The first century of many colleges is a history not often touched upon, even by some of the most prestigious universities in the country.
People often look at the buildings and remember their names without realizing for whom they are named.
However, the worst thing to do with history is to forget it.
Film Professors Lance Levesque and Larry Benaquist, along with Language Professor Tom Durnford, have spent the last several years with students and faculty collecting information to produce a documentary about the first 100 years of KSC.
“Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve: The First Hundred Years of Keene State College” presented what is not well-known about the college through a collection of documents, reenactments, and witness interviews.
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The film told the progression of KSC from its beginnings as Keene Normal School to Keene Teachers College to finally Keene State College.
“We three lead the charge making the two hour documentary,” Benaquist said.
“We wanted to tell the story of a unique institution where people would come to get an education who had no money to go to Harvard or UNH. The people who came here originally were farm people, mostly women, and they had a really burning desire to become teachers and then learn beyond that. That spirit, one hundred years later, we think is still here,” he said.
Additionally, Benaquist said, “It has probably changed a little bit but we found a direct line, really, and when you see the film you’ll see it’s the nature of the people who come here. Maybe they don’t come from the best high schools, maybe they come from great high schools, but the ones who do come here we could demonstrate an excellent education.”
The trio dug through many archives hidden away for years. Levesque said, “We were literally in cellars and attics digging through books and files and finding the history.”
After collecting the scattered historical documents of KSC they gave the documents over to the school archivist so they could be concentrated in one place.
According to Benaquist, other schools have not done such an extensive project like theirs.
“We are puzzled why institutions don’t do this. We’re not able to find too many other examples of histories of other universities or colleges like this, [a] PBS humanities published type presentation,” Benaquist said.
Durnford added, “At one point we said ‘Well, Harvard must have done this’ or ‘Yale must have done this.’ They weren’t out there. You know, to have a history of a college, any college I’m not necessarily meaning the Ivy Leagues, to have that kind of a documentary made and to have it put onto public TV, they just don’t exist.”
The trio found enough information to have material to last “a week,” according to Durnford.
Benaquist added, “For every twenty documents we found we only used one, maybe.”
Durnford also said, “We got caught up in a lot of stuff we just couldn’t put into the final product.”
Despite the cuts made to create a two hour summary of the first century of KSC, the film was well-received by the faculty involved.
On Monday, Sept. 26, President Helen Giles-Gee and other supporters of the film attended a pre-show event where people could talk to the professors, students, and other members of the film’s production team.
One important member of the team was sound mixer Chris Sonia of Handsome Grandson Studios. Sounds and music were essential to the film’s production, according to Levesque.
Sonia said, “We started off with the transfers, they gave me the video, I got that all loaded up on my computer chapter by chapter. Larry and I went through and laid in all the music.”
A special thanks from attendees of the pre-show ceremony went out to Sonia and the musicians of the film.
“If the sound is wrong people won’t forgive me for that,” Sonia said.
Another important part of the film was scheduling interviews with surviving alumni who experienced the earlier years of KSC.
Norma Walker, KSC graduate from the class of 1951, scheduled interviews with the first several decades of graduating classes.
“I set up interviews for Larry to do some of the ladies in the early part of the film,” Walker said.
“They were residents of a nursing home in Concord, and I knew we had several there from the class of 1931 up through to the 40s,” she said. “I felt that they had a lot of information, that they were very important for the movie, and it was nice that he was able to interview them because several of them had passed away since the movie was made,” she said.
“But, they knew they were in the movie and they were very proud to be a part of it, to represent Keene honestly when they were here as students.”
After the pre-show ceremony, many people left to attend the screening at 8 p.m. in the Mabel Brown Room.
The screening was not the film from a DVD or controlled video source however, it was a screening of NH Public Television when it presented the documentary on air.
The video was projected onto the screen amid a room filled with people from current, previous, and possible future classes.
Separated into two parts, the video explained why buildings such as Morrison Hall and even the Mabel Brown Room, the very room the film was presented in, were named what they are.
Other information about KSC regarded the early dress codes for women, the moral code implemented onto students, and the protests started by students in order to change the policies of the campus.
At the end of the film, the audience thanked those involved with the production and left the auditorium.
When asked to comment on the film screening, Benaquist said,
“It’s funny, when you make a movie you are aware of its strengths and its flaws. You can’t help it. It’s like an actor watching himself on the screen. I think it tells a story students today should appreciate,” he said.
“When I went to the University of Buffalo I had no idea of the history of the school. This might have been good for me, might have been interesting. I’d like to think, here is what people who have seen this have told me, they see it and say ‘I graduated in 1950, now I see [where it] went since I left,’” he said.
In addition, Benaquist said, “Younger people come to see it now and say ‘I haven’t graduated yet. Now I can see where it’s been.’ Isn’t that interesting? That’s not a bad thing to have.”
Benaquist continued, “I was frankly puzzled that more schools don’t do this; it’s fun. You’ve got the resources, and it’s a fun thing to do.”
The film is currently available for sale in the KSC Bookstore and will be available in other places soon.
People can search for behind-the-scenes footage online on YouTube for a 15 minute film made by Levesque.
Finally, Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) will have information on the film and, according to Levesque, will have profiles on the various cast and crew involved in the film’s production.
Ryan Loredo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org