‘Learning from the past is a prime consideration’

Student members of the May 4 Task Force kicked off the 40th anniversary commemoration by issuing a strong message to President Lester Lefton — items they deem “unfinished business” on behalf of the university.

The task force, which has raised awareness for May 4 since 1975, wants the university to finish building the May 4 memorial, expand the number of scholarships offered in memory of students shot May 4 and offer them to students beyond the Honors College and remove trees on top of Blanket Hill that obstruct the view into the Taylor Hall parking lot.

Task force members said the large trees give the illusion that the National Guard couldn’t see where it was firing May 4, 1970.

Afterward, May 4 community members led a solemn procession of four candles down Blanket Hill. They brought the candles — representing slain students Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, Allison Krause and William Schroeder — to the stage on the Commons.

Then, a chronology of events building up to the shootings at Kent State and Jackson State was read, setting the stage for the lineup of speakers.

Linda Walker, a music professor at Kent State and director of the Kent State Gospel Choir, spoke of another school shooting that took place ten days later at Jackson State College in Mississippi.

Walker said she was on campus when Jackson city police and Mississippi State Troopers opened fire on rioters near Alexander Hall, a women’s dormitory. Philip Lafayette Gibbs, a 21-year-old pre-law major and father of an 18-month-old son, received four gunshot wounds and died.

James Earl Greene, a 17-year-old high school student at Jim Hill High School, was also shot as he stood to observe what was happening and died. Twelve other students at Jackson State were wounded during the 30-second blast.

Clusters of people slowly stood up in respect for the ringing of the Victory Bell as Jessica Denton, treasurer of the May 4 Task Force, prepared to ring the first chime.

While silence poured over the crowd, 13 doves were released into the sky, and the eyes of veterans, alumni, activists and students gazed in approbation as the bell rang 13 times in remembrance of the 4 students killed and 9 wounded in 1970.

Sarah Franciosa

Sarah Franciosa spoke highly of Sandra Scheuer as she described the sorority sister she never knew personally, but rather through letters from sorority sisters and friends.

Franciosa, the current president of Alpha Xi Delta, wanted people to know the type of outgoing and caring person Scheuer was and how, even though she is not here today, is still changing people’s lives.

Franciosa said she thinks of her sorority sister everyday and expressed her pride in being a part of the same sorority as Sheuer.

Russ Miller

Normally, his mother takes the podium during May 4 commemoration ceremonies. But this time, it was Russ Miller’s turn.

Miller, the brother of May 4 shooting victim Jeffrey Miller, spoke about his brother yesterday.

“He was bright; he skipped a grade in school. He was a DJ for the campus radio station and a drummer,” Miller said.

He remembered the brief time the two spent together as students at Michigan State University. And he remembered the last time he saw him alive — during a double date the two shared in Manhattan.

Before his death in the Taylor Hall parking lot, Miller said he and Jeffrey often argued about what they would do when they received draft letters.

Miller said he would accept the order. Jeffrey, however, said he would leave for Canada.

“It was a time when we were constantly at odds,” Miller said.

Florence Schroeder

In 1970, Florence Schroeder was 50 years old with brown hair and two good sets of legs, she said.

Now she is 90 and has returned to Kent State — her son Bill’s alma mater — far too often in the decades since.

“It’s about all of us here,” Schroeder said.

“In 1979, the governor of Ohio reluctantly admitted that other means should have been used that day,” Schroeder said. “It was a long overdue struggle.”

Schroeder spoke about life after losing her son.

“Losing a child is difficult,” Schroeder said. “Life goes on. We have lost lives and had new ones created as well, including 12 great-grandchildren. Bill was a poet, and one of the things he wrote was ‘Learning from the past is a prime consideration.”

Barry Levine

Barry Levine was holding Allison Krause’s hand the day she died — May 4, 1970.

Levine, described as one of Krause’s closest companions, spoke for the first time at the official commemoration ceremony yesterday, just down the hill from where his friend was killed.

“She was sweet, intelligent, loving, warm, funny, giving, intelligent, bright as they come,” Levine said. “Did I say intelligent?”

Levine said May 4 is a cautionary tale about the value of free speech rights.

“It had everything to do with the right of free speech and the right to free expression,” he said. “They decided to deny her that right.”

Levine said though unfinished business still lasts from May 4, Krause would have been grateful for yesterday’s commemoration ceremonies.

“She would be thanking all of you.”

Chic Canfora

Chic Canfora, witness to the shootings and sister of Alan Canfora, who was among the injured, compared college life today to that in 1970.

She feels students today don’t have the time her generation did to engage in politics.

“Many students just don’t have the time to watch their futures being bargained away and our democracy eroding in Congress and in the courts,” Canfora said.

She believes this lack of time is “by design, not by accident.”

“You are the children of the Woodstock generation and don’t you think for a moment that corporate America did not know you were coming,” Canfora said.

She encourages students to stand up for their beliefs and fight against the world “corporate America” has created for them.

“It’s my hope that Kent State University will serve as a model of a 21st century college campus where open dialogue, public debate and righteous dissent is held in higher esteem than the interests of those who would silence

us,” Canfora said.

Joe Lewis

Joe Lewis, one of the nine students injured on May 4, 1970, spoke about how much more of a tragedy May 4 is now because of all the life experiences the four students killed never had.

“For me, the tragedy got worse year after year, and I think it’s important to think of the things that they haven’t had a chance to experience and how very, very sad that is,” Lewis said.

Mary Vecchio

Mary Vecchio, who witnessed the shootings and was the subject in the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by John Filo from May 4, 1970, said she was “honored to be standing here today.”

While Vecchio said she is “not a person who writes poems,” she felt moved enough to write one honoring those who passed on May 4.

“I feel that everyone here is an extension of my family and that the chain can’t be broken now,” Vecchio said.

Gene Young

Gene Young, who experienced the Jackson State shootings, read to the audience excerpts of poems and speeches that helped remind people that we all should have equal rights.

Young told students about the shooting at Jackson State, which happened 10 days after the one at Kent State, and how he feels close to students and families at Kent State, which, he said, is a home to him.

“I’m happy to be here because young people are here,” Young said. “We must tell young people about the history — the painful and brutal history — of this country.”

Bernadine Dohrn

One month and three years before May 4, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The greatest purveyor of violence on this earth is my own country.” Bernadine Dohrn still thinks this is true.

Dohrn, former leader of the anti-Vietnam War radical organization Weather Underground, referenced Martin Luther King Jr. several times during her speech yesterday, emphasizing his words.

“Our challenge is not nostalgia, recriminations or the past. It’s what we do today,” Dohrn said.

Dohrn listed what MLK called the three most corrosive world issues: imperial war, racism and consumerism. Dohrn added a fourth: the safety and survival of the planet and its people.


Three students received the Peter, Paul and Mary scholarship at this year’s May 4 memorial. Scott Waite, Kristina Spangler and Douglas Klingenberg each received a scholarship.

The Peter, Paul and Mary scholarship was established in 1995 when the group performed a concert on campus for the May 4 Task Force. The band donated the money they made at the concert to start the scholarship, which has been

awarded each year since. Idris Kabir Syed, the May 4 Task Force adviser, presented the scholarships.

By the end of the commemorations, students from now and then danced and sang with Country Joe. He performed “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield and brought the crowd together with music.

The above narration was written by the following members of the News Team of the Daily Kent Stater: Lydia Coutre, Kristine Gill, Simon Husted, Courtney Kerrigan, Mariana Silva, Suzi Starheim, Jenna Staul and Jackie Valley.