Keil Hileman believes that the best way to teach students history is to bring the history to them.
NBC’s Left Field, a studio that creates documentaries for social media, recently visited Hileman, d’93, g’96, at Monticello Trails Middle School in Shawnee, Kansas. The segment featured his “Classroom Museum,” a room full of artifacts that began as a personal collection and continues to grow due to community support.
As the video racks up views and shares, we reached out the KU alumnus to hear more about NBC’s visit, his time at KU, and his goals for his students.
What was it like having NBC visit your classroom?
It was a great adventure for my students and I. We had a great time meeting two amazing videographers. They have traveled the world doing stories and chose to come see what we do in our “Classroom Museum” each day. Very cool honor for all of us and our community.
What have people been saying as the video gains in popularity?
There have been lots of new artifact donations and people offering to help financially. The museum budget is currently ¼ of what it used to be so any artifacts or support is appreciated. My emotion and compassion for my students has really struck a chord with people across the country. They see how much a teacher can care about their students…. and why. My favorite connection so far has been with teachers who want to know how to start their own museums and artifact collections. It’s very exciting to see a cool idea spread.
What influences your teaching style?
I have worked hard to simply teach my students in the most effective ways for 25 years. If what I was doing did not work, I threw it away and found a better way to connect my students to the history of the world around them. I continue to use unanswered questions as a way to guide my student’s problem solving and analysis skills. This was a valuable lesson taught to me by Dr. Joe O’Brien, an amazing and awarding-winning teacher in the KU School of Education. He changed my life and allowed me to go on and change the lives of my students by opening their minds, touching their hearts and defining their dreams.
What do you hope students take away from your class?
I want my students to become lifelong learners. I want them to find a passion for something and hold on to it. I want their passion to fuel their life experiences. We have a museum credo… or belief statement:
Explore… Empower… Excel… Explore your World Empower yourself and others Excel in everything you do
Keil E. Hileman is one of 50 teachers profiled and celebrated in the book, “American Teacher: Heroes in the Classroom,” by Katrina Fried. The publisher notes three intentions: “To bring everyone interested in America’s future into 50 classrooms to experience public education first hand; to inspire other teachers through sharing ideas, innovations and successes; and to inspire administrators, parents and policy makers to listen deeply to the thoughts expressed by these teachers about education. Hileman was the Kansas Teacher of the Year in 2004. He was also featured in the Winter 2004 and Fall 2012 issues of the The Jayhawk Educator, a publication of the KU School of Education.
Judging simply by what page he was on, Kip Reiserer knew what his major should have been. Every time he came to the “Hitler and Nazi Germany” class led by Instructor Sam Newland, g’81, PhD’83, Reiserer drilled further into the textbook—and further away from his classmates.
“I had friends in the class, and nobody else read it,” Reiserer says. “I read really, really close to the whole thing.”
Reiserer, j’10, now combines the degree he did earn (broadcast journalism) with the interest he could not leave (World War II) for a social media following that has reached more than 150,000. On most days, Reiserer post two to four World War II photos and captions to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, illustrating for the young minds of the 21st Century the conflict that ripped humanity in half 75 years ago.
He has yet to monetize any of his accounts, but he posts at a heavy volume because what he broadcasts feels crucial to him, especially at a moment in history like the present.
“I do it because I think it’s important,” he says. “I don’t fully understand how the majority of an entire country could be swept by madness and change the world that much.”
A native of the Dallas suburb of Copell, Reiserer has long been enthralled by what may have been the most significant conflict in history. Although he did not want to make a career out of teaching its history, Reiserer found he had talent in the field of social media advertising and used his online feeds to merge the two.
In all three of his accounts, Reiserer posts a single photo or short video, accompanied by matter-of-fact captions. He never inserts an opinion and does not engage in political banter. His followers supported both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton last fall, and Reiserer’s posts leave room for readers to make their own comparisons between past and present leaders.
Reiserer’s interest in WWII began when he watched “Saving Private Ryan” as a young teenager. His appetite grew after viewing other films about the conflict and his mother started buying documentaries on VHS tape.
“There was a running joke in high school, that it was all I would watch on TV,” he says. “It was so foreign to me, and I didn’t know anything about Europe or the Pacific.”
