He was a textile apprentice from Germany working at #2 Savile Row in London’s “golden mile of tailoring”. His landlady often hosted literary gatherings at her boarding house with faculty from Cambridge University. Young Werner Kofler T’03 G’05 attended these gatherings, little knowing how extraordinary this opportunity was or how he would one day create similar opportunities.
After retiring from a fifty-year career in the garment industry, Werner Kofler earned his D.Litt. degree from the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies. As a student, he valued the thought-provoking and informal dialogue –about literature and one’s own efforts at writing–that characterizes the Arts & Letters program. However, Werner observed that, while alumni from the undergraduate college and the seminary develop lasting bonds with their former classmates, Caspersen students generally dispersed after graduation. “I think it is important for graduate alumni to continue to be in conversation,” observes Werner.
Werner felt so strongly about this need that he endowed a fund for the Arts & Letters Salon. Since the salons began in 2011, there have been four programs presented by Drew faculty, alumni and guest speakers on topics ranging from Oscar Wilde to Scarlatti. Werner thinks of this program as a modern-day incarnation of literary groups in the early 20th century, such as the “Inklings” frequented by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis or Edith Wharton’s circle in New York. Bob Ready, Dean of the Caspersen School, observes that “the Arts & Letters Salons are much like the student experience in the Arts & Letters program: the rule in both is constant surprise.”