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Sources: Patrick Kirk,;
and Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, 785-532-0778,
Photo available. Contact or 785-532-6415.
News release prepared by: Kristin Hodges, 785-532-6415,

Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2009


MANHATTAN -- The 1918 influenza pandemic created devastation worldwide, but a Kansas State University student is narrowing in on the flu's effects locally.

Patrick Kirk, K-State senior in history and a 2004 graduate of Scott Community High School, Scott City, is doing a project on the effect of the 1918 pandemic on the K-State campus, which was named Kansas State Agricultural College at the time.

"I have always been interested in disasters, either natural or man-made, and the Spanish Flu was one of the greatest catastrophes in American history," Kirk said. "Our school's situation is unique, because the first-ever recorded cases of Spanish Influenza occurred just down the road at Fort Riley." 

Kirk is conducting research for a senior history research seminar taught by Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, K-State associate professor of history. Her students produce a paper of original research, and the research theme this semester is aspects of K-State history.

Kirk said his research is especially timely with the recent pandemic H1N1 virus, although he said it's important to avoid direct comparisons between it and the Spanish Influenza.

"They are not the same, and events will certainly not unfold exactly as they did in 1918," he said. "Still, what better time to write about an epidemic than during another epidemic?" 

Kirk said that so far the most surprising finding has been how people in the area went about their daily lives during the worst of the outbreak. 

"I think students, alumni and anyone else with knowledge of the university's history will appreciate seeing what impact this global disaster had locally," he said. "Many of the people whose names I have come across so far in my research now have buildings named after them on campus."

Lynn-Sherow said Kirk will be going through various publications that were operating during the time of the flu,
such as area newspapers and student publications; he also will look at K-State's presidential papers collection.

"I know the history of the flu epidemic, but its effect on the campus is brand new research," she said.

This is the second semester that Lynn-Sherow has had students research K-State's history. She said their projects will contribute to K-State's 150th anniversary celebration and that future classes will continue researching campus history until the 2013 anniversary.

"The university is just gearing up to create the plans for the sesquicentennial, but it really requires at least three to four years to have enough information," she said. "You just can't do that kind of research right ahead of time."

Lynn-Sherow said she will be posting the students' papers on K-State's Research Exchange, a repository for scholarly work that makes items openly accessible on the Internet and indexes them in Google, Google Scholar and other search engines. She said each individual project will be part of a larger umbrella of information that will build toward a study of K-State's history.

"Their papers will be in a digital format and will have a life beyond this class," she said.

Lynn-Sherow recently was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Level I grant for creating a digital archive of student research. Information technology specialists at K-State's Hale Library are already at work on this project, which will bring in specialists from Colorado and Maryland to help preserve and share the kind of research that Kirk and other students are doing.

Students conducting research projects include:

Andrew Hartley, junior in history and 2006 graduate of Belle Plaine Senior High School, is doing a project on the history of the rivalry between K-State and the University of Kansas.

Loni Wells, senior in history and 2005 graduate of Great Bend High School, is researching Milton Eisenhower, K-State's ninth president.

Andrew Adam, senior in history and 2006 graduate of Oskaloosa High School, is doing a project on the history of K-State's rifle range.

Brantlee Shearmire, junior in history and 2006 graduate of Scott Community High School, Scott City, is doing a project on the history of the George Fairchild administration. Fairchild was the third president of K-State.

Scott Dunaway, senior in history and 2005 graduate of Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, Wichita, is researching Edwards Hall and the desegregation in K-State athletics.

Eric Cook, senior in history and 2005 graduate of White City High School, is studying the history of ROTC at K-State.