The new May 4 Visitors Center at Kent State University opens to the public during Homecoming festivities Saturday, and those who created it hope those who walk through it leave educated about a watershed moment in U.S. history.
The center, located at Taylor Hall in the former Daily Kent Stater offices, tells the turbulent story of the 1960s and the atmosphere that led up to the shootings on May 4, 1970 that left four students dead and nine more wounded by Ohio National Guard fire.
Laura Davis, one of four faculty members who worked to develop the new visitors center, said she wants the people who visit the three-part center to take the knowledge they gain and apply it to the May 4 Walking Tour and other elements of the shootings site on campus.
"If we want to preserve the principles of a democratic society, we can learn from May 4 as a cautionary tale," Davis said. "What's illustrated very clearly is that young people can make a difference."
Regular visitor hours will start after the center debuts to the public Saturday.
Meet the three people interviewed in our video:
- Jerry Lewis: an emeritus professor at Kent State, Lewis was on campus at the time of the shootings 42 years ago. Lewis was one of four faculty members who worked to get the 17-acre site encompassing the area of the shootings on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Dean Kahler: a student at Kent State in 1970, Kahler was one of the nine students hit and injured by gunfire from the Ohio National Guard troops. Kahler is a regular fixture at the annual commemoration of the shootings on each May 4.
- Mark Seeman: a professor at Kent State, Seeman worked with Lewis, Davis and fellow professor Carole Barbato on the application to the National Register. He worked with the same three faculty members to develop the walking tour and new visitors center.