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Prepared by Laura Lentz 1992; Revised and prepared for the Web by Nancy Birk, July 9,1996; Updated April 2016
5 record storage boxes, 5 cubic feet, oversized materials, 11th floor
Scope and Content
The Helen Kovach Gildzen Autographs collection was donated to the Department of Special Collections and Archives on 11 March 1992 by Helen Kovach Gildzen. The collection was created by Mrs. Gildzen, whose hobby was autograph-collecting. She would typically send a specially designed card with a letter to celebrities around the world requesting a signature. The signers were some of the world's greatest statesmen, artists, athletes and entertainers and included such people as mystery writer Elmore Leonard, artist Andy Warhol, ice skater Christopher Bowman, filmaker Spike Lee, designer Stavropoulos and the former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto. Many of the signed cards are accompanied by photographs. Often an autograph was accompanied by something extra. Feminist Germaine Greer not only signed the card, but "authenticated" scratches made in the card by her cat. Composer Lee Hoiby added a stanza of music. Astrophysicist Fang Lizhi signed his name in both Chinese and English.
Helen Kovach Gildzen was born on September 14, 1921 in Akron, Ohio. She grew up in Lorain, Ohio, and was married to Alex (Al) Gildzen in 1942. They had a son, Alex Gildzen, who was born on April 25, 1943. Mrs. Gildzen, a homemaker, resided in Elyria, Ohio, for many years until her death, at the age of 94, on April 4, 2016.