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The Unfinished Sermon

A Tribute to Rev. John Vannorsdall

Edited by Devin McKinney

Musselman Library / 2021 / 54 pages / illustrated

John Vannorsdall, Chaplain of Gettysburg College from 1962 to 1976, pushed for civil rights and an end to war in one of the most convulsive eras of US history. As a luminary in the Lutheran Church, he brought progressive principles to bear in his daily work; situated in a highly conservative region a few miles above the Mason-Dixon Line, he lived those principles in a place where it could be dangerous to do so.

A lucid thinker and a brilliant writer, a humanist and a religionist, Vannorsdall projected absolute calm while demanding much of himself and others. He mentored, counseled, organized, and inspired a generation of Gettysburg students, many of whom remained close to “JV” and his wife, Pat, up to the time of their deaths, only days apart in April 2020, from COVID-19.

The Unfinished Sermon collects illuminating excerpts from Vannorsdall’s Gettysburg-era writings—sermons, articles, prayers, poems, memos—along with news reports, oral histories, archival images, and a specially written reflection by his son, Chris. As JV engages with the era’s great confrontations—from racism to assassination to war, from the New Frontier to the Seventies of exhaustion and retrenchment—a double portrait emerges of a singular individual and a defining time in history.


    Common Cause

    An Oral History of the World War II Home Front

    Edited by Devin McKinney and Michael J. Birkner

    Musselman Library / 2018 / 139 pages / illustrated

    In excerpts drawn from Musselman Library's Oral History Archive, the World War II years are recalled by dozens of the men and women—adults, teenagers, children—who endured them on the home front.

    The home front experience was by turns exhilarating, fearsome, depressing, and banal. Some civilians had it relatively easy, while others had it hard. Righteous confidence was offset by looming uncertainty, patriotism was often buttressed by bigotry, and the joys of victory and reunion were shadowed by irreplaceable losses.

    In this volume, the speech of ordinary citizens in extraordinary times is augmented by abundant illustration, much of it in color—photographs, posters, artifacts, and other evocations of a past that still fascinates us.

    Through word and image, in tones of humor, warmth, anger, and sadness, Common Cause brings back the unique features of American life at that time, and the daily reality of being a nation at war.

    Encounters with Eisenhower

    Personal reminiscences collected to mark the 125th anniversary

    of the birth of Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Edited by Michael J. Birkner and Devin McKinney

    Musselman Library / 2015 / 107 pages / illustrated

    From 1942 through 1970, from world war through the White House to the retirement years and after his death, Eisenhower's personal aspects and legacies are detailed in the words of those who experienced him in private moments. Excerpts are drawn from Musselman Library's Oral History Archive and from the papers of the Gettysburg-based Eisenhower Society.


    Voices from D-Day

    June 6, 1944

    Musselman Library / 2014 / 53 pages / illustrated

    The Normandy invasion was one of a handful of turning points in World War II, and remains the greatest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare. In interview excerpts drawn from Musselman Library's Oral History Archive, veterans of D-Day, along with a handful of others who had intimate knowledge of the operation, recall in precise and unvarnished detail the preparations, execution, and aftermath of that horrific and historic day.

    George M. Leader


    Interviewed by Michael J. Birkner and Charles H. Glatfelter

    Musselman Library / 2014 / 177 pages / illustrated

    Leader, the 36th governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was a steadfast liberal in a traditionally conservative state. He spent his years in office (1955-1959) fighting uphill battles and blazing courageous trails—overhauling the state's corrupt patronage system; streamlining and humanizing its mental health apparatus; and, when a black family moved into the white enclave of Levittown, standing in favor of integration.

    On three occasions in 2006 and 2007, Gettysburg College history professors Birkner and Glatfelter engaged the former governor in interviews about his life and times. Leader talked expansively and candidly about his wins and losses, his prides and regrets; the excitement and bitterness of politics, the satisfactions of philanthropy, and the sustenance of family. These interviews, ranging over nearly a century of political and state history, tell the story of one of Pennsylvania's most remarkable sons.

    Some of these titles are available as free PDF downloads. Click the cover to see.
    Hard copies may be purchased by writing to:
    Musselman Library, Gettysburg College, 300 N. Washington St., Gettysburg, PA 17325.
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