April 2, 2008
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine
Rock students join national JFK assassination group work team
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Five Slippery Rock University history majors are among the latest chroniclers of the most notorious crime of the 20th century - the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. They have been invited by the JFK Lancer research group in Texas to become official journalistic associates and will work with assassination sleuths nationwide.
Students will write articles for the group's monthly online newsletter, sent to 3,000 people, and they will contribute to a news blog at www.jfk.lancer.com, The Lancer site's homepage.
"The quality of education and the level of commitment of the students of Slippery Rock University is readily apparent, and JFK Lancer is proud to have these students as associates to provide a fresh perspective on the Kennedy administration and assassination," said Debra Conway, Lancer group president. "We've been discussing amongst ourselves what happened for 45 years. We really want some new blood."
Lancer, named after the Secret Service's code name for the late president, is a group devoted to studying the Nov. 22, 1963 assassination. Its members also examine the Kennedy presidency (1961-1963) and the family's on-going legacy. Members include scholars, television personalities and other interested professionals from a number of nations, most notably in Europe, Asia, and the Americas where JFK's assassination still resonates, said Thomas Pearcy, SRU professor of history and a Lancer academic consultant.
"This is an amazing opportunity for our students to interact with important people while representing SRU globally," Pearcy said.
The students are Danielle Wimer of Volant, Holly Evanoski of Wilkes Barre, Leslie Mead of Guys Mill, Dean O'Brokta of Pittsburgh and Neil Schaffer of Pittsburgh. Lancer invited them to get involved after the students and Pearcy attended the group's November conference. Pearcy teaches a class on the assassination at SRU.
"It's just phenomenal, it's hard to grasp the significance of how big this project is for us," said Wimer, a senior.
The research goes well beyond the events of the assassination. For instance, students recently completed an article about Caroline Kennedy, the president's daughter, and his brother Sen. Edward Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama for the Democratic party nomination for president in 2008.
"They're looking at the political reasons why the Kennedy family would make the comparison," Pearcy said.
An upcoming article will compare the presidential primaries of 1960 and 2008. And the students are examining the legitimacy of purported documents linking Lee Harvey Oswald - Kennedy's accused assassin - and Jack Ruby, the nightclub owner who gunned down Oswald in Dallas police headquarters two days after the assassination.
"We keep an eye out for things if the Kennedy name pops up in the media," Wimer said. "We investigate new developments and try to draw parallels betweens the Kennedy election platform and the current candidates' platforms."
The majority of JFK Lancer members believe there was a conspiracy to murder Kennedy, according to Pearcy. Conspiracy researchers cite the Mafia, rogue elements of the CIA and anti-Castro Cubans as possible assassins. Other researchers outside of Lancer support the government's Warren Commission report concluding Oswald acted alone.
"I do believe there was a conspiracy, "Wimer said. "There's so much anecdotal evidence against the lone-gunman, crazed lunatic type theory."
Conway founded JFK Lancer in 1995. The group seeks to promote public understanding of the assassination and supports the release of all government documents related to the case. Cable television's History channel recently profiled the group, which has provided consulting work for several documentaries.
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