Getting to Know You: Joan Nothern

The following article was published in the October 2011 issue of KHC’s Hometown Humanities newsletter, a publication available to KHC’s Friends of the Humanities. Become a Friend of the Humanities with a gift to KHC in honor of KHC’s fall fundraiser.

Getting to Know You

Joan Nothern

Joan Nothern

Joan Nothern of Glasco is president and co-founder of the Solomon Valley-Highway 24-Heritage Alliance, an organization dedicated to researching, preserving, and promoting the history and resources of the 24 communities located along Highway 24 in the Solomon Valley. In addition to her work with SV-24-HA, Nothern supports her community as a founding member of the Glasco Community Foundation. She encourages residents to find deeper understanding of the area’s heritage through historical research, symposiums, and heritage tourism projects. A Friend of the Humanities since 2001, Nothern presents “Converting Pasture Paths to Public Roads” as part of KHC’s Speakers Bureau.

NOTHERN: I came to Glasco 30 years ago, moving from teaching in Manhattan, tempted by a sense of adventure and the unknown. The challenge of bridging school and community led to involvement in civic organizations, and then to looking at things from the community’s point of view.

In 1999, I became a founding member of both the Glasco Community Foundation and the Solomon Valley-Highway 24-Heritage Alliance. Since the SV-24-HA is dedicated to preserving heritage, our major task has been to delve into defining the past of this place. KHC grants have supported two major research projects. The first, Weaving the Fabric of the Solomon Valley, allowed us to explore the history of all our communities. The second, The Story of U.S. 24 and the Solomon Valley: The Automobile, The Men, The Politics, and The Highway, led us to apply for and to be selected as a host of Journey Stories, the Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition.

KHC is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of a small community. In 2007, Glasco residents united to better understand Kansas’ role in the Civil War, using the KHC TALK series Before the Civil War to guide our reading and discussions. This generated keen interest in the Civil War veterans interred in Glasco Cemetery and their part in establishing this prairie town.

[In 2011], the SV-24-HA received support from KHC in recognizing Kansas 150 through two projects. In March 2011, the SV-24-HA hosted community conversations in Downs and Hill City, introducing Kansas poet William Stafford to the Solomon Valley so that this man of courage and keen Kansas sensibilities might be better known. Our second venture [brought] facilitator Aaron Fowler to Hoxie the first week of December where community elder stories will be lifted up in song and viewed in the context of local history.

For rural Kansans, KHC is a solution waiting to happen. In KHC, communities like mine find a friend with a variety of approaches and programs to help stimulate and encourage thoughtful action. KHC supports projects that grow from within our community, conveying respect for our place and past, and even encouraging us to try to become more.

I hope my gratitude for the programs KHC makes possible in rural Kansas shows in the telling above. I gladly contribute as a Friend of the Humanities, and I am humbled to be included among the KHC speakers for Kansas 150.