November marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, an event that defined America and the lives of all those who remember it.
Radford University professors Tod Burke and Stephen Owen will explore the event that captured the imagination of Americans and spawned countless scholarly investigations and conspiracy theories, in a semester long course entitled "Investigating the Kennedy Assassination." The pair previously taught a class on Kennedy in 2008.
Students in the class will focus on every aspect of the assassination and learn about the changing landscape of the early 1960s, from politics to pop culture. At the end of the semester, students will be responsible for presenting a group project where they take the existing data and think of new ways to explore the JFK assassination.
"We're working through the case from the beginning," said Owen, department chair and professor of criminal justice at RU. "What were the key pieces and who were the key players? Why did he go to Dallas? Why are there still conspiracy theories popping up about it?"
The class, which accommodates a wide range of students, from freshman to graduate levels, will also explore events tangent to the assassination, like the murders of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit and Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s assassin.
"This is a multi-disciplinary approach in so many ways," said Burke, associate dean of RU's College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences, professor of criminal justice and former Maryland police officer. "They learn about investigative technique and police procedure, but the assassination touches on psychology, sociology, political science and even philosophy."
On Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., assassination expert Dale K. Myers will guest lecture the class and hold a forum for the entire RU community in McGuffey Hall where he will show his Emmy-winning presentation "Secrets of a Homicide: The JFK Assassination." Myers is famous for his 3D computer animated reconstruction of the assassination and has shed new light on old evidence and can answer the questions that have provoked many conspiracies. His visit to Radford is sponsored by the university’s Scholar-Citizen Initiative.
On Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 5 p.m., students will present their new, modern interpretation on the case in front of news media and a panel of experts, academics and law enforcement officials in the Hurlburt Student Center Auditorium. Students will be expected to defend their new research, answer questions and explain their ideas.
Both the Myers' forum and the students’ presentations will be open to the public.
According to Burke and Owen, students who took the class in 2008 went above and beyond in discovering new ways to investigate the half-century old killing. One group used advanced biometrics to determine whether Lee Harvey Oswald was capable of moving fast enough to be present at all shooting locations. Another group examined the weather in the Dallas area on the day of the shooting to determine whether any meteorological influences were germane to the case.
"Finding a new perspective on a 50-year-old investigation isn’t easy and we expect a lot of our students. They’ve met and exceeded our expectations so far," Burke said.