Public History Alum, Nona Storr, Featured in ‘The Loyola Project’
Nona Stor in her interview for The Loyola Project.
In 1963, the Loyola men’s basketball team broke racial barriers by playing, and beating, the all-white Mississippi State team and ultimately winning the NCAA Tournament. Public History MA alum, Nona Storr spent her time at Loyola researching and writing about this groundbreaking team. She has worked on and is featured in the recent documentary, The Loyola Project, which was released ahead of the sixtieth anniversary of the trailblazing team.
How did you get involved with The Loyola Project? What was your experience like?
Almost twenty-years ago, when I was a MA student in public history at Loyola, I researched and wrote my MA thesis on the amazing 1963 championship team. During the course of that research, I had a opportunity to interview several of the players including Jerry Harkness, Les Hunter, Jack Egan and Ron Miller. And I grew to appreciate how thrilling their feats were on the court and how important and courageous their efforts truly were. I tried to capture the significance of the team and that championship in my thesis. Patrick Creadon, the director of the Loyola Project, found my thesis on the Loyola website and reached out to me. The entire experience was inspiring, even in the midst of the pandemic. It had been some time since I had been deeply engaged with the players, with everything that happened that year, and with what came after. I found revisiting their story as enriching as I did when I was a student spending my time researching and writing about them as a solo endeavor. For the documentary, I worked mostly with the director and producer (a husband and wife team) as a subject matter expert and then was flown out for the filming and the writing of the accompanying discussion guide.
Can you share a favorite moment from your experience?
There were so many moments that stick out. I have been particularly struck at how well the film has been received. I've now had an opportunity to attend several screenings of the film, including the amazing event at Gentile Arena at Loyola. I enjoyed the screening at George Mason University, where I now teach. Perhaps my favorite was standing in the front of an auditorium at Howard University and watching that audience (which included several current student athletes) engage the film, weaving the past with their lived experience. That Les Hunter’s daughter, a Howard alumna, was in attendance made it all the more special.
What have you been up to since you left Loyola? How has your time at Loyola helped you both with The Loyola Project and your work after?
After I left Loyola, I entered the field of librarianship for a while before going on to pursue my Ph.D at George Mason University. After which, although I chose to pursue only a part-time career in academia, I regularly teach at GMU. I am also continuing to pursue research projects that employ the oral history methodology that I learned at Loyola. I'm currently working on a book on riots as a "tool" for bringing about social change that's under contract with Palgrave Macmillan.
My time at Loyola was instrumental in thinking about how to “do history” cooperatively. Whereas archival work and solo analysis is rather the mainstay of traditional historians, projects like The Loyola Project are much more cooperative in nature. There are many other beneficial connections I can make from my time at Loyola to the work I do now. For example, my attachment to oral testimony as a source for my research stems directly from Professor Nolan’s class. My careful attention to the physical world was honed in Professor Karamanski’s class. It’s not such a far jump from pouring over types of fenestrations and the historical significance of a building to considering the contested nature of a city’s main thoroughfare as I try to understand why riots occur where they do. It's not an exaggeration to say I became an historian at Loyola University Chicago.
The Loyola Project is out now. Find a screening and watch the trailer at theloyolaproject.com.
Members of the 1963 Loyola basketball team. Courtesy of the Loyola University Chicago Special Collections: Thomas J. Bryant, S.J. Photograph Collection
12 March 2022