Frances Richardson Bio

The Washington Program in National Issues (WPNI) of Kent State University: A History Through Alumni Reminiscences

Founded in 1973, WPNI has had a long and eventful history as an academic/internship program of Kent State University in the Washington, D.C. area.  Let’s hear what alums have to say about some of that history:

Frances Richardson (class of 1939)

July 5, 2003

Living in Washington where so much of the “action takes place,” I recall my days in Ohio and at Kent State (’35-’39 and a summer in ’46). Washington and what was happening there was years away from what we were aware of, or maybe I might even say, learning about, on campus. Kent was a small town and we were part of the Middle West.

Then, living in Washington in the ‘70’s but sometimes visiting back in Ohio, I came to think that time here in Washington would be a broadening experience for Kent students. One evening at my house Bill Oliver (KSU ’64) and I talked about getting students to come down here -- we felt they didn’t know much about what was going on in the nation’s capital and ought to come and learn about it first hand. Bill, at that time, was working on the Hill. I then made several trips to Kent, driving up in my old VW to promote the idea. Don Shook of the Alumni Office did and said his office would sponsor it, if I could get an OK from the Political Science Department. I talked to Dr. Richard Taylor and he agreed, having had some experience with a Quaker Washington program.

A political science professor (George Betts) was named, who was recovering from an illness and it was thought that he could come to DC once or twice a week to look over what the students were seeing and doing. A graduate student was assigned to be with the students fulltime.

So the program got started with some announcements. A few students were rounded up, so to speak, and we found a cheap boarding house for them to stay in. We didn’t realize, then, that it was in a not-so-good part of town. The students had to get past drunks on the steps to get inside. No Metro then -- it was being built and streets were all torn up. One student fell into a ditch and was injured. It was a long walk for them to the Hill. But all survived and learned a bit about how the government works.

Julie Montgomery Walsh, an Alumna, had had some Alumni to a luncheon meeting and they began to arrange various interviews and a program of weekend suppers for the students since they didn’t have a lot of money and we felt they weren’t eating properly. In that first year, because the Kent professor came down to Washington only on a part-time basis, I found myself working full-time arranging interviews, going to the interviews, photocopying schedules, providing some suppers and taking in sick ones. But they got through the quarter and went back to the University agitating for a regular yearly program.

At the same time, on our part in DC to boost the program, Julia funded a reception at the end of the quarter at the Women’s Press Club. It was a fancy place and invitations were sent to whoever in Washington was on Kent’s mailing list. There was a big turnout because of the impressive location and those who came were leaned on to help and join a newly- formed Alumni Association. Both WPNI and the DC Chapter of the Alumni Association were on their way!

They succeeded.

Among the professors who served so well: Doctor Taylor. Dr. Ken Colton, who, we said, had more parking tickets than anyone else in Washington. He served for two years. Byron Lander came for a year and Murray Powers, of the Journalism School, boosted the enrollment of journalism students. Recently there was a wonderfully dedicated retired Political Science Professor, Dr. Barbara Harkness. Since the University was not always lavish with funds for this program, some of the first professors who came down ahead of time to check out the situation, stayed at my house.

I must say that in my view the assignment of Dr. Ken Colton was key. Since Kent did not provide funding for living quarters for the Directors assigned to DC, perhaps Colton was selected because his wife lived in Washington and he could stay with her. Whatever--his appointment made all the difference--it was a crucial choice. He coined the name - WPNI - he had an attractive brochure published to explain and advertise it. Cathy McMillan (Teti) who had been in the first year’s program as a junior and returned to the University to badger it to continue the program was named Colton’s student assistant. Dr. Olds was supportive and had connections in the White House, which resulted in a special briefing. After her graduation, Cathy obtained a job in Washington and is now at the top of an important government agency.

Now, my tale is down to the present…and I have found Rick Robyn to be absolutely tops.

I trust the Washington Program in National Issues will carry on and on. I’m well into my 80’s now and am going to be phasing out, after all these years! In closing, I might report something that isn’t generally known—when Dr. Cartright took office, she looked over the University’s “books” and noted that the Washington Program did not pay for itself and suggested it should be ended. This information was passed to the Alumni here who arranged for a big reception for her on the Hill with various important people attending who told her how impressed they were with Kent State students, etc. That did the trick. The fact is—and obviously, she has come to realize it – that the students and their interest in learning, and their intelligent questioning at interviews and their working conscientiously at internships has been good PR for the University and helped enhance its standing. It has also been an object of scholarship funds and gifts as well as a uniting theme for all the Alumni who are now living in this area.

Betty Harrington (class of 1964)

Memories glide by – and resonate for me – when I think of the fellowship of KSU alums and WPNI gathering together and celebrating common bonds to a great school, my alma mater. Among those memories ---

Cheering at an Orioles baseball game when – to our amazement - it starts to snow. Spring snows are regular occurrences for native Ohioans – but for those of us who have lived in the DC area for many years... It did come as a jolt. Being good sports, the KSU fans weathered the storm and huddled together and continued enjoying the ball game – a good lesson for life – particularly in the challenging times we all face!

Lauren B. Worley (class of 2001)

Communications Director, Ohio Democratic Party and Young Democrats of America Executive Committee

From meeting Justice Ginsburg and other prominent figures in Washington, to making the connections to land a job in DC, my WPNI experience was my gateway to success. The friendships I made during my time there have influenced my career and have given me a new sense of what can be accomplished out of humble beginnings as an intern. I credit the WPNI program with launching me into my career in state and national politics.

Living in Washington where so much of the “action takes place,” I recall my days in Ohio and at Kent State (’35-’39 and a summer in ’46). Washington and what was happening there was years away from what we were aware of, or maybe I might even say, learning about, on campus. Kent was a small town and we were part of the Middle West.