Alumna’s plans to donate assets to School of Art

Kasey Fahey

Kent State alumna Karen Novotny-Tischer has established a trust to donate her assets, investments and art collection to the university upon her death.

“I have some specific gifts in my will,” Novotny-Tischer said. “In the trust, when everyone is gone, the remains of our estate go to Kent.”

The donation will be in honor of her parents, Elmer and Virginia Novotny. Elmer Novotny was the director of the School of Art for many years.

Novotny-Tischer graduated in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a minor in math. One year later, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education.

“I think I had a good education in art from being around it and traveling,” Novotny-Tischer said. “There was always too much competition in the art field, so I went the other direction.”

Her father was an artist, and her mother was good at history, so she liked a combination of the two.

“I sort of had to be into art,” Novotny-Tischer said. “I was surrounded by the entire staff of the School of Art, so I was immersed in art, and now I’m a collector.”

There is a scholarship in honor of her parents, said Shawn Gordon, the director for advancement for the College of the Arts. The Elmer L. and Virginia G. Novotny Scholarship Fund does not have specific guidelines for recipients.

“It’s for any student who needs help to study art, any form,” Novotny-Tischer said. “I thought about putting restrictions on it but I don’t think it’s fair.”

For spring break, Gordon is headed to Santa Fe, N.M., to visit Novotny-Tischer.

Novotny-Tischer did not enter the art field directly out of college. She worked for IBM, and then started her own consulting business. She lived in Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., before settling in Santa Fe.

“I’ve been to Santa Fe a lot, like New York City it’s jam packed full of art,” Novotny-Tischer said. “There’s a high culture index here, music theatre, opera, museums galore and wall-to-wall galleries.”

Novotny does not own a gallery, but “my house is my gallery,” she said.

She is studying photography at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop. She said she is mostly attracted to architectural things. She was inspired by her father because he gave her one of his cameras when she was 13.

“If anyone at Kent is interested in taking a class, we could put them up in the house to deter some of the cost,” Novotny-Tischer said. “There are a lot of classes with professional photographers. It is a very intense program. Sleep is not required.”

Her father Elmer was a painter. He worked with oils, watercolor, acrylic, pencil and pen and ink.

“He painted all of the Kent State presidents’ portraits that are on the second floor of the library,” Gordon said.

Elmer completed 10 presidential portraits before he died 12 years ago, well before President Lester Lefton came to Kent State. His office has not formally begun the process of finding an artist for Lefton’s portrait.

Novotny-Tischer has created a website to commemorate him. She has more than 500 pieces of his work on slides she is uploading onto the site, but they are old and each need color corrected.

Elmer starting working at Kent State in 1937, and he continued to for about 40 years. He began as a graduate assistant then moved to an instructor, then a professor, eventually leading him to the director of the School of Art position.

“My mother wouldn’t marry him unless he got a real job,” Novotny-Tischer said.

Elmer built the school from just a handful of instructors to one with a number of departments.

“It took me until I moved to Santa Fe to want to donate the trust,” Novotny-Tischer said, adding she’s not quite ready to part with her father’s work. “It’s not coming yet; I hope to live another 22 years first.”

Contact Kasey Fahey at [email protected].