Posted on Mon, Jun. 11, 2007

Yale not adding to May 4 artifacts

Personal documents of late KSU president need permanent home

Beacon Journal staff writer

When distrust of Kent State was seething in some quarters 30 years ago, Yale University filled an important void.

The prestigious Ivy League school created a Kent State collection, where controversial memorabilia of the May 4, 1970, shootings could be kept in an impartial depository.

But as time has passed and some mistrust has melted, officials at Yale's Sterling Library have quietly closed the collection to new submissions.

That leaves the KSU president who has perhaps the closest ties to the tragedy without a home for his personal papers.

Paul Keane has been lobbying Yale officials to accept the personal papers of the late Glenn Olds, who was president of Kent State from 1971 to 1977.

The resident of Hartford, Vt., has argued that Olds was an alumnus of Yale -- he received a doctorate in philosophy there -- and Olds showed ``moral courage'' by speaking at a colloquium there that christened the collection in 1977.

``History requires no less than scholarly preservation of the totality of Dr. Olds' papers for future research,'' Keane said. ``It's wrong that his papers are going to end up in a dustbin somewhere.''

He has Olds' widow, Eva, in his corner. ``Yale is where he got his doctorate,'' she said. ``He always wore his Yale gown to all commencements, and it would be more appropriate to have his materials there.''

But Yale University librarian Alice Prochaska said that while the university will continue to maintain its Kent State collection -- which takes up 72 ¼ linear feet of shelf space -- there is no reason not to forward new submissions to Kent State.

``We know the archives at Kent State are very, very professionally maintained and are open to anyone,'' she said. ``A lot of time has passed.''

Olds came to KSU as its seventh president. He was there for much of the turmoil in the aftermath of May 4: trials, numerous books, indictments of some Ohio National Guardsmen and a special state grand jury investigation.

Although his official materials as KSU president are owned by Kent State and although the university has its own robust collection of May 4 materials, some alumni, officials, writers and parents of slain and wounded students decided that only a disinterested bystander such as Yale could be trusted to handle their personal collections.

``I believed that Kent State could not act with academic responsibility on this one issue,'' Keane said. ``It was too politicized.''

Yale set up the collection in 1977 at the request of Keane, who was a master's degree student at Kent State at the time of the shootings, and of Peter Davies, whose detailed account of the shooting became the cornerstone of the 72 feet of shelf materials.

Kent State expressed dismay about the 1977 decision, according to an Akron Beacon Journal article at the time. The KSU archivist, Leslie Stegh, said the university had made a ``rational proposal'' to secure the materials, although it hadn't ``begged.''

Others bypassed Kent State as well.

In 1985, U.S. District Judge William K. Thomas ordered one Ohio National Guard rifle, pistol and gas mask -- all evidence in a civil trial in Cleveland -- to be turned over to Yale. Lawyers representing the victims of the shootings shipped 100 cartons of court and FBI documents to Yale in 1988.

But all that is, well, history now.

Cara Gilgenbach, head of special collections and archives at KSU, said the integrity of Kent State's May 4 collection never has been an issue, at least in her 11 years at the university.

``I don't share Paul's concern, but I don't know what it was like in the 1970s,'' she said. ``If the offer was made to us, we would seriously consider accepting Dr. Olds' materials.''

Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or

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