Shortly after graduating from KU, Reiserer moved to Kansas City. Needing a job, he put his broadcast degree to use in an unexpected way by starting a Twitter account for other journalists seeking employment; @KCJournalismJobs grew to 1,349 followers, and he quickly found that part of the key to social media success is specificity. He would put that lesson to use for his next online hobby.
Reiserer says he never read much, until his mother gave him a copy of a 655-page tome of WWII trivia. He started devouring Don McCombs and Fred Worth’s World War II: 4,139 Strange and Fascinating Facts, and was so excited about what he was learning that he wanted to share his findings. In summer 2012, after moving to Chicago, where he works in social media advertising, he realized that he could.
“What if I just created a Twitter account, and just started tweeting facts and photos?”
So he tweeted his way through most of the Strange and Fascinating Facts, then began looking for new sources. No problem: The internet is overflowing with people who want to talk about World War II.
“I had a seemingly unlimited amount of content that appealed to people all over the world,” he says.
Much of what he published came from other World War II-themed sites, but his journalism education reminded him that plenty of the material floating along the bitstream is dubious. The list of followers was growing, and fact-checking before tweeting became a boring but rewarding task.
“You can go down rabbit holes on Wikipedia,” Reiserer says. “Or, I’m looking at somebody’s crappy WordPress blog, but it’s got one great photo—but where did it come from?”
Maintaining a healthy tweet rate, keeping his facts reliable and declining to rant have made Reiserer’s internet identity valuable to promoters. The film company Lionsgate gave him tickets to Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” to disperse to followers; a book publisher in New York, Simon & Schuster, handed him five copies of its latest WWII publication to give away (plus one for him to keep and tweet from).
What about promoting some product that’s not related to World War II? In the modern world of advertising, marketers are vying for relationships with influencers like Reiserer.
“I’m not going to be retweeting cosmetics just to be making money,” he says, and thus, his accounts have yet to realize any profit.
WW2Facts and WorldWar2HistoryPics are hobbies, but Reiserer would love to turn it into a career. The dream job: Sponsors would pay him to visit historic sites and tweet about what they hold. A professional World War Twourist.
Reiserer hopes to repeat for others the experience he felt in Newland’s History 341 class and help someone an answer to the question that drives him as he digs up another online rabbit hole: “How could it happen?”
—Ronnie Wachter, j’00, is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and a freelance writer in Chicago.
Tips for social media success
One of the crucial rules of building a social media following is an ironic juxtaposition against the entire concept of social media: “You have to be patient,” Kip Reiserer says. “I’ve seen the process and the patience it takes to actually build a following.”
Working in Kansas City in 2010—a time when many journalists were early Twitter adopters—Reiserer earned more than 1,000 followers and strong interaction with a feed devoted strictly to media job opportunities in that area. After moving to Chicago, he began a far more successful run in 2012 with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts that drill into a completely different subject: World War II. For those trying to elbow out some room in the “Look at me!” mosh pit, Reiserer offers a few tips:
Stick to one, narrow subject. Although his subject spans the globe, affecting nearly every culture on earth at the time, and involved countless facets of life (economics, sports, entertainment, religion and more), all of Reiserer’s photos and captions connect directly to the subject’s core: armed conflict between two sets of nations.
It helps tremendously if your subject has deep emotional appeal, even if that appeal is to a small group of people. Even today, WWII arouses a potent mix of responses; with his Kansas City account, the hunt for a job is the hunt for money and status.
If you can find a niche, grab hold of whoever visits it. Reiserer says he monitors his feeds’ comments, watching as readers reply to each other and new conversations branch out. “If you’re going to do it organically, it’s the same concept, which is …”
“… You have to have a bottomless pit of content.” Reiserer stresses the importance of regular posting, which keeps an audience from drifting away to other attention-grabbers.
And keep working when the fans do not show up. “I’ve known several people who tried to create this account, or something like it,” he says. “It didn’t happen in a month and they gave up.”
Like so many other veterans, George Cooper has a rich history with the nation. As a flight commander of the 499th Squadron, Cooper was one of seven pilots assigned to the 345th Bomb Group, organized in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1942.
