Events mark acquisition; UF celebrates Stetson Kennedy's work

Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 10:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 10:14 p.m.

The University of Florida marked the acquisition of Stetson Kennedy's manuscripts Tuesday with a full day of events, from an open house exhibiting Kennedy's books and writing samples to a panel discussion about his legacy.

"This is a great day in the history of the University of Florida, for the people of our state and the nation," said Paul Ortiz, director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at UF.

Ortiz also thanked first lady Chris Machen, who said that she came to respect and admire Kennedy's work during the six years she served on the Florida Folklife Council.

The Oral History Program played a crucial role in organizing the reams of papers and the hundreds of audio and video tapes into an organized, meaningful context for students, professors and researchers.

Those works were on display in cases and on tables in the first floor exhibit hall of Library East during an open house. People visited Library East to see samples of the Stetson Kennedy Papers donated to UF, watch videos of Kennedy, and chat with his widow, Sandra Parks.

"Kennedy was part of that vanguard generation," Judy Russell, UF's dean of libraries, said during a two-hour reception attended by 40 people. "It's an enormous honor to have his papers here and to fulfill something we know was something he wanted."

Kennedy had said years before his death that he wanted his works to be donated to UF, Parks said.

But there was a snag. He'd already gifted much of his work to the University of South Florida, in 1996.

"He really wanted this to happen, but felt he had a moral and legal obligation to send the rest of his collection to USF," Parks said. "It was a great dilemma."

He made Parks promise to keep working on a solution after he died.

In July 2012, Parks met President Bernie Machen at a concert celebrating the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie at the Civic Media Center. She said he recognized the importance of Kennedy's work and felt UF should have it.

Ultimately, USF released its collection to UF.

"This is a golden day he thought would never come," Parks said.

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