Sunday, May 13, 2001

History student meets his subject

Rev. Shuttlesworth honored at Mount St. Joseph commencement

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DELHI TOWNSHIP — Jay Hess' research paper on the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth earned him an A — and touched his life.

Jay Hess meets the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.
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John Plante, a college official, places the mortarboard on the Rev. Mr. Shuttlesworth.
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(Craig Ruttle photos)
        “I think it changed (Jay) intellectually and from the heart, which is the most profound education there is,” Timothy Lynch, Mr. Hess' American history professor at the College of Mount St. Joseph, said about the paper Mr. Hess turned in last month.

        “To have someone write about a local person who has had a profound impact on civil rights, and then get to meet that person, it's just exceptional.”

        Mr. Hess' yearlong research on the civil rights pioneer included a pilgrimage to Birmingham, Ala., where the Rev. Mr. Shuttlesworth led civil-rights crusades, endured beatings and survived the bombing of his home. He moved to Cincinnati in 1961.

        Mr. Hess of North Bend and the Rev. Mr. Shuttlesworth of Roselawn chatted briefly for the first time Saturday, just before the college's commencement in which 468 students received diplomas. The Rev. Mr. Shuttlesworth was among five recipients of honorary degrees. Graduations also were held at Northern Kentucky University and Thomas More College.

        Nervously, Mr. Hess handed a copy of his finished product to the Rev. Mr. Shuttlesworth, 79. “This is really nice,” the Rev. Mr. Shuttlesworth said, his face lighting up as he stroked the black binder containing Mr. Hess' 26-page paper. “I hope the experience of going to those places in Birmingham made it real for him.”

        It did.

        Mr. Hess, who aspires to graduate in 2002 and become a history teacher, said he went to Birmingham to obtain more “primary sources” for his paper.

        “He could be harassed, beaten, his house bombed, yet he came back every single time stronger than ever,” Mr. Hess said. People in Birmingham seem to hold the Rev. Mr. Shuttlesworth in higher esteem than Martin Luther King Jr., he noted.

        “This experience will help me with my students,” he said. “I think it will help me teach them what's important.”

        Mr. Hess noted the irony of writing such a paper in the aftermath of last month's racial unrest in Cincinnati, sparked by a police officer's shooting of a black man who was later found to be unarmed.

        Mr. Hess' paper concludes:

        “I feel that the fight is far from over, as shown by the recent riots (in Cincinnati). We have not completely eliminated the monster of racism, but we are now able to control it and understand that it has no place in our society today.”


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