His crew was assigned to a particular aircraft, which he later named “Jayhawk.” He went on to fly “Jayhawk” on all but three of his 55 missions during WWII. The many missions of the 499th Squadron were difficult times as other pilots have described. Cooper’s time with the plane is summed up in Max Ferguson’s book, “Hyperwar: Bats outa Hell Over Biak,” when Ferguson recounts “we said our ‘good byes’ and he [Cooper] climbed the hatch into his old Jayhawk for the last time. I noticed he was in the left seat (first pilot). He taxied to the end of the metal runway, called the tower, revved his plane and started down the runway. It was typical Cooper take-off; he held the plane on the runway to the very end, gained all the speed he could, then roared into the air.”
We chatted with Cooper, e’49, about his experience with the plane and what he’s been up to for the past 60 years.
When was the photo taken, and what was going on in New Guinea at the time?
The photo was taken about June 1943. Japanese forces were trying to move on Port Moresby and had been stopped at Buna and Gona on the north tip of Papua. The battle line was still south of Salamaua. There were Japanese air fields along the north shore of New Guinea, but the main air support and staging bases were what we were attacking. Yet, Dagua, Wewak and Boram and the largest and most powerfully defended, Rabaul on New Britain.
Who is featured in this photo?
My unit was the 499th Squadron, “Bats out of Hell,” 345th Bomb Group. There were four squadrons, each squadron had four Flights A,B,C and D. Each Flight had four aircraft and a 4-7 man crew. I was designated the Aircraft Commander and later Flight Commander of “A” Flight. The men in the photo from left to right are: myself, pilot; Bill Parke, co-pilot; “Bud” Jepson, flight engineer; Harvey Green, radio operator and gunner; and Ralph Stevens, bombardier. The last man on left was my aircraft crew chief, who maintained my aircraft along with maintenance personnel.
How did the Jayhawk come to be on the plane?
One of our very talented enlisted maintenance personnel. I don’t recall his name. He later got the job of painting a new bat (with teeth bared to rip the enemy) after we agreed for a Squadron symbol “The Bats Out of Hell.” It [Jayhawk] had 55 mission symbols painted on the left side and two Japanese flags indicating enemy shot down.
What ties do you have to the University?
My ties to Kansas, and in particular to KU, are from my grandparents, George Henry and Helen Marie Lyon Cooper. George came to Kansas from New York looking for prospects in the “New West.” He was in the area where Peabody now is and was part of a team laying out the city of Peabody. My grandmother came from Hastings, Minnesota, to “sit” on land her sister and husband had claimed in the Peabody area. When she passed through Lawrence in 1870, she saw the “Old North College,” then the new KU, and promised that when she had children she would send them to KU.
She had four girls and two boys. Two of her girls chose to go to the Emporia State Teacher’s College, and one married a farmer. She moved the other three children to Lawrence around 1901. My father enrolled in journalism and took a sabbatical one year to take a reporter’s job in Mexico City. He returned to KU for his senior year and graduated summa cum laude in 1907. He spoke seven different languages, which served him well in one of his several challenges in the import/export business. His sister graduated in music and went on to teach music and write “western” songs, many of which were published.
My grandparents bought 20 acres, which included the Old Windmill, but later sold it to buy a brick building on Vermont Street to create a boarding room. They returned to Peabody after the last child, Gertrude, graduated. My oldest sister, Helen, graduated in 1938, married Charles Ward of Peabody, a KU lawyer. My older brother went 3 years but was caught up in the war. He married Marjorie Runyon, who was also a student at KU. Three of my daughters have gone to KU. Georgeanne, c’68, and Merrilee, g’90, in teaching. My youngest, Laurie Cooper Putthoff, c’91, graduated summa cum laude and went on to get a law degree at Duke. A granddaughter, Jennifer, s’15, received her Masters at KU last year.
How do you stay connected to KU, and do you keep in contact with any other alumni who were in WWII?
I am a Life Member of the Alumni Association, and I contribute to KU Endowment. I follow KU basketball and pray for a football team like we had when I and 4,000 other WWII veterans joined KU. I was not released from active duty until February 1942. The last of my classmates that I have had contact with died several years ago… I have not heard from others since.
