History faculty members find symposium stimulating after nearly 20 years
History faculty members find symposium stimulating after nearly 20 years
rmitchell@webbschool.com

Three long-tenured history faculty members have created a "history" of their own by attending a symposium at the Sayre School in Lexington, Ky., for nearly two decades. The David A. Sayre History Symposium, later renamed to honor its founder, F. Kevin Simon, has attracted Ralph Jones, Larry Nichols and L.R. Smith annually since the late 1990s. Each year, they return to Webb and incorporate new materials and topics into their classes.

Jones met Kevin Simon at a Liberty Fund Colloquium in July 1997 in North Carolina. They became friends that week, and Simon told him about the (then) David Sayre History Symposium at the Sayre School. Jones told him he was interested in attending, and in the spring of 1998, Larry Nichols and Jones went to the symposium.

"Ralph and Larry went for a year or two and had so much fun that I insisted on horning in," said L.R. Smith. "This is a unifying event for us 'old guys' in the department."

"The symposium invites history scholars and other notables from various colleges and universities from around the country to speak on various topics of interest," said Nichols. "We have three of these speakers at every symposium."

Smith added, "Few secondary schools take the time or effort to do something like this, especially for social studies teachers. The Simon Symposium gives me just a touch of hope that the social studies might not be drowned in a sea of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)."

Jones noted that meeting with other history educators and professors distinguished in a field of study is "all too rare today. Topics are presented and opportunity exists to meet with all of the participants. The topics and the discussions stimulate intellectual and professional growth in a variety of topics."

Among favorite topics, Smith cites "China's foreign policy motives", "the labor movement in American history, Bourbon and BBQ in American culture and several related to the American experience in World War I. "I intend to support Sayre's efforts as long as they care to present it, and I very much hope that Webb faculty will continue to attend the symposium long after we're gone."

"There have been many good topics, but the one about World War I and the Age of Reagan were well done," said Jones. "I also liked the topic about sports in American history, and the influence of political cartoons in the past. I think the topic this year about freedom of speech was one of the best topics ever."

As a result of attending the symposium for so many years, Nichols said, "We get to interact with the speakers and have become longtime friends with many of the administration, staff and faculty at Sayre School in Lexington. Over the years I have been able to use some of the symposium materials and topic matter in my classroom."

Jones echoed Nichols' thoughts and added that the friendships with educators that have been formed would not have occurred without the symposium. And, there have been honest and frank discussions with these educators. "They have been willing to share experiences and curriculum materials. For example, I still use some materials in my World Religions class that I obtained from a teacher at Sayre. I have amended what I do in class based on new knowledge about a topic, and I have enjoyed sharing brief accounts about the symposiums with others."

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Pictured are Larry Nichols, Ralph Jones, Kathryn Simon, LR. Smith and Claire Simon.