With a big crowd in attendance on a perfect, clear night, Spalding University broke in its new athletic fields complex on the evening of Oct. 23 with a grand opening celebration that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

About 800 fans gathered under the lights of the 7.3-acre complex between South Eighth and South Ninth streets to watch the Golden Eagles’ men’s and women’s soccer doubleheader, as well as a grand opening ceremony and ceremonial “First Kick” of soccer ball between games.

It was the culmination of nearly six years of private fundraising for the complex and about six months of construction, which was overseen by general contractor Schaefer Construction. The finished product will be a source of pride and achievement for the university for years to come.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer praised Spalding President Tori Murden McClure, Athletic Director Roger Burkman and the entire university community for being unafraid to take on big projects.

“And this was a big project,” the mayor said.

“What I love about Spalding is that you guys work hard each and every day,” Fischer said, before alluding to McClure’s most famous individual athletic feat. “It’s kind of like rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, one stroke at a time. If there’s something to be done, you can bet on this team here at Spalding. The kind of hope that you all represent, the persistence that you represent, it’s come true here tonight with this great facility. It’s a wonderful bridge for hope for our entire community. Tori, Roger, and the entire team, thank you very much on behalf of our great city. Wonderful job.”



Located on the site of a former unused industrial brownfield and about four blocks west of the primary campus, the athletic complex provides for the first time an on-campus home for Spalding’s men’s and women’s soccer and softball teams, which have previously had to travel to high school facilities around the city to practice and host games.  The complex includes two turf soccer fields and a turf softball field that are lighted and can be used year-round. The Spalding softball team will begin playing at the complex during the upcoming spring 2020 season.

Spalding University Athletic Fields lit up at dusk
The Spalding University Athletic Complex was lit up on the edge of downtown during the Oct. 23 grand opening soccer doubleheader.

“Now (the soccer and softball programs) have a place that they can call their own,” Burkman said. “It’s a game-changer. You think about it from a recruiting standpoint and how it’s going to level that playing field, so to speak. And you can already see on the faces of our athletes how excited they are. When you talk to them about it, they just start smiling, and they just light up. And in the prospects who come to campus, you can see their eyes light up as well.”

New Spalding sports programs are set to make the complex their home as well.

Spalding is already in the early stages of adding men’s and women’s lacrosse, utilizing the soccer field that is also lined for that sport. Though a full plan for the creation of men’s and women’s lacrosse programs is still being developed, the university recently posted job openings for a men’s coach and women’s coach.

The other soccer field is lined for field hockey, allowing Spalding to explore adding a program in that sport, too.

The complex will also be available for outside clubs and schools to rent.

Surrounded by dozens of new trees and extensive landscaping, the fields complex also helps beautify the neighborhood at a site where there was previously nothing but asphalt and weeds. It continues Spalding’s effort to green and transform urban spaces south of Broadway. In recent years, the school turned a 2.2-acre parking lot into Trager Park – a grassy public recreational space at the corner of South Second and West Kentucky – and built the Mother Catherine Square green space in the center of campus at South Third and West Breckinridge.

More photos | Look back at months’ of the athletic fields’ construction progress and the grand opening on Spalding’s Facebook page.

Spalding University’s Festival of Contemporary Writing, the state’s largest fall-spring reading series, will take place Saturday, Nov. 16, through Friday, November 22, with faculty and alumni of the low-residency programs of Spalding’s School of Creative and Professional Writing. Bestselling graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang headlines the festival as Distinguished Visiting Writer.

Yang is the author of the Printz Award-winning American Born Chinese and the National Book Award Finalist Boxers & Saints, a boxed set of graphic novels. Yang has served as a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.

Yang will deliver a public reading and discussion of Boxers & Saints at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, November 21, at the Egan Leadership Center’s Troutman Lectorium at Fourth and Breckenridge. A reception and book signing will follow. Students and teachers are particularly encouraged to attend this event.

Plenty of free parking is available for the campus readings. All readings and events are free, ticketless, and open to the public.

5:00 – 6:00 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16. (Egan Leadership Center, 901 S. Fourth St.) The Anne and William Axton Series, in conjunction with the Louisville Literary Arts Writer’s Block Festival, presents award-winning novelist Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You. Book signing will follow.

5 – 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17. Faculty Reading. (Egan Leadership Center, 901 S. Fourth St.)  Greetings by Kathleen Driskell.

  • Dianne Aprile (creative nonfiction), The Eye is Not Enough: On Seeing and Remembering
  • Douglas Manuel (poetry), Testify
  • Beth Ann Bauman (writing for children & young adults), Jersey Angel
  • Charlie Schulman (dramatic writing), Goldstein: A Musical About Family
  • Lynnell Edwards (poetry), Covet

5:30 – 6:45 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18. Celebration of Recently Published Books. Book signing to follow. (Egan Leadership Center, 901 S. Fourth St.) Introduction by Kathleen Driskell. Books provided by Follett.

