Remembering May 4 kicks off with Jerry M. Lewis Lecture


Lillie Leasure

Jerry Lewis speaking on Monday, May 2 at the Jerry M. Lewis May 4 Lecture and Luncheon.

Mariah Alanskas, Reporter

The commencement of the Jerry M. Lewis Lecture series and luncheon not only honored emeritus professor Lewis, a witness to the May 4, 1970 shootings, but also centered on recognizing and memorializing the tragic events and heroic efforts of that day.


Tammy Clewell, a Kent State English professor, author and editor, was the honoree for this year’s lecture. Her talk, “Remembering the Contested May 4 Memorializing Process,” focused on the process, hardships and outcome of the May 4 memorial.

English Professor Tammy Clewell speaking on Monday, May 2 at the Jerry M. Lewis May 4 Lecture Series and Luncheon. (Lillie Leasure)


She describes the current memorial by Bruno Ast, a Chicago architect, as created to be a reflective space rather than a political stance.


“Ast’s winning design notable for its abstract form does not praise the students as democratic freedom or accuse them of anti-American rioting,” Clewell said during her lecture. “Nor does it console the guards as protectors of law and order or denounce them as murderous abusers of power. Rather, his design offers a reflective space that makes the memorial’s meaning dependent upon the visitor.”


Clewell, although not present at Kent State during the shootings, explained why the events of the tragic day were important to her.


“I was eight years old in 1970, and I come out of a generation of questioners of people who want a world open for more people to thrive and flourish,” she said. “And for me, the lessons of May 4 tap into that.”


The event featured the film, “American Heartbreak,” a piece about May 4 hero, Professor Glenn Frank. Frank was credited with saving countless student lives.


Thomas Grace, one of the nine wounded Kent State students and survivors, explained his connection to the lecture series, its background and what it meant to the memory of the shooting.


“I know professor Lewis from having been involved in the anti-war movement here, and he was at one point the faculty advisor to the May 4 task force,” Grace said.


The May 4 task force is a student-led organization aimed at spreading awareness and dedicating time to informing students, community and faculty members of the tragic shooting. It was created in response to a lack of justice for those affected by May 4.


Grace also mentioned the background behind the series and how it got started.


“A man who was a former trustee to Kent State University by the name of Michael Solomon underwrote this lecture series that’s named in professor Lewis’s honor,” Grace said. “He donated one-hundred thousand dollars.”


Grace explained how an essay is selected among faculty members to be honored as the inaugural lecturer. He also explained what this does to honor figures like Michael Solomon and professor Lewis.


“It’s a real contribution to what Michael Solomon has done to scholarship about the May 4 shootings,” Grace said. “It’s also a wonderful way of honoring professor Lewis who has dedicated so much of his life to protecting students at Kent State and furthering the memory of the four people who were killed here. He’s entirely deserving of this honor.”


Clewell’s research can be further viewed at the May 4 Visitors Center through her exhibit, Remembering the Contested May 4 Memorializing Process.


For more information regarding the lecture series and upcoming May 4 memorial events visit the website here.


Mariah Alanskas is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].