What was it like being around the time of the 1952 championship?
My family has always followed KU sports and had our own “home” celebrations. Those early years of Ray Evans and others of our WWII group still seem the best.
Are there any activites that you participated in as a student?
Being married with two children and a third one due as my graduation present, my wife and I did not join in many of the activities. We did join with some other WWII married students and families to celebrate sports.
Cooper also spent many years as an executive for Proctor & Gamble in Kansas City, MO, and as the president of the Tonganoxie Historical Society.
This article originally appeared in Kansas Alumni magazine, Vol. 64, No. 4, Dec. 1965-Jan. 1966. The magazine was published nine times per year, monthly except for combined issues of December/January, March/April, and July/August. Dick Wintermote, c’51, served as executive secretary-editor. At the time, membership in the Alumni Association was $6 per year, and a Life membership was $100.
If a full moon was shining brightly in a clear sky, the thrifty city fathers of turn-of-the-century Lawrence considered burning the gas street lamps a waste of fuel. But if the night was dark, a couple of KU students set out on their rounds lighting the lamps.
When the lamps were lit, the young men got some sleep; at midnight, they were up again, retracing their steps to turn off the lights.
Then one of the pair would head for the offices of the Lawrence World, where he earned more money for his college expenses by counting out newspapers for the delivery boys and then covering a route himself. Sometimes he could get a little more sleep by curling up on a stack of old newspapers in a storeroom at the printing shop while he waited for the papers to come off the press.
But the pace was tough, and often the young man fell asleep in his classes. He always felt that his having to work so much in order to meet expenses cheated him out of much of his education.
So it was that years later, he—Elmer McCollum, c’03, g’04—started a student loan fund with money awarded to him in honor of his great contributions to the study of nutrition—a fund Dr. McCollum has added to over the years.
“Self-financing,” he says, “has always meant too much physical work and too much loss of sleep to the detriment of education. That is the reason why I wanted, and still want, to provide an opportunity for a few young people in order to spare them the waste of time, strength, and rest by making it possible for them to pay for their education after their earning capacity is more favorable.”
Throughout his life, Dr. McCollum has shown the passion for learning that drove the young student lamplighter. He also has shown a compassion for those who learn—not only as a philanthropist, but also as a teacher, counselor, and friend.
So it was characteristic that when he learned the Kansas Board of Regents had decided to name the University’s newest and largest residence hall in honor of him and his brother, the late Burton McCollum, e’03, Dr. McCollum interpreted the news in terms of his love for learning and those who learn.
“Nothing could honor us more,” he said, “than that a few young men, armed with intelligence and insight, guided by a narrow and positive purpose, and with a meditative element in their minds, might think constructively in the shelter of McCollum Hall.”
And when he came back to Mount Oread for the dedication of McCollum Hall in October, Dr. McCollum saw the building and its inhabitants less as a residence hall filled with 1,100 high-spirited young men than as an academic building filled with students.
“The organization of the men on individual floors of McCollum and their objectives of broadening horizons through sharing ideas, cultivating character, and discussion of important problems and issues significant for the future of mankind arouses my admiration,” he commented.
Of course, neither Dr. McCollum nor anyone else pictures the men of McCollum as always plugging away doggedly at their homework or huddling in earnest discussion of weighty world problems. The hall’s biweekly newspaper, The Tartan (which one of its editors has described as “the Kansan’s biggest little brother), evinces the healthy, if somewhat more frivolous, interests of young males in things other than academic pursuits.
The paper’s “flag,” for instance, is adorned with a sketch of a shapely young lady in form-fitting blouse, skater’s length skirt, and knee sox. A regular feature treats the reader to a series of cheesecake photos of a campus beauty (photos decorous enough they would cause not a trace of consternation in the dean of women’s office). And another feature indulges in lighthearted nonsense in a style reminiscent of Max Shulman’s Barefoot Boy With Cheek.
Nevertheless, the men of McCollum have done a remarkable job of organizing their hall in ways calculated to minimize the potential impersonality of its bigness on one hand, and on the other hand to take advantage of the diversity its bigness offers.
