West Chester University is a diverse community, consisting of a wide range of different backgrounds, religions, and personalities, however, what is not usually observed is the differences that the people of West Chester show over different chronological periods. Steve McKiernan, coordinator of Co-Curricular Programs, has observed and documented over 20 years of the people of West Chester University. McKiernan has also advised West Chester Homecoming, and participated actively in the university’s Cheers! non-alcoholic dance event program until its termination in 1997.
McKiernan’s exhibit, located on the sixth floor of the Francis Harvey Green Library, is titled “Students I’ve Known, People I’ve Met.” As a photographer, he has been collecting snapshots of his experiences here at WCU since his start in 1987. Due to his upcoming retirement from the university next semester, it is now a prime time to showcase a summary of his gradual portfolio.
Though the project was not planned, McKiernan has accumulated such a large mass of photos over the years, and now feels they can be used to educate current students in a way they may not necessarily experience.
Many of the photos feature programs or speakers from Contemporary Issues programs (formerly called Leadership, Unity and Volunteerism Image Maker programs), which is the area of the University McKiernan deals with most directly. These programs deal with raising knowledge and awareness towards differences between people and other cultures, along with what sort of resolutions are made due to the subject of each program.
Each photo has a story or personal anecdote that McKiernan can relate in most precise detail. Many of the stories speak of students who attended these programs, went on to lead their lives, and somehow came full-circle with the personal experiences they encountered with the speakers they observed.
A strong motivation behind McKiernan’s enthusiasm in this project is his desire to recognize students and staff as equals.
“Students must be at the table,” he said. “Nobody is better than anyone, we are all learning from everyone else.” To support this, there is no order to the photos, whether chronologically or by event.
One change McKiernan said he would have done to the exhibit would be to add names to the photos. Due to the age of some of the photos, many of the characters represented in the exhibit are well-known figures, such as Gov. Ed Rendell and AM Philadelphia’s Wally Kennedy, are not as easily recognized as they typically would be today.
However, many of the people in the exhibit are easily recognized, by either one or more generations. Carrot Top, Jerry Springer, and President-elect Barack Obama are mingled with photos of Sharon Robinson (Mrs. Jackie Robinson), Jane Goodall, and Herbie Mann.
McKiernan strongly believes in the depth behind visual images. “History is documented through pictures,” he said, and his historical collage will be on display possibly all through the upcoming semester, in hopes that it may inspire and inform those who pass it by.
Tara Tanzos is a second-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at QuadNews@wcupa.edu.