Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Day that JFK Died: Stout Reactions

It was a day that defined a generation. On November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy died from gunshot wounds he received as he rode in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. The president was pronounced dead at 1:00PM, Central Time, and Americans continue to recall where they were in the hours that followed.

The Stout Campus Reaction

On the campus of Stout State College in Menomonie, Wisconsin, students gathered in the Memorial Student Center to watch the coverage together throughout the day and evening of November 22nd, 1963.
Stout students gather in the Memorial Student Center to watch news coverage of the JFK Assassination, November 22, 1963
Classes and all planned events and activities came to a halt as the university's administration grappled with options for how to address the event. Ultimately, the campus resolved to cancel three days of classes: the day following the assassination, the national day of mourning the following Monday, and the remaining Tuesday--which was the day before Thanksgiving break. Students attended a day of classes on Saturday, January 11th, to make up for the Tuesday, November 27th closing.

A Campus Convocation in Honor of the Fallen President in Harvey Hall

On Saturday November 24th, students assembled in the Harvey Hall auditorium for a special convocation honoring the president.

In the same room, three years earlier, President Kennedy had spoken to many of the same people assembled about the importance of contributing to the better good.

For the convocation honoring the the fallen president, Stout President Bud Micheels took the stage. Students widely regarded President Micheels a a personable man who cared deeply about student activities and ideas, and they filled the auditorium to listen to his words of comfort and reflection.

President Micheels Offered Words of Comfort and a Call to Duty

The following is the complete text of the speech President Micheels delivered in Harvey Hall to the Stout State College campus community:

"These are tragic and solemn days. In this time of national crisis, it is fitting that we should meet together as an educational family and in a manner which will serve as a collective tribute to our departed president. Individually, this is a time for introspection, for reassessment and for rededication. Our way of life, our basic faiths, and our set of beliefs are being challenged in many ways and in many places, both in and out of our country.
The tragic assassination of President Kennedy brings these smoldering elements into clear focus. It
President Micheels issues his address following the JFK Assassination
serves as a signal directive to those of us in education—both student and teacher.
As you look back on these past two days, and as you witness the events that are about to unfold, may you view these experiences as significant parts of your education. There is so very much for each of us to learn at this point of time in our history.
With this in mind, I would like to ask that we all stand and bow our heads in reverence to him who is gone, and to him who now becomes our leader. President Johnson has declared next Monday as a national day of mourning. This we will observe at Stout. All college activities will be cancelled. Because this comes just before our Thanksgiving recess, I have decided also that there will be no classes on Tuesday. This decision was made after consultation with students and faculty. I am asking our student leaders to help us decide how best to cover this loss of educational time. This means that there will be no formal classes during this next week. The student center will be open, and further announcements will be forthcoming.

Stout students reflect upon the address by President Micheels, 11/24/1963
Also we had planned important student meetings for next Monday in connection with our forthcoming Stout Days. I would like Dean Pederson to explain to you now the changes we have made in these plans. In bringing this meeting to a close, may I remind you again that we are proud of you—our students. You have given us cause to be proud. I hope you will consider these next few days not as extra days of vacation, but as days wherein you view, and evaluate, our present national crisis as a vital and important part of your education. You here at Stout and students in every college and university should remind yourselves that you are here preparing to become the leaders of the future." --Stout President Bud Micheels, November 24, 1963

Stout students returned from break on Monday, December 1, 1963, and their activities and classes quickly returned to normal. The following Friday, The Stoutonia student newspaper eulogized the president with fond memories of his visit to campus and a call for readers to perpetuate Kennedy's legacy of espousing peace and justice throughout the world.

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