Share page: 
Lecture to commemorate milestone anniversary

Lecture to commemorate milestone anniversary

An annual tribute to an individual instrumental in preserving and celebrating the history and cultural heritage of this region is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday in Special Collections at Axe Library on the campus of Pittsburg State University. 

Sponsored by the Friends of the Leonard H. Axe Library, the 20th Annual Gene DeGruson Memorial Lecture will provide attendees a retrospective look at DeGruson's life and legacy to PSU and Southeast Kansas history as well as recognize the 20th anniversary of his death. 

The program is free to the public, and will be followed by a reception. 

DeGruson was a Southeast Kansas scholar, writer and editor, and pioneering archivist and curator of Special Collections, which he founded in 1968. He spent 29 years building it into a rich treasure trove of knowledge on local history as well as an archive for PSU.

Frequently referred to as a living encyclopedia on Kansas history and culture, he loved to share his knowledge with others in the form of lectures, speeches, readings and performances, and was a go-to resource for area journalists. 

Born on Oct. 10, 1932, in Girard, Kansas, he was the son of a coal miner and lived with his parents in Camp 50, a community built by the Central Coal & Coke Company Mine. After graduating from Crawford County High School, he received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Pittsburg State. 

He joined the faculty of the PSU English Department in 1960, then transferred to the library staff in 1968. Publishing credits include "Goat's House," a book of narrative poems based on memories of growing up in mining camps in southeast Kansas, and the introduction to the “Lost First Edition of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle,” based on the serial publication of the work in the once-prominent Socialist newspaper, "The Appeal to Reason," in Girard, Kansas. 

DeGruson also founded the Little Balkans Review: A Southeast Kansas Literary and Graphics Quarterly, and served as poetry editor until his death on June 18, 1997. 

Past memorial lectures have covered famous Southeast Kansas personalities such as socialist publisher J.A. Wayland, famous Christian writer Charles Sheldon and PSU educator Margaret Haughawout 

This year's featured speakers will include noted Kansas author Thomas Fox Averill, the DeGruson Family; and PSU Dean of Library Services Randy Roberts, who assumed DeGruson's role heading up Special Collections upon his death. 

"I consider it a rare privilege to have known Gene DeGruson as a teacher and a mentor," Roberts said. "Anyone who knew Gene recognized he was generous to a fault with his time and his talents, and he had a boundless energy he poured into every endeavor." 

"Gene was especially instrumental in preserving and celebrating the history and cultural heritage of this region. It is very fitting that Pittsburg State, the Library, and Special Collections have remembered him for the past 20 years with a lecture series to honor his memory and his many contributions to the University, to the Southeast Kansas region, and beyond." 

Share this story

heading image heading image heading image