Fran Kaye Named ATM Peacemaker of the Year

RUTH THONE

Representatives of Nebraska’s peace and justice organizations gathered this past August to honor Fran Kaye, Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Great Plains Institute, as the “Peacemaker of the Year.”

Upwards to half a hundred people turned out for the “Alternatives to the Military” (ATM) annual pot luck supper and salute at Christ United Methodist Church.

Kaye’s long-time work for peace and justice includes teaching at prisons, working with the Native American community, protesting against the death penalty every Monday noon at the Governor’s Mansion, writing thoughtful letters to the editor for the Lincoln Journal Star, leafleting with Alternatives to the Military at Lincoln’s high schools, and essentially responding whenever there’s a call for help.

By custom, the format for this annual recognition event calls for everyone present to speak briefly about the honoree and their own peace and justice work. Kaye’s old friend, George Wolf, had this to say about their decades-long friendship:

“I met Fran Kaye over 30 years ago when she came to UNL to interview in our English department. As an ersatz Canadianist, I found it easy to recognize her as the real thing… Though I had a pretty good idea that Fran’s contributions to the intellectual life of the university would be substantial, I was amazed and humbled and challenged by her deep commitment to fostering peace and social justice.”

Wolf spoke of his and Kaye’s love for the work of the Canadian novelist Margaret Laurence and quoted a passage from a recent speech by Laurence that, he said, described Fran’s attitude exactly:

“Do not despair. Act. Speak out. In the words of one of my heroines, Catherine Parr Trail [an early 19th-century Ontario homesteader], ‘in cases of emergency, it is folly to fold one’s hands and sit down to bewail in abject terror. It is better to be up and doing.’”

Kaye joined a celebrated succession of peacemakers honored by ATM, which alternate between men and women who are less-heralded than others: the late Betty Olson, Dwight Ganzel, Don Tilley, Marj Manglitz, Carol McShane, John McCall, Leola Bullock, Terry Werner, Michael Baker, MJ Berry, Christy Hargesheimer, Nan Graf, George Wolf and John Taylor, Dan Williams, Bob Epp, Bob Hitchcock and Elizabeth Goodbrake.

Formed at the outset of the first Gulf War, ATM is currently led by Marge Schlitt, Ruth Thone, Jim McChesney, Dwight Ganzel, Marj Manglitz, Nina Williamson, Bob Boyce and Nye Bond, chair emeritus. Bond cites being older than 90 as good reason to quit such demanding activity.

ATM provides literature to seven high school media centers and guidance departments to help high school students understand their choices for college and/or employment. Every semester, it leaflets outside each high school before class in the morning, and maintains an information table next to the lunch rooms.

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