  • K.L. Cook (fiction; creative nonfiction; poetry), Marrying Kind; The Art of Disobedience: Essays on Form, Fiction, and Influence; Lost Soliloquies
  • Helena Kriel (screenwriting), The Year of Facing Fire (a memoir)
  • Keith Wilson (poetry), Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love
  • Katy Yocom (fiction), Three Ways to Disappear

5:30 – 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20. Faculty Reading. (Egan Leadership Center, 901 S. Fourth St.) Greetings by Lynnell Edwards.

  • Erin Keane (professional writing; poetry), Demolition of the Promised Land
  • Roy Hoffman (creative nonfiction; fiction), Alabama Afternoons: Profiles and Conversations; Come Landfall
  • Jason Howard (professional writing; creative nonfiction), A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music
  • Maggie Smith (poetry), Good Bones
  • Silas House (fiction), Southernmost
  • Kathleen Driskell (poetry), Blue Etiquette

5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21. Distinguished Visiting Writer Gene Luen Yang discusses ‘Boxers & Saints.’ (Egan Leadership Center, 901 S. Fourth St.) Introduction by Kathleen Driskell. Book signing to follow. Books provided by Follett.

5:45 – 6:45 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22. Faculty Reading. (Citation Room, 1st fl., Brown Hotel, 335 W. Broadway)

  • John Pipkin (fiction), The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter
  • Kira Obolensky (playwriting), Hiding in the Open
  • Robin Lippincott (fiction; creative nonfiction), Unbroken Circle: Stories of Cultural Diversity in the South; Blue Territory
  • Rachel Harper (fiction), This Side of Providence
  • Bruce Romans (screenwriting), Executive Producer of Marvel’s The Punisher on Netflix and AMC’s Hell on Wheels

The reading schedule may change without notice. Check Facebook for updated information: Facebook.com/SpaldingSchoolofWriting. For more information, call 502-873-4400 or email [email protected].

About Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing: Spalding’s graduate creative writing school, Kentucky’s first school of writing, offers three low-residency programs, including the flagship 65-credit-hour MFA in Writing program; a 35-credit Master of Arts in Writing, offering tracks in creative writing and professional writing; and a 15-credit graduate certificate in writing, also with two tracks. The School of Writing offers concentrations in fiction; poetry; creative nonfiction; writing for children and young adults; writing for TV, screen, and stage; and professional writing. Students begin the semester in the spring, summer, or fall with a residency in Louisville or abroad, then return home for an independent study with a faculty mentor for the rest of the semester. Students may customize the location, season, and pace of their studies. See spalding.edu/schoolofwriting for more information, or find us on Twitter @SpaldingWriting.

Spalding University’s new freshmen were encouraged to get involved and make the most of their college experience during Thursday’s annual Convocation ceremony for first-year students at the Columbia Gym Auditorium.

The entire new freshman class gathered to hear words of advice and encouragement from Spalding Board of Trustees Chair Jim Rissler, Undergraduate Education Dean Dr. Tomarra Adams, Psychology Professor Dr. Steven Kniffley, alumna Chrystal Hawkins, Student Government Association President Haley Nestor, student leader Victor Edwards, University President Tori Murden McClure and adviser Jimmy Rowland.

They were given an explanation of the Spalding mission statement, and McClure presented each freshman with a mission coin to serve as a reminder of the importance of diversity, learning, spirituality, service, peace and justice at the institution. Years from now, when the same students graduate, they’ll be encouraged to give the coin to a person who influenced them and helped them on their college journey.

Nestor, a junior, said she has felt drawn to Spalding’s mission and sense of community since she began college.

“I strive to have the success that men and women from Spalding have had in previous years,” she said. “I share in being spiritually grounded in my everyday tasks, and I take huge pride in wearing ‘Spalding University’ across my chest when I’m off campus or going through the finish line at a cross country meet when I can’t breathe. So my question to you is, ‘How will you live it, share it and take pride in being a Golden Eagle?'”

Edwards said he had no idea what to expect when he moved from Florida to Spalding his freshman year, but he made a point on taking on new responsibilities and experiencing new things, including volunteering for a nonprofit, taking difficult courses outside his major, and becoming a residence hall adviser.

“I want you to notice opportunities that come up for you as a college student and take a leap of faith and decide to say yes to some of those opportunities,” he said.

Tanner Dewitt, a freshman secondary education major from Hancock County High School, said Edwards’ message stood out to him.

“It was really motivating,” Dewitt said. “He told us to go out there and explore things, not just go with our usual routine and go to classes and go back to the dorms and study but to also get involved with stuff, different clubs and activities. (Convocation) motivated me to do that as well as to learn more about the community, enjoy it and learn from my mistakes while I’m here.”

