Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes opens in Fort Scott

Lowell Milken Center News Release

Contacts: Ana Beatriz Cholo, acholo@mff.org; (310) 570- 4773 (o), (312) 927-4845 (m) 
              Bonnie Somers, bsomers@mff.org, (310) 570-4770 (o), (818) 307-3111 (m)

Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes to Open in Downtown Fort Scott, Kansas in May 2016

The Unique, Small Town Museum is Dedicated to Extraordinary "Unsung Heroes"

FORT SCOTT, KS (April 6, 2016) — A 6,000 square foot exhibit hall, called the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes (LMC), will open its doors to visitors in a historic Midwestern town just south of Kansas City, Missouri, on May 24, 2016. The unique museum is dedicated to individuals who have taken extraordinary actions in their lives but are not recognized publicly or in school textbooks.

The center will feature museum-quality exhibits, a 48-seat theater with bench seating, a conference room, a life-sized apple tree, and exceptional student art. This high-tech, interpretive museum is the perfect destination for curious minds – students, educators, families, road trippers and history buffs. 

“History offers proof how one person with courage, conviction, vision and perseverance has the potential to generate profound change,” said Lowell Milken, Center founder and an international businessman and philanthropist. “Thanks to the efforts of students and teachers from around the world, these unsung heroes are now being brought to life and demonstrate the power of one person to make a difference.”

Through a unique project-based learning approach, LMC, as an international education nonprofit, works with students and educators across diverse academic disciplines to develop history projects that take the form of student-driven plays, documentaries, exhibits and websites. These projects highlight role models who demonstrate courage, compassion and respect. New projects and exhibits are continually in development.

During the grand opening, Lieutenant Colonel Tran Ngoc Hue, Kendall Reinhardt, Ann Williams and Therese Frare will greet visitors and share their stories. They are among the “unsung heroes” featured in the museum. A number of other “unsung heroes,” now deceased, will have family members present at the grand opening. 

Their stories are fascinating.
Hue (U.S. Marines nicknamed him "Harry" a half-century ago after his heroic actions), for instance, served with the 1st Infantry Division Army of the Republic of Vietnam. He is remembered as one of the noblest combat leaders of the Vietnam War. He lost his battalion while attacking the North Vietnamese. They shot him and his men and Hue survived terrible wounds. His Hanoi captors offered to release him if he would turn against the American military. Hue refused out of honor and he paid the price: 13 years in prison, much of it in solitary confinement, while American soldiers went home. He now lives in Virginia and is a U.S. citizen.

Little Rock Central High School seniors Reinhardt and Williams faced bullies and beatings for simple kindness to the nine African Americans who integrated their school at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Decades later, in 1996, three Kansas students interviewed one of the Little Rock Nine, Elizabeth Eckford, about her experience. She singled out two white classmates who had befriended her during her year at Little Rock Central High School: Kendall Reinhardt and Ann Williams. All three of them had attended Mrs. McGalin’s speech class, which the students called a “safe haven” for its atmosphere of tolerance and understanding.

In November 1990, LIFE magazine published a photograph of a young man named David Kirby — his body wasted by AIDS, his gaze locked on something beyond this world — surrounded by anguished family members as he took his last breaths. The haunting image of Kirby on his death bed, taken by a journalism student named Therese Frare, quickly became the one photograph most powerfully identified with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that, by then, had seen millions of people infected (many of them unknowingly) around the globe. Frare’s photograph went a long way toward dispelling some of the fear and, at times, willful ignorance that had accompanied any mention of the disease.

Where did the idea for the Center for Unsung Heroes come from?
In 1992, Milken met Norm Conard, a teacher at Uniontown High School in Kansas. Over the years, Conard had engaged thousands of students in outstanding history projects that incorporate performing arts, multimedia, and video production. One of those students was Megan Felt.

In 1999, Felt, then a freshman in Conard’s history class, led her peers in the creation of a project that revealed the story of Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker who saved over 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.

The students wrote a play about Sendler called Life in a Jar, which has since been performed over 350 times throughout the U.S. and Europe. Upon discovering that Sendler was still alive and living in Poland, the Uniontown students and Conard contacted and visited her. Since then, they have worked tirelessly to spread Sendler’s story, which led to her nomination in 2007 for the Nobel Peace Prize, a year before her death.

As Lowell offered his support for the Life in a Jar project, he and Norm began discussing how they could further promote such educational projects that bring to light unsung heroes like Irena Sendler. In April 2007, the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes was formally established as an initiative of the Lowell Milken Family Foundation. The new museum is the next step for the Center which has already drawn people from 70 countries. 

Due to the growth and momentum experienced over the past eight years as well as rising demand for its services, LMC outgrew its current headquarters, located at 2-4 South Main Street. The original building will be used as office space.

Since its inception in 2007, LMC has reached over 1,100,000 students and 8,000 schools in all 50 states, with growing global reach. In addition, LMC’s Fort Scott headquarters has hosted visitors from every state and 68 countries, demonstrating the truly universal relevance of its mission. The prestigious Lowell Milken Center Fellowship Program attracts award-winning educators for a unique summer program of professional development, and has grown from two LMC Fellows in 2008 to over forty in 2015. 

The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes is located in the historic downtown district of Fort Scott, a community that shares common values with LMC, including the recognition of the importance of teaching and honoring the lessons of history. From its Kansas location close to Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, Fort Scott is at the crossroads of America’s heartland. LMC is deeply involved with the Fort Scott community as well as organizations and schools throughout the region, and will continue to work with the city to generate interest in Fort Scott as a place for business and destination point for visitors. 

Established in 2007, the Lowell Milken Center (LMC) for Unsung Heroes discovers, develops and communicates the stories of Unsung Heroes who have made a profound and positive difference in the course of history. Now in its eight year, LMC has reached over 1,100,000 students and 8,000 schools in all 50 states, with growing global reach.

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