This Spring semester, Assistant Professor of History Sara Egge is teaching an upper-level course entitled, “America in the World Wars.” A major component of the course is a project in which the students will conduct oral history interviews with World War II veterans.
The Kentucky Oral History Commission awarded Egge a $5,000 grant to support the project. The goal is to expose students to an intimate look at World War II from those who served during the conflict. In addition, because Centre College will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2019, this project will commemorate an era that helped to define the College’s history.
A search is underway to locate anyone who served during World War II, particularly those who have a connection to Centre or who live in Boyle County and surrounding counties. The class has already been in contact with about 20 veterans, many of whom students will interview in March. During the summer, students will also tour the Commonwealth to interview those veterans who are unable to travel, with an eventual goal of 50.
“I am thrilled at the number of veterans that we will be able to include in the project,” Egge says. “The veterans in the area responded very enthusiastically.”
She explains that the class plans to record video and audio files of their remembrances, and the students will then complete written transcripts of the audio files.
“All of the materials will be donated to the Kentucky Historical Society, and they will be available to the public, outside of any restrictions placed on them,” she continues. “Some of them will also be made public online through the KHS website.”
Additionally, Egge says some of the interviews, particularly those of Centre alumni and former faculty and staff, will be incorporated into Centre’s 2019 Bicentennial Celebration.
Before conducting the interviews, students are learning the best practices of oral history interviews and staging mock interviews to practice those techniques. They are also learning some of the technical aspects like staging, lighting and sound quality.
“The students are serving as primary interviewers on the project, so they’re learning all about how to conduct an interview professionally,” Egge says. “They have already grappled with many pressing questions about how to conduct themselves and what kinds of questions to ask.”
Ultimately, Egge says her vision for the class is for the students “to be able to hear what it was like to serve during World War II from people who did it.”
“There is only so much that I can do as a professor to share with them about this era in American history, so hearing these accounts first-hand is invaluable,” she concludes. “I hope they gain an appreciation for what these men and women gave when they served.”
by Cindy Long
February 15, 2016
Pictured above: Jack Rutledge was the first Centre student on the flight line in May 1943, when Centre’s men’s college was turned over to the Army’s 20th College Training Detachment.