“There is great beauty and craft in the way things used to be made.”
Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Founder, (Retired) President of Nantucket Navigation, Inc.
Former President of the Violin Society of America
Favorite class: English literature
On his Adelphi experience: “There was a real emphasis on learning in all my classes. My teachers were superb, very concerned with each of their students.”
Advice to students: “Spend your college years broadening your horizons by studying the liberal arts. They can provide material you will feed off of for your entire life.”
Following Inspiration to a Personal Renaissance
For Hans Tausig ’89, a devoted violinist and rare book collector, the joy of collecting comes not from acquisition but from appreciation.
“I am by predilection a man of the 18th century, of a bygone era,” he quips. “There is great beauty and craft in the way things used to be made.”
As a former president of the Violin Society of America (VSA) and the current chairman of the board of the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, Mr. Tausig has been an ardent supporter of programs designed to keep traditional craft and manufacturing processes alive.
He led the VSA’s efforts to expand biannual violin and viola competitions, designed to foster a stronger corps of contemporary instrument and bow makers. Held in major cities across North America, these competitions continue to draw scores of craftsmen and musicians alike.
“String performance rests on quality instruments, and the really old ones were dying of attrition,” he says. “We succeeded almost too well. Today there is a surplus of quality instruments available to everyone, from children to professionals. This is good; after all, who can afford a Stradivarius?”
A love of chamber music, perhaps a legacy of his childhood in Vienna, brought him to the Violin Society. And a love of literature brought him to the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City and the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia.
“I started out as a ‘go for’, had myself trained to be a docent, and ended up a serious collector,” he says.
Mr. Tausig rediscovered one of his favorite novelists, Samuel Richardson, while pursuing a Master’s degree at New York University. He then set out to find a first edition of Richardson’s eighteenth century classic Clarissa. Mr. Tausig’s collection also includes several earlier pieces, such as a 15th century illuminated Book of Hours.
“It’s not just the illustrations and lettering that makes these old works so special,” he says. “Book binding itself is an art form few people know about or understand. The Rare Book School is just one way to ensure that we continue to teach people about these great artifacts. To hold an old manuscript is to touch history.”
That same fascination with the interconnection of human stories was also his favorite element of his first life in the international shipping industry. After a three-year stint in the U.S. Army, he rekindled a boyhood fascination with ocean-going ships by apprenticing himself to an international steamship brokerage company at age twenty-five.
He says. “I enjoyed knowing that the business I conducted in New York had a direct impact on the lives of people from England to Australia.”
Mr. Tausig worked in all areas of the business, as a cargo broker, an owner’s representative, and an ocean transport executive for a major American corporation before founding his own shipping company, Nantucket Navigation, Inc.
“It was a nice name,” he says. “We were ocean freight contractors carrying ore and minerals around the world. Back then shipping was a unique business; your word was your bond. We did millions of dollars of business on a handshake, and we slept well at night.”
After retiring from shipping in 1984, Mr. Tausig was able to rekindle his love for music, books, and the arts. His college journey, begun decades earlier as a self-described “college tramp,” was resurrected when he attended his daughter’s graduation.
“I was sitting in the crowd, thinking to myself, this is ridiculous, my oldest child has her first degree and I don’t,” he says. “So I enrolled at Adelphi, and then went on to a graduate degree at New York University, and a summer at Oxford. It’s been a personal renaissance, a second life; art like business gives you the opportunity to build something with your own hands.”
Mr. Tausig has truly put his hands to profound use.
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