e-mail me.
Roger Wendlick, Portland, Oregon (12/5/2003)
quote: Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I
have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.
Front page of today's Wall Street Journal:
Journey of Discovery:
Construction Worker Builds
A University's Collection;
'I Had to Have It'
By JUNE KRONHOLZ
PORTLAND, Ore. -- In 1805, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark reached the Pacific Ocean not far from here at the end of their epic journey across North America.
In 1986, Roger Wendlick embarked on his own daunting quest: to buy everything ever written about the expedition. Every book, journal, article and government record. In English, German and Dutch. From the first report by President Jefferson in 1806 to the 1979 paperback bodice-ripper about Sacagawea and beyond.
"I'm just a construction guy," says the 58-year-old Mr. Wendlick, who laid sewer lines in the Portland drizzle, never married and didn't go to college. But he needed a hobby, he says, and "there's no better story in American history" than Lewis and Clark.
That's why there is now a Roger Wendlick Collection at Lewis and Clark College here, why some of its treasures are touring the U.S. as part of the 200th anniversary of the expedition, and why Mr. Wendlick wears a badger hat to work these days.
The article goes on to describe how Mr. Wendlick inherited an eight-volume set of the Lewis & Clark journal, and ultimately began collecting every book he could find on the expedition. It continues:
"After that, I was on a mission," says Mr. Wendlick, who uses phrases like "adrenaline rush" and "chills on my spine" when he talks about book collecting.
Six days a week he worked as crew foreman, while re-financing his house three times and going $142,000 in debt on nine credit cards. Then:
Finally, in what Mr. Wendlick calls the perfect sale, he moved his Lewis and Clark library to Lewis and Clark College, which already had a small collection about the expedition and wanted more. In 1998, the college agreed to pay Mr. Wendlick $375,000 in cash and $30,000 a year for a decade, and gave him a desk in the library.
And Mr. Wendlick, wearing his badger hat and a long ermine vest, is starting a new career portraying George Drouillard, the expedition's hunter, at schools, book clubs and history groups. He charges as much as $1,000 a lecture.