Organization began long before the men moved into McCollum, when the men of Ellsworth Hall learned they would move to the new hall. The president and vice-president of Ellsworth and the president and vice-president of the Association of University Residence Halls (A.U.R.H.) constituted a select committee to lay the groundwork.
This committee discussed alternative plans of hall government and the ways in which the established spirit of Ellsworth could be preserved while a distinct pioneering enthusiasm was built for McCollum. The group drafted an outline for a new system of hall government and plans for the transition from Ellsworth to McCollum.
Working from the committee’s plans, the men of Ellsworth wrote and ratified a new constitution for McCollum and elected a full list of officers. To the new officers fell the job of working with the University administration to plan for the dedication of the new hall and for the activities which would acquaint the hall’s residents with their new home and build the feeling of a well-knit living group.
When McCollum’s doors were opened in September, the officers were ready with an orientation program and a full schedule of social activities and other events designed to make the men feel at home and to encourage them to take part in the hall’s programs.
The planning groups already had done a great deal to determine the atmosphere of the new residence hall. In addition to making plans for the government and for the fall activities, they had begun to work on the “image” of McCollum. The Scottish ancestry of the McCollum brothers, as well as the “highland” site of the hall, gave a natural framework for the image.
With the help of experts on Scottish heraldry, hall officers found the crest and tartan of the McCollum clan and adopted them as official symbols of the “clan” living in McCollum Hall. The hall’s paper was named The Tartan (and its pinup section was called “McCollum’s Lass”). And although the young men of the hall have not yet taken to wearing kilts, there is evidence that they are adopting the fierce loyalty and pride of a Highland clan.
The men take a more personal pride in the distinction given to the name McCollum by the two brothers after whom the hall is named: Elmer McCollum, discoverer of vitamins A and D, pioneer in the discovery of the nutritional importance of the B complex vitamins and the trace elements, the man who has undoubtedly done more than any other to change man’s eating habits; and Burton McCollum, dedicated earth scientist who first developed seismographic methods for oil exploration and invented and patented more than 30 devices for geological exploration.
The McCollum brothers are probably the most outstanding men ever graduated from KU, and undoubtedly the most outstanding pair of brothers. Though a university residence hall cannot hope to achieve a comparable distinction and few if any of the hall’s residents can look forward to such distinguished careers, the hall’s leaders are determined that McCollum will do credit to the name it honors.
“We who have met and talked with Dr. and Mrs. McCollum feel even more deeply the pride and significance of the name we bear,” said hall resident Bill Robinson, vice-president of the student body, after the dedication of McCollum Hall.
Elmer McCollum and the hall leaders at least share one hope for the hall: that the experience of living there will be a strong character-building force for the men of McCollum.
Photos: Top: McCollum Hall under construction. Published in Kansas Alumni magazine, November 1964.
Middle: Chancellor W. Clarke Wescoe bends to greet Elmer McCollum at dedication ceremonies for McCollum Hall. Published in Kansas Alumni magazine, Dec. 1965-Jan. 1966.
Bottom: Members of a standing-room-only crowd listen to Dr. McCollum as he speaks from the platform set up in front of McCollum Hall. Published in Kansas Alumni magazine, Dec. 1965-Jan. 1966.
We want to know: which Jayhawk is the favorite of KU alumni? Cast your vote in our fun poll by December 31!
To assist you in the voting process, here’s a brief refresher on the history and rich tradition of our beloved mascot.
The story of the Jayhawk begins not with the bird, but with the word, which originated during the historic struggles of Kansas settlers in the 1850s. The name describes a bird that was a cross between a blue jay and a sparrow hawk, both of which displayed fierce, aggressive, even predatory traits. As Free State and anti-slavery forces struggled for control of Territorial Kansas, “Jayhawkers” most often described Free Staters who fought as vigilantes against Missouri “Border Ruffians” aligned with the Confederacy. The outcome of the Civil War and the end of slavery added luster to the word, and Kansans since then have worn it as a badge of proud history.
