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Susan Biasella Hohs, Oral History
Recorded: March 26, 2020
Interviewed by Kathleen Siebert Medicus
Transcribed by Anita Clary
[Interviewer]: This is Kathleen Siebert Medicus, speaking on Thursday, March 26, 2020, and I am at my home in Kent, Ohio. As part of the May 4 Kent State Shootings Oral History Project, we are recording an interview over the telephone today. Could you please state your name for the recording?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: My name is Susan Biasella Hohs.
[Interviewer]: Thank you. Thank you, Susan. And is Biasella the last name you went by during your student days at Kent State?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yes, I actually started—my freshman and sophomore years I was Susan Kolarek, K-o-l-a-r-e-k. I got married at the end of my sophomore year, so I became Susan Biasella, B-i-a-s-e-l-l-a, and my husband passed away in 2002 and I remarried in 2009 and so that’s why I’m Susan Hohs now, H-o-h-s.
[Interviewer]: Wonderful, thank you, that way we can find you in the yearbook and find a picture of you, so it’s great to have your name. Thank you very much.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: You’re welcome.
[Interviewer]: I’d like to begin with just some really brief information about you, about your background, so we can get to know you a little bit. Can you tell us where you were born and where you grew up?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yes, I was born in Freemont, Ohio, and then, when I was two years old, we moved to Granger, Ohio, lived on a farm there. And then, when I was about three, we moved to Hinckley, Ohio, and that’s where I grew up—in Hinckley. And that’s where I lived when I went to Kent State, until when I moved into a dorm.
[Interviewer]: When did you first come to Kent State as a student?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: I started my freshman year in the fall of 1967, and I remember doing my registration in a long line in the former—at that time it was the gymnasium—and it was at the front of campus—and we had long lines for registration. So, that’s when I started.
[Interviewer]: Wow, yeah. Because it was in person, unlike today, where it’s all online.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yes, there was nothing online back then. Computers were not really used much back then in ’67.
[Interviewer]: No, not by the average person anyway.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Right.
[Interviewer]: So, what drew you to decide to come to Kent State as a freshman?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Okay, I was accepted to the St. Luke’s School of Nursing in Cleveland, and they required all of their nursing students to spend one year at Kent State doing foundational classes in sciences. So, when I was there for registration, Dr. Linnea Henderson came up to me and said, “We’d like you to become a student in the first class of nursing at Kent, and you can get a bachelor of science degree that way.” So, I was like, Oh, well that sounds interesting. Because I was a good student in high school, and she was asking me to come, so I said, “Okay, I will do that!”
So, I changed lines in registration to get in the classes she recommended. I went home, I went back to my dorm room, and you know we had telephones that were in the center of the hallway by the elevators and you had to take turns using it. And I called my mother at home and said, “Mom, I getting a bachelor of science degree in nursing in the first class at Kent!”
[Interviewer]: Aw. Was she excited?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: She was surprised and was saying, “How are we going to pay for this?” Because my family did not have a lot of money. And, at that time, I was the first person in my family to graduate from college.
[Interviewer]: Oh, my goodness.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: So, yeah, this was a big step. And actually, my father really did not see any point in girls going to college. For him, you stayed home and got married. And my mother was the one who said, “You’re going to go to college.” So, I was going to be a nurse, and I always wanted to be a nurse, but to switch from St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing to Kent State was a big change for me.
So, I remember my freshman year I lived in Fletcher Hall on the fourth floor, and I studied very, very hard. Was scared to death my fall quarter that I would not do well in college. The—my counselor in high school, this was Highland High School out in Granger Township, which is now a thriving high school. Back then it was, you know, Podunk, out in the country, and she had said I was supposed to maybe get like a C average in college. So, when I got my first set of grades after I studied very, very hard, I had straight A’s.
[Interviewer]: Oh, wow.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: So, my whole freshman year, I had straight A’s and I won a prize that year, that I was awarded, because I had the highest grade point average in the freshman class. Me and another girl, we shared the prize. I’d have to look it up to tell you the name of it, but it was a prestigious award for the highest grade point average.
[Interviewer]: That’s wonderful. That’s fantastic. Well, your mother must have been very happy.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Oh, very proud of me, yes. My mom and dad were both proud, and they came to the award ceremony.
[Interviewer]: Oh, and then maybe your dad came around a little bit to the idea of you—
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yes, he did.
[Interviewer]: —going to a four-year college.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yes, by that he did, yes.
[Interviewer]: I’m curious, how much you were aware or what your impressions were when you arrived on campus those first couple of years, of protests that were going on, of civil rights, anti-war, what did that look like in your day-to-day life?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Okay, for my freshman year, which was the fall of ’67 to the spring of ’68, we wore beanies when we were freshmen, and we had to dink toward any upperclassman who said, “Frosh, you have to dink.” And you’d take your beanie off and bow before them.
