Kent State photographs have huge impact on teacher’s life

Kent State photographs have huge impact on teacher's life

Media Academy teacher Howard Ruffner holds the May 15, 1970 Life Magazine that features his photograph of the Kent State University shootings. Ruffner was a guest speaker in Michael Jackson's U.S. History classes on Tuesday, the 40th anniversary of the shootings of Vietnam War demonstrators. Photo by Jennifer Truong

Exactly 40 years ago today, Media Academy teacher Howard Ruffner took a picture that would eventually end up as a historic piece of evidence of the horrible killings that occurred at Kent State University. It is a picture that changed his life.

Ruffner, who was working as a student photographer at Kent State University in 1970, talked to juniors about the event and how he eventually ended up taking the historic picture of students suffering after being shot by the Ohio National Guard for demonstrating against the Vietnam War.

One of his photos became the May 15, 1970 Life Magazine cover.

Later, Ruffner explained to Green & Gold how the event changed his life.

“It gave me some opportunities and opened some doors,” he said. “It also made me aware of in history to be skeptical of what you see and read.”

Ruffner has been interviewed by national and international news agencies about his role in photographing the Kent State massacre.

Besides being skeptical of historical accounts, Ruffner is changed in other ways.

“It also taught me that there needs to be time between and event and its meaning and how it’s viewed later,” he said. “Now people have a historical frame for it. You don’t see National Guard killing people any more. We’ve grown up as a society.”