The University of Kansas informally adopted the term Jayhawk in 1886. Professor E.H.S. Bailey and his science club students adopted the famous rallying cry “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk,” and it remains one of the college world’s most distinctive chants to this day. KU student Henry Maloy drew the first Jayhawk mascot in 1912. To review the complete history and tradition of the Jayhawk, visit http://www.ku.edu/about/traditions/jayhawk.
Vote today! We’ll share the results after the start of the new year.
Danforth Chapel, eight scholarship halls and the chancellor’s residence were recently added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historical Places.
Collectively referred to as the University of Kansas East Historic District, the newly recognized zone on the eastern slope of Mount Oread includes 15 buildings and objects related to housing and student life, all dating to the years 1912 to 1963.
As reported in issue No. 2, 2013, of Kansas Alumni magazine, the heart of campus—Jayhawk Boulevard, roughly from the Chi Omega Fountain to the 13th Street entrance, and both the northern and southern slopes—was added to the Register of Historic Kansas Places in February 2013 as the state’s first historic campus district, and the National Register in April 2013. The East Historic District was named to the state register in November before also being named to the National Register in January by the National Park Service.
“I can’t tell you how many alumni have shared with me their fond memories of living in a scholarship hall, or of getting married in Danforth Chapel,” says Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “These places are central to the lives of so many Jayhawks, and we’re pleased to be able to preserve these buildings and landscape so that current and future students can have similar experiences while at KU.”
Historic designation does not prevent the University from making changes or renovations to protected structures and landscaping, but it does require careful consideration and approval from oversight boards.
“It doesn’t prevent development, but if we do develop it, we do it in a smart and appropriate manner,” University Architect Jim Modig, a’73, told Kansas Alumni in 2013, “and not do something that would be devastating to the character of campus.”
Work toward KU’s historic-district designations began in 2006 with a $130,000 study grant from the Getty Foundation. That led in 2008 to the KU Campus Heritage Plan, which in turn motivated University administrators, the Campus Historic Preservation and Heritage Advisory boards and Historic Mount Oread Friends to pursue state and national designations for the University’s historic districts.
Historic designation also comes with a tangible benefit: Tax credits for costs incurred in preservation work can be sold on the open market for 90 cents on the dollar, generating more income for much-needed restoration and repair.
A map of the historic districts can be found here.
Click here to view the complete National Register nomination form.
On Aug. 21, a group of Lawrence community members participated in an unusual event: a live re-enactment of the infamous Quantrill’s raid in 1863 using the very modern technology of Twitter. Historians, social media enthusiasts and local actors researched characters from the past and gave them voices through a series of tweets.
Richard Noggle, g’08, participated in the project because of his enthusiasm for Twitter, yet found that that it led him deeper into local history and raised ideas about memory, historical trauma and ancestral connections that relate to his academic work in American literature. “Researching my character took me to the Spencer Library to look at a small collection of his papers and to Watkins Museum, where I found a letter written by his daughter just a few days after the raid,” he said. The letter helped place his character, Dr. Prentiss, at actual locations during the raid.
The social media event’s hashtag, #QR1863, trended globally on Twitter, and the live-tweet garnered media coverage from sites including the Washington Post and Boing Boing.
Noggle said the event succeeded not only as an unusual and attention-getting social media project, but also as a real-life community bonding event. “Most of the tweeters were together in the ‘war room’ at the Carnegie Building during the event, and it was a mix of local actors, historians, amateur history buffs, townies, technology geeks– people who might not normally cross paths,” he said. Some of the participants even portrayed their actual ancestors– from both sides of the battle.
The community project was a collaboration among Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, Watkins Community Museum, the Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence Arts Center, 1863 Commemorate Lawrence and the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau. Visit www.1863lawrence.com to learn more about the project, and check out www.kuhistory.com for more information about the raid and its impact on the future University of Kansas.
Our friends at KUhistory.com posted this notable tidbit worth sharing today: On March 23, 1957, the Wilt Chamberlain-led Jayhawks took on the Tar Heels in one of the most epic NCAA National Championship games ever played. The game took three overtimes to be decided, and it remains the only NCAA title decided in triple-OT. Many regard it as one of the greatest championship games ever played. Despite the deep connections between the two storied basketball programs, the schools have only met 10 times, with KU leading the series 6-4. They tip off Sunday at 4:15 p.m. CT.