New Director Announced for Kent State’s May 4 Visitors Center
Mindy Farmer, Ph.D., has been appointed new director of the May 4 Visitors Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Kent State University, effective July 1. Farmer also will teach public history courses in the Department of History as an assistant professor starting in spring 2015. She most recently served as the founding education specialist at the federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, since 2009.
“We are excited to welcome Mindy to Kent State,” says Todd Diacon, Ph.D., Kent State’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “She brings a wealth of experience and energy, and we think she will provide outstanding leadership for the May 4 Visitors Center.”
Farmer succeeds Laura Davis, Ph.D., professor emerita of English, who retired June 30 after serving as founding director of the May 4 Visitors Center, which opened in October 2012. Davis, a Kent State freshman in 1970 who witnessed the shootings, was one of the four co-authors of the application to add the May 4 site to the National Register of Historic Places. She and Kent State University Professor Emerita of Communication Studies Carole Barbato, Ph.D., who passed away April 30, 2014, co-taught the university’s May 4 course and co-chaired the 2009 Symposium on Democracy. Working with university and community members, Davis coordinated and co-led the creation of an audio-guided walking tour of the May 4 historic site that was dedicated during the 40th commemoration.
“I am humbled to stand on the shoulders of giants,” Farmer says. “From the faculty who worked to build the center to the deans who pledged their support and the students who continue to inquire, learn and reflect, I know that this is a campus dedicated to understanding its past.”
Davis welcomes Farmer’s arrival and says, “During her interview at Kent State, Mindy Farmer commented, ‘You have to make peace with controversy. It is in such events that you become stronger critical thinkers.’ With such wisdom and knowledge, she will advance the May 4 Visitors Center as a place where students and members of the public may learn important lessons that make them stronger citizens of the democracy in which they participate.”
One of Farmer’s very first job opportunities at furthering nonpartisanship at the once private Nixon Library was to rewrite the panel on Kent State to acknowledge — in clear terms — that the National Guard was responsible for shooting the students.
“Mindy studied and taught in Ohio and is coming to Kent after an excellent period working as an education specialist at Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum,” says James Blank, Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “She has a strong commitment to public history, especially in the context of what it can tell young students about our country. This position is a natural fit for her. The biggest immediate opportunities for the center are in meeting the significant interests of such a large and diverse community both on and off campus.”
Farmer says she plans to use the events of May 4 as a teaching tool by:
- Hosting a series of issues forums to prove that forevermore no issue is too difficult to talk about on campus;
- Supporting Kent State faculty as they guide students through multidimensional learning experiences in the center to deepen their knowledge and critical thinking;
- Partnering with other archives and museums to host conferences and virtual lectures on important, relevant topics;
- Creating a student-soldier oral history program to better understand the experience of young veterans on campus; and
- Working with local school districts to create teacher workshops and ultimately increase the number of students who visit the center.
“Sometimes, it is in the difficult moments that we can learn the most,” Farmer says. “The mission of this center is to continue the conversation that started in the 1970s using the technology and issues of today. I firmly believe that Kent State should lead the national, and indeed international, discussion on how to teach and interpret the events of May 4, 1970.”
Before joining the center, Farmer’s primary mission at the federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum was to further the nonpartisanship of the once highly partisan, private institution. She played a key role in some of the Nixon Library’s most high-profile successes, including the creation of the Watergate Gallery and the first academic conference. She also worked closely with local educators on a variety of programs and oversaw the school tour program.
Farmer has taught a variety of courses at the Ohio State University and the University of Dayton. She holds a doctorate in modern United States history from The Ohio State University and a master’s in history and bachelor’s in history and social studies both from Western Kentucky University.
“The history department is excited to have Dr. Farmer join Kent State and our department as she will be teaching a public history course using the May 4 Visitors Center regularly,” says Kenneth Bindas, Ph.D., professor and chair of Kent State’s Department of History.
Farmer, a Kentucky native, recently moved from Long Beach, California, and now resides in Akron.
The May 4 Visitors Center is located in Room 101 of Taylor Hall at 300 Midway Drive on the Kent Campus. Using images, artifacts and multimedia, the center’s exhibits tell the story of the decade leading up to May 4, 1970, the events of that day, the aftermath and the historical impact.
For more information about Kent State’s May 4 Visitors Center, visit www.kent.edu/may4.