Jillian Moorefield, a criminal justice studies major from Indiana’s Floyd Central High School, had a similar takeaway from Convocation.

“I think the main message that I found interesting was getting involved in things you’re uncomfortable with,” she said. “That’s something that my dad has always told me, ‘Get involved, and push your boundaries so that you can better yourself.'”


The 47th Annual Running of the Rodents was simply magical. We had the wizarding gowns and wands to prove it.

And a white rat named Luna, trained by students from the School of Nursing, took home the coveted garland of fruit-flavored candy as the champion of the Spalding Derby, the grand finale of Spalding’s card of rat races at the College Street Ballroom. This year’s theme was the Harry Potter-inspired “Ratly Hallows.”

“Last year, the School of Nursing’s rat tied, and I was pretty confident that we could come out in first this year,” smiling student trainer Amanda Jewell said as she held the winning rat. “I was glad that we were able to come out on top. … She got lots of conditioning and lots of treats.”

Jewell said she was a little concerned when Luna, named for the Harry Potter character Luna Lovegood, decided to turn around during the homestretch of the .024-furlong track and run in the opposite direction. But she righted herself and got going back in the right direction in plenty of time to reach the finish line first.

“I knew she would pull through,” Jewell said.

Spalding faculty, staff and students were decked out in Hogwarts-style robes and costumes to mark this year’s  theme, and the ballroom was dimly lit, like the Hogswarts Great Hall. President Tori Murden McClure, who was dressed as Professor Minerva McGonagall, used retired commencement regalia to create robes for herself, the Presidential Leadership Team and Academic Council as well as members of the Student Government Association and Student Media Ambassadors.

“I don’t wear this every day,” McClure said with a laugh. “But this is a fun time in the spring. … Every year the students pick the theme, and they get to pick which character the president gets to play. Last year I was Maleficent. One year I was the Wizard of Oz.”

Held every spring around Kentucky Derby season, the Running of the Rodents is one of Spalding’s oldest, proudest traditions.

It was created in 1973 by Sister Julia Clare Fontaine, a Spalding biology professor, who overheard a senior student complain about the “rat race” of finals week. She immediately had an idea for a stress reliever before spring exams. The fun-filled Louisville tradition was coined as “The Most Exciting Two Seconds in Sports” by Trivial Pursuit®.

“The Sister realized that at about this point of the spring, students need a little pick-me-up before they make that last push to Commencement,” McClure said. “And she wanted something fun.”

Mission accomplished again.  Thanks to everyone who took part in the 47th Running of the Rodents.

Members of Spalding Leadership Team wearing black Harry Potter-themed robes in Mother Catherine Square before the Rat Race parade.

President Tori Murden McClure made Harry Potter-themed costumes for the Leadership Team and Executive in Residence Jerry Abramson for the 2019 Running of the Rodents. Photos by Meghan Holsclaw

President Tori Murden McClure and a group of students walk down S. Fourth St. during the rat race parade
President McClure led students down S. Fourth Street during the Running of the Rodents parade.


On Thursday, April 18, Spalding University will host its 47th Annual Running of the Rodents with the Harry Potter-inspired theme, “Ratly Hallows.” The public is invited to attend.

The rat races start at 11:20 a.m. in the third-floor ballroom of the College Street Building, 812 S. Second Street. A public parade through campus will precede the event at 10:45 a.m., starting at Mother Catherine Square, located at 318 W. Breckinridge St. between South Third and South Fourth streets.

In one of Spalding’s oldest, proudest traditions and in a twist on the Kentucky Derby, trained rodents will compete for the coveted garland of fruit-flavored ring cereal as they speed around a miniature racetrack—.024 furlongs in length (about 16 feet).

During Thursday’s festivities, participants will be dressed in Harry Potter-inspired attire, or in Kentucky Derby tradition, decorated hats. Spalding President Tori Murden McClure has used retired commencement regalia to create Hogswarts-style costumes for herself, the Presidential Leadership Team, the Student Government Association and the Spalding student Social Media Ambassadors.

Lunch (cash-only) will be offered after the races.

The Running of the Rodents is organized by Spalding’s student-led Campus Activities Board in partnership with the Department of Student Development and Campus Life.

Check out the Facebook event for the rat races.

47th Annual Running of the Rodents

WHEN: Thursday, April 18 – Rat Parade, 10:45 a.m. (starting at Mother Catherine Square, 318 W. Breckinridge St.), Running of the Rodents rat races to follow, 11:20 a.m. “Call to the Post” (College Street Building third-floor ballroom, aka Spalding Downs, 812 S. Second St.).

