Streetsboro resident and Kent State alumnus Rodney Flauhaus is planning a yearlong commemoration for the 50th anniversary of the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State.
Flauhaus was hired to serve as Kent State University’s new May 4 Commemoration project manager.
Flauhaus and the university hope to bring a strong educational component and focus on the lasting legacy.
“One thing we have been focusing on is an academic yearlong observance,” he said. “We have been working with a lot of deans and directors within Kent State to get their assistance in terms of planning strong academic programs and events, and that is going really well.”
Student organizations also are being tapped as a resource for events.
While Flauhaus said he expects many alumni to return to campus for the commemoration, he noted many of the events and programs will be open to the community at large.
May 4, 2020, falls on a Monday, the same day of the week it did in 1970, so he hopes to have a commemoration weekend, including panel discussions, workshops, guest speakers, art exhibits, concerts, theater and other programs in addition to the traditional May 4 commemorative events such as the vigil, candlelight walk and noon commemoration on May 4.
He said there are 40 educational programs and events in the planning queue for the 2020 commemoration. The School of Fashion, the School of Peace and Conflict Studies and the School of Education all are involved in some aspect.
“We have worked hard to develop an inclusive process so this is truly a universitywide event,” Flauhaus said. “And we are just getting started.”
As an alumnus, himself, Flauhaus is no stranger to the legacy and history of the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State. In 1983, Flauhaus served on the May 4 Task Force and became its president in 1985 for the 15th anniversary of the shootings. In that role, he was in charge of the 15th commemoration of the shootings.
One of the things the task force worked on during his tenure was successfully lobbying the board of trustees for a memorial, he said. The board agreed to form a committee to start plans for the memorial, which was built beginning in 1989 and dedicated in 1990. Flauhaus called the experience “humbling.”
“The May 4 Task Force is a historic organization at Kent State University, and in many ways there would not be a 50th commemoration without them,” he said. “They are the group of students who dedicated themselves over the years to keeping the history, legacy and memory of what happened very much in the forefront and were responsible for the planning.”
In 1999, Flauhaus was working on the university’s first website when he was asked to assist with the 30th commemoration.
“I got involved behind the scenes, looking at specifically how we could take May 4 online where people from around the world could interact and leave stories about what it meant to them,” he said. “It was a great way to reach out to the world about May 4 at that point.”
He said the guiding pillars he is using for the 50th anniversary include honoring and remembering those who were killed and wounded, maintaining a strong commitment to education and inspiring students in the future to use their voice for peaceful conflict resolution.
For more information about the 50th Commemoration of May 4, visit www.kent.edu/president/may4.
Reporter Briana Barker can be reached at 330-541-9432, email@example.com or @brianabarker1.