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by Gracie Phillips, KVML 2020 Summer Intern

With Kurt Vonnegut’s typewriter on display in the background, Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library’s CEO and founder Julia Whitehead and Dan Simon with Seven Stories Press welcomed guests to the first of four Vonnegut-Style Virtual Grad Parties Tuesday. Each week in May, KVML will host a celebration honoring graduates who will not get to walk across their schools’ stages this spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Julia Whitehead, KVML CEO and founder, emceeing from the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library May 5.

Publisher Dan Simon from Seven Stories Press raises a glass in honor of this year’s graduates.

“This is a graduation like no other,” Whitehead said, as she introduced actor Tony Shalhoub, writer Jacqueline Woodson, comedian and actor Lewis Black, and high school senior and KVML intern Ricco Schuster, who all took turns reading from Vonnegut’s graduation speech, “The Terrible Disease of Loneliness,” from the book, If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?

Celebrity Speech Readers (L-R): Tony Shalhoub, Jacqueline Woodson, Ricco Schuster, and Lewis Black.

Simon, Vonnegut’s friend and publisher, pointed out that while Vonnegut frequently spoke at college graduations, the author never graduated college himself. “I think because of that,” Simon said, “he always approached his conversations with graduates in a very humble way.”

The ceremony highlighted the talents of Charlie Ballentine and Amanda Gardier, who performed a cheery, jazz version of “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” Poet Manon Voice followed with her powerful poem, “Time Capsule,” in which she encouraged the audience to recognize that “we were worth saving, so we decided to start with ourselves.” Finally, Ed Battista from Bluebeard spoke about his restaurant and plans to eventually open a second Vonnegut-themed eatery on the first floor of the new KVML building. He raised a glass (a specialty cocktail created at Bluebeard) to the online graduates and concluded with a note of hope for the uncertain future: “We’re humans. We figure it out.”

Thanks to Amanda Gardier, Charlie Ballentine, Manon Voice, and Ed Battista for making our first graduation event a success!

Twenty-six individual graduates were honored at Tuesday’s program, with shout-outs to several colleges and high schools. The ceremony concluded with a video of Kurt Vonnegut himself reading a graduation speech from 1998 at Rice University.

If you missed this week’s ceremony, we’re hosting more over the next three weeks. Tune in May 12. Lewis Black returns to read the names of graduating seniors. He’ll be joined by a new lineup of celebrity readers and performers, including Russell Banks, David Brancaccio, Kia Corthron, Rob Dixon, and Dan Wakefield.  Go to Eventbrite for tickets and more information.



Kathi Badertscher, PhD

Director of Graduate Programs at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
Kathi Badertscher, PhD, is Director of Graduate Programs at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Dr. Badertscher teaches a variety of BA, MA, and doctoral courses, including Applying Ethics in Philanthropy and History of Philanthropy. She has participated in several Teaching Vonnegut workshops and is a member of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. Dr. Badertscher has been a guest speaker on ethics in philanthropy, including at the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners – Indianapolis Council; Association of Fundraising Professionals – Indiana Chapter; and Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University, Tianjin, China. In 2019 she received IUPUI Office for Women, Women’s Leadership Award for Newcomer Faculty. In 2019 and 2020 she received the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Graduate Teaching Award.
Dr. Badertscher’s publications include “Fundraising for Advocacy and Social Change,” co-authored with Shariq Siddiqui in Achieving Excellence in Fundraising, 5th ed., 2022; “Insulin at 100: Indianapolis, Toronto, Woods Hole, and the ‘Insulin Road,’ co-authored with Christopher Rutty, Pharmacy in History (2020); and three articles in the Indiana Magazine of History: “A New Wishard Is on the Way,” “Evaline Holliday and the Work of Community Service,” and “Social Networks in Indianapolis during the Progressive Era.” Her chapters on social welfare history will appear in three upcoming edited volumes on the history of philanthropy, including “The Legacy of Edna Henry and Her Contributions to the IU School of Social Work,” Women at Indiana University: Views of the Past and the Future, edited by Andrea Walton, Indiana University Press, 2022 (forthcoming). Dr. Badertscher is also the Philanthropy and Nonprofits Consulting Editor for the forthcoming Digital Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, edited by David J. Bodenhamer and Elizabeth Van Allen, Indiana University Press, 2021. Dr. Badertscher is an active volunteer in the Indianapolis community. At present, she is a Coburn Place Safe Haven Board Member and a Children’s Bureau/Families First Brand and Marketing Advisor. Dr. Badertscher holds the MA in History from Indiana University and the MA and PhD in philanthropic studies from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

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