RAT RACE ORIGIN: When Sister Julia Clare Fontaine overheard a senior student complain about the “rat race” of finals week, she immediately had an idea for a stress reliever before spring exams. Since 1973, the Running of the Rodents has been a fun-filled Louisville tradition around Derby season. It was coined as “The Most Exciting Two Seconds in Sports” by Trivial Pursuit® after 1987’s Deep Throat won the Rodent Derby in 1.8 seconds.

Dr. Deonte Hollowell, Assistant Professor of history and African-American Studies in the School of Liberal Studies, will present the spring 2019 Faculty Colloquium, at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the ELC’s Troutman Lectorium. In a presentation titled, “Policing the Black Experience,” he’ll present his research into the African-American community and police relations, and discuss the creation of a course he’ll teach in Session 6 dealing with these themes. That course is part of the African-American Studies minor in the School of Liberal Studies that Hollowell has developed.

In advance of his presentation, Dr. Hollowell discussed the Faculty Colloquium and his work at Spalding:

Why did you come to Spalding, and what do you like about teaching here?

I love being here, and I stay here because I like the history of the institution and I like the mission. It gives me something structurally that allow to be a pathway. My interests have always been in trying to make life better for people who are underserved, underappreciated in society. Spalding’s mission is linked to that. I came here as an adjunct in 2009 and was just looking for a place to teach courses. There was an opening to teach history here (three years ago), and I got it, and the rest is, as they say, history.

 What are some of your academic specialties and areas of interest in research?

Overall, it’s African-American Studies and Pan-African Studies. African-American Studies is what we teach here at Spalding, that’s also the PhD that I have from Temple University. I also have a master’s and bacherlor’s in Pan-African Studies from the University of Louisville. Temple was the first program to offer a PhD in African-American Studies.

Why did you feel it was important to introduce and develop an African-American Studies (AAS) minor at Spalding?

I think there was a void there in our curriculum just to make sure we study and highlight not just accomplishments but also the struggle of people of African descent and people who identify as African-American in this country. Again, it goes back to the mission that speaks toward having compassion and inclusivenss, diversity. The situation was just right for it. We have the right president. Both (former Liberal Studies Chair) John Wilcox and (current Chair) Pattie Dillon are very interested in African-American Studies, which is why they brought me here in the first place, because of my background. When I came here as an adjunct, I would speak to students who didn’t have too much knowledge about the African-American experience, whether they were African-American or not, so I felt there was an opportunity there to pinpoint more of that history and to have a separate offering of courses. I’ve always been intrigued by the praxis side of African-American Studies, where you go into communities and try to get a better understanding of some of the social issues that are occurring and some of the solutions and trying to be a part of it, whether it’s legislation or cultural practices that highlight solutions to a social problem.

Tell me a little about what you’re planning at the Faculty Colloquium.

It’s titled, “Policing the Black Experience.” It’s influenced by when I was a grad student at Temple. I went there to look specifically at hip-hop music and its effects on the African-American community. That’s what I promised to do my research on when I got there. (After working with an advisor who was skeptical that it could be the basis of the research and project), she asked for me to come up with another topic and something that I was passionate about, something that affected me personally. She said to reach back in my childhood and try to find something involving the African-American struggle that was personal to me. I started thinking about how I was arrested when I was 10 under the guise that I was stealing from a store, which I wasn’t. I was beaten up at that time by a police officer who arrested me in public in a grocery store, and this time type of thing happened to me or people I know throughout my life. I started to write about it. …. My PhD advisor wanted the project to be Afrocentric, so I had to get a handle on what Afrocentricity means, not only academically but socially. So I came up with the topic for my dissertation. It was called, Control and Resistance: An Afrocentric Analysis of the Historic and Current Relationship between African American Communities and Police.  … Upon my being hired at Spalding, Pattie Dillon and I talked about my dissertation and how we could possibly make that into a class, how we could take the work I was doing in African-American Studies and make that into a minor. … Since I’ve been here at Spalding full-time, I’ve visited six cities, so I’m kind of breaking that down into a case study where these types of issues have occurred and have interesting stories. There are seven cities – six I’ve been to, one I haven’t so far. Louisville; Greensboro, North Carolina; Sacramento, California; Oakland, California; Ferguson, Missouri; and Cleveland, Ohio. And Chicago, which I haven’t been to. All of those cities, with the exception of Cleveland, I’ve made connections with Black Lives Matter organizers. I’ve been to several different protests. I’ve been a fly on the wall, so to speak. I’m just trying to get a sense of what are some solutions people are trying to take into account, what are some of the reasons people feel these things are happening. Most importantly for me, what’s the culture of the city that allows this to take place? A case in point, in Ferguson, we were looking at the housing politics. St. Louis was starting to grow so rapidly that they had to find placement for other people, so the local housing entities started to establish public housing in the area that’s now known as Ferguson. That area is very densely populated by African-Americans, but African-Americans did not have political power. They do now. They’ve achieved a lot more political balance there. But the housing situation shaped the whole Ferguson dynamic. I’m looking at stuff like that.

