News and Events: Archive:

Spirited Salesman Gets Rutgers Spirit,
Donates Vast Book Collection to Libraries

Ted Task (center) with Aaron and Evie.
Photo by Steve Hockstein/Harvard Studio.

Most people don't get asked in an important job interview "What (kind of alcoholic beverages) do you drink?" For Ted Task, a fortuitous answer to that question helped launch him into a successful sales career that spanned over 45 years.

A military veteran who served in Korea from 1953 - 1954, Ted had already worked in the hotel and restaurant business since his early teens while growing up in New Hampshire. He tried working in sales in a few fields in the Boston area, after returning from the service, but didn't find a position that really excited him.

Responding to a job ad from a whisky distiller, Brown Forman at Louisville, in KY, Ted landed an interview. When asked the pivotal question "What do you drink?" he answered "bourbon" and identified a brand, Old Forester, which was a Brown Forman product. Noticing the interviewer's eyes light up, Ted added that if the company wanted to verify his drinking preferences they could call two local taverns he frequented. The interviewer promptly called bartenders at both establishments, verified that Ted's tale was true, and recommended him for the job.

After training in Louisville, Ted returned to the Boston area and started a career in wine and spirits sales that led to progressively more responsible positions in different companies across the United States. Along the way he was exposed to many different facets of the field and developed a particular expertise for the history, significance, and best uses for different wines.

Early in his career Ted decided that one sure fire way to gain an edge on the competition was to read every book about wine, beer, bourbon, and whisky that he could get his hands on. He began searching for books on all aspects of alcoholic beverages and food. In the early 1960's he purchased a coverless book from a used bookstore in Dover, New Jersey that discussed winemaking and looked interesting.

Ted learned later that this nondescript volume, The History of Ancient and Modern Wines by Alexander Henderson, was actually the first English-language book on winemaking ever printed and was published in England in 1824. Charmed by the value of his find, he had it rebound and decided to collect more rare and unique old books on wine and spirits.

Driven by his love for the field and his unceasing taste for more information, Ted eventually assembled a library of more than 300 hardback and softcover publications, as well as other related items on his field. A number of the volumes dated from the early 19th century to the early 20th century and many were quite significant.

After 40 years in the industry, Ted began his retirement. But he had no intentions of slowing down or bottling his love of wine. He currently teaches at L'Academie De Cuisine, a culinary school in the Washington, DC area offering courses for aspiring chefs and for non- professionals. He has taught classes entitled "Wine to Glass," "The Next White Wine," "South African Wines," and other focused, specialty courses on wine history, appreciation, and best uses. He continues to travel widely and makes a point of visiting wineries and vineyards in countries all over the globe. To round out his roster of activities, he also serves as president of his condominium association in Rockville, MD.

Retiring did slow down one activity in Ted's life, however - his book collecting. After a few years, he decided that it was a good time to find a happy home for the collection he had amassed.

Ted already had close ties to Rutgers because his daughter Evie (LC/SCILS '87) and son Aaron (RC'90) had graduated from the university and begun successful careers of their own. In her post as senior alumni relations officer for the Rutgers School of Law-Newark, Evie built on Ted's affinity for Rutgers by inviting him to run wine tastings for her alumni association. Ted's wine tastings became a minor cottage industry for Rutgers; he conducted events for the law school alumni in October 2001 and April 2003, for major donors to the University in the spring of 2002, and for the university-wide Rutgers Club of Philadelphia in June 2003.

To top it all off, Ted recently donated an in-home wine tasting for ten people, which was paired with a catered dinner and auctioned at the second annual Rutgers School of Law-Newark golf outing at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ in September.

As Ted pondered how to make the best use of his formidable library, Evie offered a suggestion that resonated: Why not donate it to the Rutgers University Libraries? Evie assured him that the Libraries would be interested in his wine and spirits library and related that, as she understood, the Libraries are receptive to book donations that are not in their established collection areas.

Ted decided to donate what he lovingly calls "A Wine Guy's Personal Wine Library" to the Rutgers University Libraries. To recognize Ted's generosity the Libraries will add colorful bookplates, designed by Ted, to each book in the collection to signify their dedication by Ted in honor of Evie and Aaron.

The Libraries are delighted to receive this vintage collection, which will serve as a unique resource for the Alcohol Studies Library, Special Collections and University Archives, and other elements of the Libraries' system. The Libraries thank Ted Task for sharing the bountiful fruits of his personal/professional collecting habit with students and scholars for many, many years to come.

Posted October 24, 2005