‘Bill: An All-American Boy’ focus of May 4 Visitors Center

William Schroeder’s letters to his mother are on display in the “Bill: An All-American Boy” exhibition at the May 4 Visitor Center.

Alexandra Sobczak

An Eagle Scout, Junior Safety Patrol officer, ROTC student, lettered athlete, musician and poet: It’s easy to see why William Schroeder was seen as an all-American boy.

The third of four exhibitions featuring the lives of the four students killed on May 4, 1970, “Bill: An All-American Boy” is on display in the May 4 Visitors Center until Aug. 1.

The exhibition features Schroeder’s personal belongings from childhood through college, allowing the viewer to see various aspects of his life.

Included are letters he wrote to his mother and friends while he was away at school, poetry, photographs of him, Rolling Stones records, varsity and junior varsity letters, boy scouts’ sash, report cards and more. There is also a record player that visitors can play Rolling Stones records.

Schroeder’s sister, Nancy Tuttle, and her son, David, provided the items, personally selecting what they thought best represented Bill. They had previously been kept in a box with “KEEP FOREVER” written on the tape, which is also on display.

The idea for the series of exhibitions came a few years ago, after a student in the ‘May 4, 1970, and Its Aftermath’ course surveyed current Kent State students and found that less than 25% could name the four students that were killed.

This sparked the idea for the series for Lori Boes, the assistant director of the May 4 Visitors Center, and Mindy Farmer, the director of the May 4 Visitors Center.

“(We) really took that as a call to action,” Boes said. “We really wanted it to be about their lives, not about their deaths. We found that people really only talked about them on the day they died, and we wanted to delve much deeper and really learn who these people were.”

In addition to focusing on the lives of Bill and the other students killed, another goal of the exhibitions is for current students to get to know those killed and connect to them.

The exhibitions were designed by Glyphix Studio, which is staffed by Kent State VCD students. They analyzed Schroeder’s personal belongings and named the exhibition, further deepening the connection between current students and those killed.

The exhibition had a private opening on April 20, which Schroeder’s family attended.

Also in attendance was Mark Seeman, an anthropology professor involved in getting the May 4, 1970, shooting site its national historic landmark status. His wife, Linda Seeman, also attended the opening.

Linda has seen multiple exhibitions at the May 4 Visitors Center, which have all touched and saddened her. She was especially impacted by the large inclusion of Schroeder’s letters and writing included in his exhibit, which helped visitors get to know him further, she said.

“I was really touched by the exhibit, mainly because Bill Schroeder just seemed like the perfect guy,” Linda said. “And he still got killed.”

“Bill: An All-American Boy,” along with the exhibitions honoring the other three students killed, will be on display on campus for the 50th anniversary of May 4, 1970.

Alexandra Sobczak is a general assignment reporter. Contact her at [email protected]