What are some other things you’ve been involved with at Spalding?

As part of the Intro to African-American Studies class, we established the Elmer Lucille Allen Conference on African-American  Studies. She was an early African-American graduate at Spalding. She’s a very dynamic personality. She’s been a big part of us establishing the Black Student Alliance. All these things are kind of coming into fruition with the coursework and the curriculum.


Spalding University’s field of dreams project is officially off and running on S. Ninth Street, with shovels in the ground and ballgames not far off.

On Friday, April 12, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Metro Council President David James  joined Spalding President Tori Murden McClure, Athletic Director Roger Burkman and Spalding Board of Trustees Chair Jim Rissler in the official groundbreaking of the 7.4-acre athletic fields complex between Eighth and Ninth Street. All the coaches and student-athletes from the Golden Eagles’ soccer and softball programs surrounded them and helped celebrate the start of the construction phase of the project that will give those teams an on-campus home for the first time.

Spalding is building two turf soccer fields – expected to be ready for competition by mid-fall 2019 – and a turf softball field (ready by spring 2020) that will be lighted and available for use year-round.

“I want you all to think about the impact all of you are having on our university, our community and all of these young people you see standing behind me (thanks to your support of the fields project),” Burkman said. “They’re really the reason why we do what we do. … I’m so thankful that (the softball and soccer teams) will have a place to call their homes.”

To be built on the site of a former industrial tract that had long been unused, the new Spalding fields will also beautify the Ninth Street corridor while providing a community resource. The fields, which could also be used for field hockey and lacrosse, will be available for other schools and clubs to rent. Men’s soccer coach Adam Boyer said he envisions the fields being the site of future youth clinics and camps and other types of service events.

“There is no doubt about it that this will be one of the coolest Division III facilities in the country and provide a wealth of benefits to our student-athletes,” Boyer said. “It’ll be a huge boost to our overall student-athlete experience in addition to improving our ability to recruit players to our programs. We’re looking forward to seeing the impact these fields have on our entire student population at Spalding – from intramural opportunities to being a unified source of school provide.

“These fields are a dream come true.”

McClure has said that the athletic fields are, literally, a game-changer for Spalding’s student-athletes and will position them to grow and succeed.

“When you’re a Division III student-athlete, you’re truly a student first and an athlete second. But I firmly believe that college athletics is not extra-curricular; it’s extra curriculum,” she said. “You learn the persistence, the endurance, the resourcefulness that it takes to make a difference not just on the field but in the real world.”

Spalding purchased the property, located between South Eighth and South Ninth and bounded by West Kentucky and West Breckenridge streets, in 2014, and it is using raised funds to build the fields complex. Fundraising continues, and information on how to support the project is available on the Ninth Street: Field of Dreams page.

The fields complex is the latest example of Spalding’s initiative of transforming urban spaces, including ones covered with impervious surfaces, into community resources that beautify campus and the neighborhood. In 2017, Spalding transformed an unused 2.2-acre parking lot at the corner of S. Second and W. Kentucky streets into Trager Park, a public green space with 100 new trees. Other recently created green spaces include Mother Catherine Square in the center of campus.

“This is one of those projects you dream of not just as a president of a university or as a student but also as a mayor, to say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had a great big green swath in our city, right here by Ninth Street, a gateway to the west, an extension to a college campus?’ It’s awesome, and it’s here,” Fischer said. “The persistence and the tenacity of Spalding that you all demonstrate each and every day has led to this tremendous announcement we have today. This is a wonderful thing.”

Fischer spoke at Spalding on the eve of the start of the mayor’s Give A Day week of service program, and he praised Spalding for becoming the world’s first certified compassionate university  and he noted that Spalding will be a partner with the city in the Lean Into Louisville program.

Fischer said the city celebrates “what Spalding has done for our city in terms of the soul of our city, the conscience of our city.”

“The Sisters at Spalding and the staff and faculty have really helped set the pace for so much of what we do,” Fischer said. “… Spalding is always there when it comes to making a statement, whether it comes to commemorating Muhammad Ali and the Columbia Gym, or Lean Into Louisville, or being a compassionate university, or in helping make our city an even more beautiful place. This complex is a great win for Spalding and a great win for our city.”

Schaefer Construction is the general contractor for the project. Sabak, Wilson and Lingo Inc. is Spalding’s architecture and civil engineering partner for the fields. Schaefer Construction also announced it is making a $50,000 donation to the fields project on Friday.

Other comments from Friday’s groundbreaking

*Mirza Ugarak, men’s soccer player: “The new sports facility will be a tremendous resource for current and future students to mature into adults who will make the world a better place.”

*Kayla Strehle, women’s soccer player: “Spalding has shown us all just how much it cares about women’s sports with two-thirds of this complex being dedicated to women’s teams.”

