Friends of the Plains
The Friends of the Plains was first organized in 1981. The annual membership fee was $35. As Pat O'Brien, the first director of the Center of the Great Plains Studies, indicated in a January 1982 memo to Great Plains faculty, "... the Friends Dinner is one of the events defrayed through [membership fees]." The 1982 dinner, organized by Faith Hickox and Liberal Arts and Sciences (LA&S) Dean John Peterson, was held January 22 at the Emporia Country Club. The speaker was Robert Bader, Dean of LA&S at the University of Missouri-St.Louis. He talked about his book The Great Kansas Bond Scandal, a book that had many connections to Emporia.
One noteworthy event at that dinner was the sample tape of public service announcements for Plains Talk radio segments. The Friends members were quite enthusiastic and the series of public service announcements continued for 10 years.
The Friends have met in many different locations over the years including the Emporia Country Club, Holiday Inn, Best Western, ESU Memorial Union, and the Granada Theatre. In 2005 the annual membership fee was raised to $40, and in 2008, it was raised to $50 per family.
Upon the retirement of Julie Johnson, Assistant Director for the Center for 27 years, Jim Hoy and the Friends instituted a Spirit of the Plains Award with Julie as the first recipient.