Biography of May 4 speakers

Bobby Seale

Bobby Seale, 73, co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in 1966.

Seale was one of the original “Chicago Eight” defendants charged with conspiracy and inciting riot in the wake of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Seale was put on trial again in 1970 in the New Haven Black Panther trials. Several officers of the Panther Party had allegedly executed a fellow Panther, Alex Rackley, because they believed he was informing for the FBI. The leader of the murder plan, George Sams Jr., testified he had been ordered to kill Rackley by Seale himself. The jury was unable to reach a verdict, and the charges were eventually dropped.

Today, Seale lives in Philadelphia, where he devotes much of his time to lecturing and R.E.A.C.H., an organization he founded to teach organizational skills to young people. According to SWINDLE, a pop-culture magazine, Seale still worries about the resurgence of extreme Black Nationalist groups in America, two of which use “Black Panthers” in their name. Seale said as far as he’s concerned, the Panthers were less about skin color and more about human liberation as a whole. “Remember: the Black Panthers stood for all power, to all the people,” he said.

Gerald Casale

Gerald Casale, 61, is the bass guitar/synthesizer player, a vocalist, and one of the founding members of the new wave band Devo, famous for the hit song “Whip It.”

Casale was an art major at Kent State in the late 1960s. He knew two of the May 4 shootings victims, Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause, and was near Krause when she was shot. Casale told, an online music magazine, that May 4, 1970, was the day he stopped being a hippie.

“It was just so hideous,” he said. “It changed everything: no more mister nice guy.”

Together with Bob Lewis and Mark Mothersbaugh, Casale used the shooting as a catalyst to develop the concept of Devolution, and formed the band Devo in 1973.

Today, Casale still plays with Devo. The band performed at the 2010 Winter Olympics and in an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! in April.

Mary Vecchio

Mary Vecchio, 53, was the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph by Kent State photojournalism student John Filo in the aftermath of the May 4 shootings.

Vecchio was a 14-year-old Florida runaway when the photograph was taken. In 1990, Vecchio told the Orlando Sentinel newspaper that the image haunted her with unwanted publicity.

“’It really destroyed my life, and I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.

Vecchio also refused to take part in the annual remembrances at the Kent State campus.

”Big deal,” she said. ”It has nothing to do with my life.”

Since then, Vecchio has come around. She met Filo for the first time in 1995 and appeared at Kent State the same year for the 25th annual May 4 commemoration. Vecchio spoke at last year’s commemoration, where she met Filo again—their first time meeting on Kent State’s campus.

John Filo

John Filo, 61, took the 1971 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of 14-year-old runaway girl Mary Ann Vecchio, crying while kneeling over the body of 20-year-old Jeffrey Miller, one of the victims of the May 4 shootings. Filo was a photojournalism major at Kent State.

In 2000, Filo described taking the photograph in an interview with CNN.

“I noticed a particular guardsman pointing at me,” he said. “I said, ‘I’ll get a picture of this,’ and his rifle went off.”

Filo said he dropped his camera and ran. Then he stopped and said to himself, “Where are you going? This is why you are here!”

He returned to the scene and captured the famous photograph of Vecchio.

Filo continued his career in photojournalism. He has worked for the Associated Press, Newsweek and currently works for CBS.

Gene Young

Gene Young, 59, was a civil rights activist, student leader and witness to the May 14, 1970, Jackson State shootings.

In the 1960s, Young was arrested twice for his participation in civil rights demonstrations in Jackson, Mississippi. He attended multiple protests, including the historic “March on Washington,” where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

Young was a sophomore at Jackson State during the shootings, in which police opened fire on student protestors, killing two and injuring 12. John Peoples, former Jackson State president, credits Young with calming a crowd of students in the aftermath.

Since then, Young has worked in numerous academic and administrative positions at Jackson State University and in the Jackson community. In 2000, he told the Associated Press he hopes Jackson State will do a better job educating a new generation about the shootings, saying thousands turned out for ceremonies at Kent State, but fewer than 50 attended a candlelit vigil at Jackson State.

Russ Miller

Russ Miller, 63, is the older brother of Jeffrey Miller, one of the students who was killed in the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State.

Shortly before his death, Jeffrey transferred to Kent State from Michigan State University. While at Michigan State, Jeffrey pledged Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, where Russ had been a member. After Russ graduated from Michigan State, Jeffrey felt increasingly out of touch with those he knew there and transferred to Kent State in Fall 1969.

Russ now has two children, one of them named after Jeffrey. He continues to travel and speak about his brother and the May 4 shootings.

Florence Schroeder

Florence Schroeder is the mother of William (Bill) Schroeder, one of the students who was killed in the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State.

Florence said she made mistakes raising Bill, but said she does not feel guilty about his death, according to a letter she wrote to J. Gregory Payne, author of the 1981 book “Mayday: Kent State.”

