Experts & Witnesses | May 4 Newsroom | Kent State University

Experts & Witnesses


Jerry M. Lewis

Dr. Jerry LewisKent State University professor emeritus of sociology
Jerry M. Lewis is a professor emeritus of sociology at Kent State University. Serving as a faculty marshal in 1970, he witnessed the 1970 events first hand. He has devoted his time to researching, memorializing and lecturing since the events took place. Lewis co-authored an analysis of the May 4 shootings with Thomas R. Hensley, a professor emeritus of political science. Lewis was one of the four co-authors of the application to add the May 4 site to the National Register of Historic Places, which was approved in February 2010.

Laura Davis

Dr. Laura DavisLaura Davis is a Kent State University professor emerita of English and the founding director of Kent State's May 4 Visitors Center. She was a freshman on campus during the 1970 events. Working with university and community members, she coordinated and co-led the creation of an audio-guided walking tour of the May 4 historic site that was dedicated during the 40th anniversary.

Davis was active in developing the Kent State May 4 Visitors Center. She and Carole Barbato (1949 - 2014), professor emerita of communications studies at Kent State, co-taught the university’s May 4 course and co-chaired the 2009 Symposium on Democracy. Davis was one of the four co-authors of the application to add the May 4 site to the National Register of Historic Places, which was approved in February 2010.

Franco Ruffini

Franco Ruffini was a student at Kent on the day of the shootings.  He currently serves as deputy state historic preservation officer at the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. He oversees the Inventory & Registration, Technical Preservation Services, and Resource Protection and Review departments. Ruffini also administers the Certified Local Government program.

Thomas Grace

Thomas Grace was one of the wounded students on May 4, 1970, at Kent State University. He is a scholar and instructor of American history. He specializes in dissent and the protest movement in the 1960s and is author of “Kent State: A Legacy of Dissent, 1958-1973,” forthcoming from University of Massachusetts Press. He brings a unique perspective as a history scholar and student wounded at Kent State to contextualizing May 4 in its times. He lectures and teaches at colleges in Western New York.


Mark Seeman

Mindy Farmer

Mindy FarmerMindy Farmer is the director of the May 4 Visitors Center and an assistant professor of history.  Previously she served as the founding education specialist at the federal non-partisan Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum where she oversaw the Library's education and public programming.  She is holds a doctorate from The Ohio State University. 

Dr Farmer became the director July 1, 2014

David Hassler

David HasslerDavid Hassler is the author of two books of poems, including Red Kimono, Yellow Barn, for which he was awarded Ohio Poet of the Year 2006. He is the author of several nonfiction books as well, most recently the play, May 4th Voices: Kent State, 1970 based on the Kent State Shootings Oral History Project (The Kent State University Press, 2013). He received a BA from Cornell University and an MFA from Bowling Green State University. His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Sun, DoubleTake/Points of Entry, Indiana Review, and other journals. He speaks widely at state and national conferences on issues of poetry and education.

Cara Gilgenbach

Cara GilgenbachKent State Associate Professor and Head of Special Collections and Archives. Gilgenbach oversees and administers all departmental functions including collection development, donor relations, research and reference services, instructional services, collection processing, and programming.

Lae'l Hughes-Watkins

Lae'l Hughes-WatkinsKent State Assistant Professor and University Archivist. Hughes-Watkins oversees the University Archives program, provides effective access to historically significant records, in all formats, created by and about Kent State University. Also, plays an important role in the University’s records retention program, participates in instruction, reference assistance, and development of collections that are part of University Archives including the May 4 Collection.