If you're looking for a speaker for your club, organization or event, who are you going to call? Not sure? I have some suggestions. And, for your convenience, it's all one-stop shopping. Just check out the Kentucky Humanities Council's Speakers Bureau catalog -- online and in print. It lists 40-plus speakers who can talk about practically anything, including war, nature, culture, immigration, bees, history, politics and writing.
Many of the speakers are scholars connected to Kentucky colleges and universities, and have thoroughly researched these topics. Hometown Eastern Kentucky University is well represented.
Among the new names on the list this year is my husband, Mason Smith, a senior lecturer in EKU's English Department. He offers two topics. "The Truth Is Out There: UFOs, Monsters and Cryptids in Kentucky Lore" provides plenty of examples of reported sightings of all three in Kentucky. In a recent podcast interview with Humanities Council Executive Director, Bill Goodman, Mason mentioned his favorite cryptids: like the Pope Lick Monster, a troll-like creature who guards a train trestle in Louisville and occasionally lures people onto the tracks to their doom. Mason also shared a story from Hopkinsville about a family spooked by hauntings in their house. And, he commented on a recent Bigfoot encounter around Mammoth Cave. Truth or folklore? Book Mason to find out.
Mason's second topic is "The Who-Dun-It-Caper." He investigates the appeal, impact and influence of famous detectives, from Conan Doyle's brilliant Sherlock Holmes in London, to Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled L.A. detective, Philip Marlowe. Mason knows his fictional sleuths well since he's studied all of Holmes' cases, and wrote his dissertation on Chandler (plus named our second son, Marlowe, after the "good man in a bad town").
If history intrigues you, I can share stories about Kentucky's first female President of a higher ed institution, namely what's now EKU. From 1909-1910, fellow Iowan, Mary Creegan Roark, served as "Acting" President of Eastern Kentucky State Normal School in Richmond. She was unanimously chosen by the all-male Board of Regents to fill in for her ailing husband, Ruric, the first President of the newly created EKSNS, which was established in 1906 to better train teachers to teach. When Ruric died a few months later, Mary continued to run the school for a year. Not just as a figure head, either. She was well educated. Experienced. And articulate. With a passion for improving education in Kentucky.
The Roarks had been quite the power couple. Mary had actually taught Ruric (from Muhlenberg County) while he was a student at National Normal School in Ohio; they married after he graduated. Later, they co-directed the Glasgow, Kentucky, Normal School after the past President moved the equipment, faculty and students to Bowling Green following a funding dispute with Glasgow leaders.
When they moved to Lexington so Ruric could head the Normal School division at what's now U.K., Mary worked with suffragette Laura Clay, promoting passage of an Equal Rights Amendment, and especially the right of women to vote in school board elections.
As EKSNS "Acting" President, after her husband's death, Mary completed construction projects, increased enrollment, signed the first diplomas and earned the respect of educators, faculty and students. But it wasn't until 2015 that the "Acting" part was dropped from her title and she was rightfully recognized as a full-fledged President whose portrait now hangs with other Presidents in the Keen Johnson Building.
My second offering is "Becoming Immortal. Living Forever Through Stories." It focuses on how to start writing your Memoirs. Instead of being overwhelmed trying to write your entire life story from birth to present day, I'll suggest writing the more manageable "one memorable moment at a time," to share with family and friends.
Still looking for a good fit for your group? Other options from EKU professors include: Mike Austin (Philosophy): "Social Media and the Pursuit of Happiness," and "Cultivating Character." Carolyn Dupont (History): "Choosing a President: Understanding the Electoral College," and "Five Myths About the Civil Rights Movement." And, Jacqueline Hamilton (English): "Kentucky Faith: A Treasure Chest," and "There is an Art to Listening."
I can also recommend a speaker from Northern Kentucky: Michael Turney, former Communication Department Chair of NKU (and my brilliant brother-in-law). His topics: "World War II Was On the Air" and "Music and Musicians in the American Civil War."
There are too many others to list. So, go look for yourself at: kyhumanities.org, Speakers Bureau roster. It has all the necessary contact info for each speaker. You call them first to see if they're available on your designated date. Then you work through KHC to set it up. Pricing depends on if you are for-or-non-profit. Hopefully you'll find a match that's intriguing -- and educational.