*Ally Klein, softball player: “Coming to Spalding has allowed me to build friendships with my teammates and create memories on the field that will last a lifetime. … Having our own field is honestly the one missing piece in what has been an amazing college athletic experience. … It’ll make us better students and better athletes and help bring our community together.”


The public is invited 7 p.m. Monday, April 22 to hear Dr. Luther Smith Jr.,  Professor Emeritus of Church and Community at Emory University, deliver the 2019 Spalding University Keenan Lecture – an annual discussion of the religious themes that is sponsored by the School of Liberal Studies and the Community for Peace and Spiritual Renewal.

The Keenan Lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the Egan Leadership Center’s Troutman Lectorium.

Dr. Smith, a noted scholar of the philosopher, theologian and spiritual visionary Howard Thurman, will give a lecture titled “Becoming Our True Selves at the Borders,” in which he’ll explain his belief that our lives are fulfilled when we make connections with people from backgrounds and perspectives different from those most familiar to us.

The Keenan Lecture is the first of two on-campus events to feature Dr. Smith. At 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, the day after the Keenan Lecture, Spalding and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary are partnering to present a free screening of the documentary “Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story” at the Columbia Gym Auditorium, 824 S. Fourth St. Afterward, Dr. Smith, new LPTS President Dr. Alton Pollard and the film’s director, Martin Doblmeier, will participate in a public Q&A about Thurman.

We spoke with Dr. Smith about the upcoming Keenan Lecture as well as Thurman’s legacy.

What do you have planned for the Keenan Lecture?

The focus will be on how our lives are not just enriched but, I think, fulfilled when we are experiencing the differences beyond our normal familiar relationships, especially those relationships that are in some way strongly related to how we’ve grown up and the kind of paths we’ve been on professionally. I think especially for students in education, for many of them, the extent to which they have found themselves primarily not just associating with but developing  real connections with persons who often fit their sort of demographic, ethnic and racial backgrounds. Life really is, I think, most fulfilled with these kinds of connections that we have that are beyond what is familiar to us. It relates then to how what is not familiar to us often becomes that which we fear and that which we actively resist and that which we make abstract and stereotype. So basically another way that another that we could express this is, how do we get to beloved community? Beloved community depends upon our capacity to go beyond our own borders and experience the unfamiliar, to experience what’s at the margins of our lives and at the margins of our relationships in ways that, I think, expand the heart.

MORE | Explore the academic offerings of the School of Liberal Studies

The title of the lecture is, “Becoming Our True Selves at the Borders.” The word, “borders,” is that referring to borders in a human sense, as in the borders of our selves, or is it referring to actual physical borders that we hear a lot about nowadays?

It would be both. I’ve worked with the terms “borders” and “boundaries,” and they have basically the same meaning, but one of the implications of the word, “borders,” is that it’s something that’s really reinforced with guards or guardians, but it’s something that tends to be truly reinforced to the point that it’s secure in keeping out that which we often fear. But it also is the thing that enables us to sometimes feel as if we’re secure where we are. So I prefer the term “borders,” and I mean it both senses – the way in which we are speaking about it politically today in terms of a national border being secure but also the ways in which we all have our racial, ethnic, religious and class borders.

From a topical sense in today’s political climate, I gather that you think we should extend beyond those borders?

Oh, yes. I’m thinking especially two major theologians of the 20th century. One is Paul Tillich, who talked about the most creative places for us are at the margins, and not just at the center. This is not to denounce the significance of the center, but it’s at the margins in which we find ourselves in expanding our minds and our hearts and our understanding. And also (the theologian) Howard Thurman, who indicated that the death of any community occurs – the death of many biological units – when it perceives itself to be in some way self-sufficient, and it’s only when it’s connected outside of itself that it is nourishes. Otherwise, it begins to feed on itself. This occurs, I think, in all types of communities, religious communities, political communities, social communities. So this understanding of just what may be a fundamental principle of life, I think, is to be grasped by us and lived by us if we’re truly going to be fulfilled persons – and for those who are religious, I think – faithful persons.

For anyone coming to the lecture who may not be familiar with Howard Thurman, explain how his teachings and writings have influenced you.

Just about every audience I’m in, those who are familiar with Thurman are in the minority, but it would be wonderful if (that wasn’t case). As a bit of background, the first book-length critical work on Thurman (titled Howard Thurman: The Mystic as Prophet)  was done by me in the late 1970s and was published in 1981. Before then, we didn’t have any critical work on Thurman; we had a biography of Thurman. It’s really been a delight to see how interest in Thurman through scholarship has grown since then. The Howard Thurman Papers Project is the second-longest papers project on an African-American. It’s second only to the Martin Luther King Papers Project. You have a number of persons who have done their dissertations and done published works on Thurman. There are conferences that are focusing Thurman’s work, and, of course, now we have this documentary that has been telecast nationwide on PBS. I think Thurman’s legacy is worthy of that kind of attention. I was drawn especially by his focus on what constitutes vital community as well as what constitutes the vital self. You can even see that influence in the title of the topic that I’ll be presenting when I’m there.

