By Guy D’Astolfo
Sandy Scheuer of Boardman was on her way to class May 4, 1970, when she was shot and killed by Ohio National Guardsmen during a Vietnam War protest at Kent State University.
She was a junior honors student, a speech therapy major and a proud member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority. Outside the classroom, the Boardman High School graduate was an active member of the local Jewish community.
Now, almost 50 years later, Scheuer’s life will be the subject of a new exhibition that opens Monday at the May 4 Visitors Center at Kent State.
Titled “Sandy’s Scrapbook,” the exhibition is a tribute to Scheuer’s life and includes items from the actual scrapbook that Scheuer kept while at Kent State. It also features items and memories provided by her family and her sister, Audrey Scheuer.
The exhibition will run through the end of June.
Audrey, 70, of Canfield, said last week that her little sister, Sandy, who was two years younger, was “a nonpolitical person” who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“She was very into her studies,” said Audrey. “She wanted to be a speech therapist.”
Audrey recalled the day she got the tragic news.
“I was living in Pittsburgh at the time, I was married, and my Uncle Jerry [of Youngstown] called me and gave me the news,” she said. “I said, ‘It can’t be true.’
“It was hard to process,” Audrey continued. “My mom and grandma were [in Kent] the day before to visit my sister, and she was so alive then. My mother had given her a present of the red shirt that she was wearing on May 4.”
Audrey said her parents never really got over Sandy’s death. “She was killed on their wedding anniversary,” she said.
In retrospect, Audrey sees things that could have been done differently on that fateful day.
“Things were so bad, the times being what they were, that classes should have been called off that day, until things settled down,” said Audrey. “It could have all been avoided if classes had been shut down after the turbulent weekend” that preceded the shootings.
Audrey said she hopes the “Sandy’s Scrapbook” exhibit reaches people who knew her sister from Boardman High School and other friends she had in the area. She called the exhibition “very professional.”
Mindy Farmer, director of the May 4 Visitors Center at Kent State, which commemorates the tragedy, described “Sandy’s Scrapbook” as a tribute to a young person who lost her life too soon.
“In researching the exhibit, we found several of Sandy’s personal scrapbooks,” said Farmer. “They were full of candid photos, letters from friends, concert tickets and mementos from major life events. We soon realized that the best way to honor Sandy was to let her curate her own life. The colors, flowers and many of the images come directly from the scrapbook she kept while here at Kent State. And, as much as possible, we have left her original labels.”
She made an observation that should really connect with current students on the campus.
“Scrapbooks were the Facebook of the 1960s,” said Farmer. “There are photos of Sandy at parties, and hanging around with her friends.”
“Sandy’s Scrapbook” is the first in what the May 4 Visitors Center hopes will be a series of four exhibitions in tribute to the four lives lost on that day in 1970 – the others being Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller and William Schroeder.
The purpose behind these exhibits is to focus not just on the deaths of these students, but on the lives they lived and the people they were.
“Too often, Sandy, Bill, Allison and Jeff are only known for their tragic deaths,” said Farmer. “We want to show that they lived interesting and full lives. And, in many ways, their stories represent the divides of the era. Allison and Jeff were activists. Bill was a member of the ROTC, struggling with the meaning of the Vietnam War. Sandy was an honors student trying to get to class. They were all siblings, children of loving parents and students of Kent State University. They were people with enormous potential, taken way too soon. That is what we hope to convey.”
Current KSU students were intentionally involved in creating the exhibition, said Farmer. “It was a way to make them understand what happened here, so they carry that legacy forward in a positive way.”
The exhibition was designed by Glyphix Studio, a student-staffed design studio within Kent State’s School of Visual Communication Design, and IdeaBase, a student-powered design agency within Kent State’s College of Communication and Information.
“Sandy’s Scrapbook” is sponsored by the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, Hillel at Kent State and Kent State’s Jewish Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The May 4 Visitors Center is on the first floor of Taylor Hall, Room 141. “Sandy’s Scrapbook” will be located next door in the new Reflections Gallery, room 147.
It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and is closed Sundays. It will also be closed during the university’s spring break: March 26 to April 1.
There are two dedicated parking spots in the Prentice Hall parking lot for exhibition visitors. For information about the May 4 Visitors Center at Kent State, go to kent.edu/may4.