Author comes to Newman to present keynote


Author Gary Jenkins will present a keynote talk, “The Abolitionist and the Border Ruffian: A Conflict Between Higher Law and Secular Law,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, in the Performance Hall in De Mattias Fine Arts Center at Newman University. The event is free and open to the public.

Each year, the Newman University Traditions and Transitions (T&T) freshman class participates in a “common reading” the summer before their semester begins. Traditionally, the author of the common reading is invited to speak at Newman in order to give the students, and the community, an opportunity to discuss the book’s topic and how it relates to today’s world.

This year’s book was “The Immortal 10: A Story from the Kansas Underground Railroad,” written by Jenkins.

Jenkins was a former Intelligence Unit detective with the Kansas City Police Department and retired in 1996 after a 25-year career. He attended the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and graduated in 2000. He was admitted to the Missouri Bar and he continues to practice law today. Jenkins has produced four documentary films, authored three books and currently produces and co-hosts his own true crime podcast, “Gangland Wire Crime Stories.”

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Cover art for “The Immortal 10,” by Gary Jenkins.

“The Immortal 10” tells the story of a trip up the Kansas Underground Railroad ending with the rescue of 10 Kansas men.

Rosemary Niedens, Newman University associate vice president for academic affairs, said the freshman class will have the opportunity to ask the author questions about the book they read during the summer.

“The common reading is a very unique experience for freshmen to be able to interact with published authors. Over the years, they’ve been able to talk in depth with them where they wouldn’t have that opportunity to do so. They prepare questions ahead of time to ask the author during their time together.”

Niedens said this particular book offers many great conversation starters based on three noticeable themes.

“The first theme we pick up from the book is, ‘Does the end justify the means?’ There is a part in the book during which the characters talk about God being on their side, even if they have to kill to get the result they want. So we ask the students to explore that and really discuss what that theme means to them.”

The other themes include “media responsibility” when telling stories and the topic of refugees and asylum seekers, she said.

“What makes the book so relevant,” explained Niedens, “are the three primary themes that are transferable to current times. Those themes spark conversations which students can have in an intellectual and academic way. So we allow the historical piece to inform conversations that are going on now.”

Students will have two opportunities to hear and meet Jenkins.

“The author will hold a special session during the day just for the students. If they can’t make it to that session, they can come to the evening public event.”

For more information, contact Niedens at (316) 942-4291, ext. 2137 or niedensr@newmanu.edu.



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