I became familiar with Thurman right in the midst of the Black Power and black theology movement and found in Thurman an emphasis on community that was certainly expressed through those various movements but also an emphasis on attending to the self, one’s self and the self of others, which was not as prominent a dimension of those movements. And Thurman, I believed and continue to believe, has a more holistic dimension of what contributes to vital community as well as vital individuals. It’s a neutrality. You don’t have vital individuals without attending to a vital community. Neither do you have vital community without attending to the vital self. Thurman captured that for me with a kind of insight about faith. And this was also very important to me in terms of Thurman: The vital insight about faith being that which certainly nourishes us and empowers us for being engaged in both transformation of community as well as the fulfillment of self, but a faith that itself is being transformed. That it’s not just a faith that is in some way enacting doctrine, or not just in some way enacting what one believes to be the fundamentals of the faith. The faith itself is transforming. There is a dynamic quality to our believing that is hopefully reflecting that dynamic quality of God. It’s Thurman’s way of perceiving the religious dimension of life aligned with the social dimension of life as well as the personal dimension that for me has been very holistic, very nurturing. It some ways it was the path I was traveling before I became equated with Thurman through my own family relationships, but Thurman all the more enriched that path for me, and I’m deeply indebted to the way I’m able to walk with him.

As for the Keenan Lecture, what kind of person do you foresee who would enjoy and should attend the lecture?

I’m thinking of students, faculty, staff who understand that the quest for a fulfilled life has its many challenges as well as opportunities and how making one’s way to the border is a way to do that.

The next night, during the documentary screening, why do you think people should be interested in coming to watch it and hearing the panel that you’ll be on?

Thurman’s legacy is for us. And in terms of many of the current challenges we’re having about how to be a pluralistic society that honors people’s distinctive contributions and also holds together at its center, I think Thurman provides us a way to do that, a way to both celebrate our differences, not just have our differences and tolerate our differences. There’s a way to celebrate our differences as well as a way in which we can increasingly celebrate becoming community. I think the other approaches that are not emphasizing that fail us – the whole idea that the only way in which we become community is through assimilation. There is always some measure of assimilation involved in the formation of community, but the notion that people must assimilate into what is and somehow or another leave at the border the gifts of their culture or the gifts of their nation or the gifts of their inner city, I think is a failed formula. And it’s a formula that will doom us. Thurman, I think, provides us a way that is worthy of us and is worthy of the energy that will require the transformation of our lives and hearts for it to be enacted by us. It’s a really a challenge to all of us about the kinds of decisions that we’re making about how we’re going to be living our way not only into the future but what kind of decisions are we making day by day to prepare to be moving into the future faithfully, to be moving into the future that is worthy of us.

A crowd of about 1,000 college basketball fans and friends of Spalding University packed Cardinal Stadium’s Brown and Williamson Club Monday night to get the lowdown on March Madness while supporting the NCAA Division III Golden Eagles’ athletic department.

Spalding’s 11th annual Bracketology fundraiser featured a star-studded panel of basketball analysts –  former Louisville stars Luke Hancock and Milt Wagner, former Kentucky stars Mike Pratt and Dan Issel and former U of L assistant Jerry Jones – on stage to reflect on their playing and coaching days and to make their picks for the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

For those who couldn’t make it out, we’ve got you covered. Here are the Final Four and national champion picks of the panelists.

Mike Pratt
East: Duke
West: Gonzaga
South: Tennessee
Midwest: Kentucky
Title game: Duke over Tennessee

Luke Hancock
East: Duke
West: Florida State
South: Virginia
Midwest: North Carolina
Title game: North Carolina over Florida State

Dan Issel
East: Duke
West: Michigan
South: Tennessee
Midwest: North Carolina
Title game: North Carolina over Duke

Milt Wagner
East: Duke
West: Florida State
South: Tennessee
Midwest: Kentucky
Title game: Duke over Kentucky

Jerry Jones
East: Duke
West: Buffalo
South: Virgina
Midwest: Houston
Title game: Duke over Houston

Bracketology is the largest annual fundraiser for Spalding’s athletic program. In addition to fans hearing from and taking with the celebrity bracketologists, the event also featured a buffet dinner, a bar, a silent auction with a trove of sports memorabilia and other cool items and a $20,000 cash raffle.

We hope to see you next year!


Table setting at Spalding Bracketology with
The Bracketology table setting. Photos by Meghan Holsclaw.

