Twice each year, when seniors read Russian novels as part of the seminar curriculum , Thomas Aquinas College’s Lithuanian librarian, Viltis Jatulis , hosts a soirée, like those portrayed in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace . The centerpiece for these gatherings is an elegant vessel — a century-old Russian samovar.
The samovar, a copper urn used for heating water and serving tea, and its accoutrements come from St. Petersburg, where they were made in 1906. They are the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Shore, local ranchers who are members of the President’s Council . The Shores presented the samovar to the College in 1996, and Mrs. Jatulis has been using it to entertain seniors and their tutors ever since — as she did last week in honor of their discussion of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov . The samovar sits on an ornate drop-leaf burl wood table, also a gift of the Shores, which is used each year at Commencement to hold the graduates’ diplomas.
Through the generosity of the Shores and the creativity of Mrs. Jatulis, the College’s students are given a taste — literally! — of the life and times described in two of the great novels they read as part of the College’s unique curriculum.