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Rider Marks JFK Anniversary With Conversation and Academic Study

By Adam Grybowski

A slate of events and classes drew students into the national conversation surrounding the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The University brought Oliver Stone to campus to discuss his film on the subject, took students to Washington, D.C., ran a semester-long film series devoted to his work and offered two special classes this fall.

Dr. Thomas Simonet’s course, “The JFK Assassination in Film and Media,” analyzed representations of the event in different forms of media, and Dr. James Ottavio Castagnera’s course, “The Kennedy Assassination 50 Years Later: Who Dunit?” asked students to build a case for their theory on who killed Kennedy.

Eager to teach the class, Castagnera was also skeptical it would draw interest. Not only were most students not alive when Kennedy was shot, some of their parents had yet to be born. “For most students, this is ancient history,” he says.

As it turns out, the classes were packed. Extra seats had to be added for both courses.

In addition to the two classes, students and the Rider community were offered the opportunity to attend a daylong conference on Nov. 2, 2013, focused on the films of Oliver Stone, with an appearance by the filmmaker. Stone’s movies were also shown weekly on campus in the fall semester.

The conference, which was organized by Dr. Cynthia Lucia, director of the film and media studies program and English professor, gave the Rider community firsthand access to an artist who helped shape the JFK story decades after the fatal shot was fired. Stone answered questions from the audience, as did Lucia and Cineaste magazine’s editor-in-chief, Gary Crowdus. Reflecting on his research of the assassination, Stone said, “This is not me making up history. This is history.”

On Nov. 9, 2013, about 50 students traveled to the Newseum in Washington, D.C., which has on display two new exhibits on the 35th president, as well as an original documentary.

The focus on one subject explored in many different ways and made available to all students remains part of Rider’s commitment to push the educational experience beyond the classroom.

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