Fittingly, history was made at the annual Kansas Association of Historians (KAH) conference March 25-26.
For the first time in its 94-year history, the annual conference was held at Newman University with a Newman representative serving as KAH president, Cheryl Golden.
The two-day conference featured breakout sessions, historical research presentations, roundtable discussions, keynote addresses and even the screening of a docudrama. History alumni of Newman also had the chance to reconnect with history professors Golden, who serves as director of international studies at Newman, and Kelly McFall, director of the Honors Program.
History in the heartland
With attendees visiting all the way from North Dakota, North Carolina and states surrounding Kansas, Golden said Wichita and Newman were a great choice for this year’s KAH conference venue.
“Our location, access to major highways, airports and a vibrant hotel and restaurant scene really helped,” Golden said. “Newman’s campus is the perfect size for a conference of 70-80 people. And our Newman brand of hospitality was remarked upon often.”
Several individuals with Newman connections presented over the course of the weekend.
As part of Friday’s pop culture and history session, Associate Professor and Director of Theatre Mark Mannette presented his research “The Ethics of Re-creating History for Entertainment.”
Mannette referenced ancient Greeks, Shakespeare and Friedrich Schiller along with contemporary movies and television shows to support his thesis that “people should try to come as close as possible to presenting history as it actually happened.”
“It was a great opportunity to share some of my thoughts and ideas on the subject of bringing history to life,” Mannette said. “I had just finished producing and directing ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’ and just wrapped the filming of ‘Contested Plains,’ both projects back to back, so I was able to incorporate them into my presentation.”
Later that afternoon, McFall served as a commentator during a roundtable discussion about Ukraine. He was joined via Zoom by ‘06 alumnus and Ablah Award winner Levente Nyitrai, who currently works as the foreign policy and cyber attaché of the British Embassy Budapest.
“Levente provided his own analysis of the situation in Ukraine, refugee issues, Hungary and the overall European perspective on this military crisis,” Golden explained.
Connecting with Newman, Kansas history
While Campus Ministry, ‘21 alumna Brianna Southworth and the ASC sisters teamed up to provide KAH guests with a Catholic heritage tour of the Newman campus, filmmaker Ken Spurgeon of Friends University held a screening of “Home on the Range” in the De Mattias Performance Hall.
Produced by Lone Chimney Films in association with the People’s Heartland Foundation, the film told the story of the song “Home on the Range” and the national lawsuit and search to track down its original authors.
Finally, history alumni gathered in the Tarcisia Roths Alumni Center and enjoyed an Italian buffet provided by Great Western Dining. The dinner was followed by the “Segregated History” keynote address from Mark E. McCormick, journalist and author of “Some Were Paupers, Some Were Kings: Dispatches from Kansas.”
“Our alumni social organized by Dana Beitey, director of alumni relations, allowed us to connect with many students who are now in the teaching profession, legal profession and other areas of service,” Golden said. “I am so proud to join the ranks of Sister Tarcisia and Erin Weber — both alums and faculty at Newman — to see where history has taken our students in their personal and professional lives.”
Friday’s keynote speaker also left an impression on KAH attendees.
“McCormick was powerful as he was not afraid to speak on subjects that might get left out otherwise,” Mannette said.
Professional opportunity for students
Saturday’s KAH lineup of sessions included presentations from a few students (both past and present) of Newman University.
Senior business data analytics major Julia Myers presented her research topic, “Volga German Foodways in Kansas.” Emily Maddux, a senior history major and 2021 graduate of the radiologic technology program, presented her paper “Little-Known Moments in Radiographic History,” which discussed noteworthy moments throughout X-ray history.
For Maddux, KAH weekend was her first experience presenting at a professional conference.
“It was great to work with Dr. Golden and Dr. McFall to prepare myself to speak along with professional historians,” Maddux said. “The panel I was on gave great feedback to my presentation, which I will definitely use for future presentations.”
‘21 alumnus Michael VanDeest, a first-year law student at Washburn University, presented original research in the Newman Archives on the origins of the Newman basketball program.
Efforts paid off
From the expert guidance of Laura Hartley in events management to the student workers and volunteers, Golden was thoroughly impressed with the turnout of the 2022 KAH conference.
“I had a great team to rely upon to make this all go smoothly: Laura Hartley, Dana Beitey, Georgia Drewes, Rachel Lang, Emily Simon, Kelly McFall, Mark Mannette, Father Adam, Bri Southworth, Daniel Murphy, the Business Office and Great Western,” Golden said.
She added, “I also owe thanks to all the student history majors, ambassadors and Honors Program students who helped out. The planning leadership at the KAH included folks from Wichita State University, Pittsburg State, the Kansas Historical Society and Johnson County Community College. Everyone pitched in.”
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