A crowd of about 150 Jefferson County Public Schools faculty and staff and other members of the community gathered this week at Spalding University for the second annual Restorative Practices Summit to learn about the impact of restorative practices in schools.

A common theme emerged among all the speakers: This is important, meaningful work.

“I believe in high expectations for students, but we need to turn to high supports as well,” JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said. “That’s where we miss the boat so often is providing supports for kids and teaching kids the right way to do things. We have kids facing trauma at greater rates than (at any other time) in my career and coming to school with so many things that they experience outside of the school walls.

“We have two options. We can say, ‘We have high expectations, and if you don’t meet them, you’re out.’ Or, No. 2, we can say, ‘We’re going to do everything we can to teach you the right way, to support you, to help you, and most importantly, to restore.'”

This was the second year Spalding has hosted the Restorative Practices Summit in partnership with JCPS, highlighting the innovative, thoughtful use of restorative methods as an intervention strategy. Restorative practices focus on repairing harm and building and restoring relationships.

During Wednesday’s public session at the College Street Center, representatives from Western Middle School, Slaughter Elementary School and Shawnee High School, which have fully implemented restorative practices, explained how the methods have affected school climate and culture. There was also a panel, moderated by JCPS Chief Communications Officer Renee Murphy, that featured faculty and students from Engelhard Elementary and Waggener High School.

All the speakers said their schools have seen reductions in disciplinary referrals and suspensions – at Shawnee, for instance, suspensions went down from 673 in 2016-17 to 359 over the same period this school year – and there have been meaningful changes in teacher-to-student and student-to-student communication.

Western Middle School counselor Judith Wilson, whose school’s referrals are down 13 percent since implementing restorative practices, said that students who have built a relationship of trust with teachers often are willing to share deeply personal details about their emotions or challenges they’re facing.

“When you build a place of safety for them, you’re going to have amazing culture and climate in your building where students know that you love them,” she said.

Jeffrey Elliott, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports coach at Slaughter Elementary, said an important restorative technique is the use of “affective language” when speaking with children, creating a more personal, emotional engagement. He said one subtle example is to alter a standard greeting of, “Good morning,” to a question that asks the child about his or her day, because it shouldn’t be assumed that the child is having a good morning.

Amina McQueen, a student at Engelhard Elementary, said her class has a daily “temperature check” exercise in which all the students rank their mood on a numbered scale.

“If you’re not having a good day,” she said, “the other students will know and say, ‘Hey, are you OK?’ and the teachers will know at the same time.”

By the 2019-20 school year, JCPS will have 33 schools trained on the full implementation of restorative practices. A total of 156 schools will have a top level of academic and behavior interventions in place for student support and relationship-building.

Pollio said teachers and school leaders should view the restorative approach to students the same way they would their own children.

“When our children make a mistake at home, yes, we have to correct them, and many times we have to take action with them, but would we ever not have the other side of it?” he said. “Where we bring them back, tell them what they did wrong,  ask them how we’re going to change, give them a hug and tell them we still love them? Would any parent not do that? We have to do the same thing in this work.”

Spalding President Tori Murden McClure said the university has embraced restorative practices for years and recounted an instance in which the university used them to deal with a student who’d made a mistake that could have had serious criminal consequences. Through the restorative process, he went on to repair the harm he’d done and ended up graduating.

“Finding creative ways to the deal with mental health issues of our young people, to deal with the behavioral issues, we know those are tied together, and we need to be creative and approach them in ways that are full of heart,” she told the crowd. “I’m really grateful that you’re here and doing this important work.”

Katy DeFarrari, JCPS Assistant Superintendent for School Climate and Culture., said Spalding leaders are “great partners of ours” in advancing restorative practices.

“Spalding says they are a small community, but they are mighty,” she said.

Award recipients

Wednesday’s program concluded with Spalding presenting its inaugural Restorative Practices Awards to individuals and organizations that have used restorative practices effectively and advanced the understanding of them.

The recipients were: Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Angela Bisig (Community Advocate Award), Restorative Justice Louisville (Collaboration Award), JCPS Behavior Support Systems Coordinator Saundra Hensel (Impact Award), JCPS (Innovation Award) and former Kentucky State Police Commissioner and former Kentucky Justice Cabinet Secretary Ishmon Burks (Legacy Award).

“It’s not my award but the team’s award,” Hensel said “I have 10 resource teachers who spend every day in the buildings supporting teachers and schools doing this work, so this is really recognizing the work that they do.”

The conference continued Thursday with a closed day of training for JCPS faculty and staff that was led by Florida educator and student support expert Penelope Lowe.

“Spalding has been an incredible partner in providing us with resources and ideas and the people to do this (conference) in a way that we would not be able to do on our own,” Hensel said. “They believe in the work that we’re doing.”

View a Facebook gallery of pictures from Wednesday’s portion of the conference below or at this link.