“I am proud that he made the decision to be a part of the activity that day, and that he did not hide his true feelings about war in Vietnam,” she said.

According to, Florence also received hate mail after Bill’s death, with phrases such as, “They should all be shot, then we’d have a better U.S.A. to live in,” and, “Be thankful he is gone; just another communist.”

Joseph (Joe) Lewis

Joseph (Joe) Lewis, 58, was one of the students wounded in the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State.

Lewis was the student closest to the National Guard — about 60-70 feet away. He was standing still with his middle finger extended when bullets struck him.

In 2002, Lewis told the Daily Kent Stater he thought the guardsmen’s rifles were loaded with blanks, until he felt a bullet hit his midsection.

“I flew back, having been shot deliberately,” he said.

Lewis was lying on the ground when another guardsman shot him in the foot.

He said he speaks about May 4 because any of the four killed would have done the same.

“Each year the tragedy becomes worse because as my life experiences become greater, they (the dead) stay frozen in time,” Lewis said.

Roseann “Chic” Canfora

Roseann “Chic” Canfora, 59, is a witness to the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State, and sister of Alan Canfora, who was shot in the wrist.

Alan was carrying a black flag and was the student activist who walked closest to the National Guard when it was on the field behind Taylor Hall.

In a 2009 interview with Democracy Now!, Chic said she tried to get Alan off the field. When he refused, she hid in the Prentice Hall parking lot until the gunfire stopped.

She said she then started running toward the body of Jeff Miller, praying it wasn’t Alan, when one of Alan’s friends stopped her and told her Alan was shot.

“It was surreal at that moment to see people lying dead,” she said. She said the most shocking part was watching the soldiers turn and walk away as students laid dying.

“These armed soldiers that were sent to this campus to protect life and property just took life and walked away,” she said.

Lama Surya Das

Lama Surya Das (born Jeffrey Miller), 59, is one of the country’s top Western Buddhist meditation teacher-scholars and spiritual activists.

Surya Das set foot on the path to Buddhism after his close friend, Allison Krause, and another acquaintance were shot and killed during the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State.

He said it was “very traumatic, a confusing and difficult time for me — for all of us,” in a 2007 interview with the University of Buffalo’s online magazine.

Surya Das is the first American, fully ordained Tibetan Buddhist lama, and his many teachers include the Dalai Lama, with whom he retains a close, personal relationship.

Tibetan Buddism “is a wisdom practice concerned with spiritual transformation, awaken-ing, growth and ethics,” Surya Das said.

He said it has given him great happiness, knowledge of his true nature and a sense of his place in the world.

Bernardine Dohrn

Bernardine Dohrn, 68, is the former leader of the anti-Vietnam War radical organization Weather Underground.

In the late 1960s, Dohrn became one of the leaders of the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM), a radical wing of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In 1969, Dohrn helped issue a manifesto entitled “You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows.” The manifesto stated that “the goal (of revolution) is the destruction of U.S. imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism.”

The 1969 SDS convention splintered and ended the organization, and members of the RYM formed Weatherman, which later became known as Weather Underground.

Weather Underground worked to build a revolutionary communist party to lead the working class to seize power and build socialism. During the 1970s, the “Weathermen” bombed federal buildings and police stations.

In 1980, Dohrn turned herself into the police and received less than a year of jail time.

Now, she is an associate law professor at Northwestern University School of Law, and the director of Northwestern’s Children and Family Justice Center. She is married to Bill Ayers, co-founder of the Weather Underground.

Mark Rudd

Mark Rudd, 62, was president of the Columbia University chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and was involved with the radical communist organization Weather Underground.

In 1969, the annual SDS convention splintered and ended the organization, so Rudd and other members formed Weatherman, a self-proclaimed “organization of communist women and men” intent on overthrowing the government through violent action. Weatherman later became known as Weather Underground.

During the 1970s, the “Weathermen” bombed federal buildings and police stations, and Rudd was involved in events such as the 1969 Days of Rage riots in Chicago and the 1970 Greenwich Village townhouse explosion, a premature detonation of a bomb as Weathermen were assembling it.

Rudd turned himself in to the police in 1977. He now travels the country in support of the newly reborn SDS.

Sanford Rosen

Sanford Rosen was the attorney for the dead and wounded students of the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State.

Rosen came to the case in 1977, during an appeal to the federal court on several civil cases that had already taken place.

Ultimately, the wounded and families of the dead received $675,000 as compensation for their injuries in 1970. The money was divided between them based on the severity of each injury, and families of the dead received $15,000 each.

The 27 National Guardsmen who were defendants in the case also wrote a statement reading, “In retrospect the tragedy of May 4, 1970, should not have occurred…We deeply regret those events and are profoundly saddened by the deaths of four students and the wounding of nine others which resulted.”

Today, Rosen is a senior partner at the San Francisco law firm Rosen, Bien & Galvan.