[Interviewer]: Oh yeah, yeah.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: So, it was very different, and my freshman year we wore skirts and knee socks to classes, we did not wear slacks. So, in the wintertime, I’m living in Fletcher, walking through the snow to get to the front campus to go to classes.
[Interviewer]: In knee socks.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: And we wore skirts. All right, so this is a very, what, conservative time in the fall of ’67. Well by the spring of ’68, I was dating a boy who was, my mother thought was, she was very worried about this because he had come to the house, but he was a member of the SDS—Students for a Democratic Society.
And he showed me a package of marijuana, which I was like, Oh my gosh! You know, this is illegal, this is horrible. So, I didn’t, he wanted me to try it which I wouldn’t do, but he was an interesting character. So, he was there my freshman, that was spring quarter of my freshman year. And that’s as close as I got to any demonstrations or anything.
Now the big change, big change, was the fall of ’68. I came back to campus, everybody was wearing blue jeans, and sandals, and T-shirts. So, we went from the fall of my freshman year wearing sweaters and pleated skirts and knee socks to the fall of my sophomore year wearing blue jeans and T-shirts and sandals. And that—at the time, it was those wide-legged bell-bottom blue jeans, and it was like, to see who had the raggediest bottoms because you had walked in these blue jeans so far. And it was like totally, totally different.
So, it was a sea change, a total sea change, from the fall of ’67 to the fall of ’68. That summer changed everything. So, I came back to campus and I had blue jeans, and now I was living in, oh, it’s the dorm, Olson Hall, it was in Olson Hall and my roommates were both nursing students [unintelligible], because you know, we had kind of coalesced together and found each other in classes. So, my roommates were nursing students and we were living in Olson Hall then.
[Interviewer]: Okay, so bought blue jeans over the summer and you were ready.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Life had changed.
[Interviewer]: Life had changed.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yes, and so I bought blue jeans to come to campus in the fall. And I had broken up with that particular boyfriend, and I had met my future husband and we were dating at that time. So, he would come from Cuyahoga Falls to see me every, gosh, he came almost every day to visit me as a sophomore. Yeah, and he would come and visit and we would study together in the cafeteria. Because that’s what you did. And I studied at—being a straight A student—I studied Sunday night through Thursday night and then we took off Friday and Saturday.
[Interviewer]: That’s a great schedule.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: I also remember Thursday night, I think it was at the end of studying, we would go to an ice cream shop that was on Route 5, it was Main Street, Route 5 at that time, and we would have an ice cream soda and sit and neck in the car. And we would drive on the back-country roads in Kent and sit and neck. I remember being by a cornfield or something and finally some farmer came out and found us. But, that was during my sophomore year.
[Interviewer]: That’s embarrassing.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Oh, yeah, and then we got married, June 28 of 1969. So, we were married at the end of my sophomore year.
[Interviewer]: Was he also a student at Kent State? Or was he studying elsewhere?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: He had just graduated from Akron University, and he was a civil engineer. He was working with computers, and at that time at Akron U, the computer filled an entire room that was air-conditioned, specially controlled, and the computers were up on a platform. And he had someone who did his keypunch cards, and then he would put them in.
My senior, my sophomore spring quarter was helping Rick graduate as a senior from Akron U, because I would ask him questions about civil engineering classes, you know, like he would have to give me the answers, so we were studying together for him to graduate and for me to complete my sophomore year of nursing which was the first time we were actually in the hospitals, too. We were there for, I think it was four hours a week, once a week, our sophomore year.
Because it was just like, oh no, wait a minute, it might have been two, two days a week, I think. I could look it up for you because I have all of my—all of my grades I have in a notebook in an album down in the basement. I have every grade from all four years. So, I could actually tell you what classes I took. We might have been in the hospital two days a week. But it was short days, it was like four hours at a time or something, and it was just learning the very basics at the hospital. We didn’t do, I mean we took care of patients, but like, you didn’t pass medication or anything like that.
Okay, so that was my sophomore year. My sophomore year I was engaged to be married, planning a wedding, helping my husband—my fiancé—graduate, and yes, I knew that there was ruckus on campus and there were demonstrations, but I didn’t participate because my focus was on getting the very best grades I could and getting married.
[Interviewer]: But, would you say kind of day to day, from your perception, as busy as you were, but was your perception that that was ramping up; that was becoming more intense on campus over time, like ’68?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: I would say, yeah, it was becoming more intense. I remember students gathering and marching and protesting and people hanging signs in their dorm windows. About, you know, the Vietnam War. I remember just that the Vietnam War was horrible, that we were looking at how many people our age were being killed every day. And if I remember right, the Akron Beacon Journal on the front page would list how many soldiers had died that day. And from the United States, and it was in a little corner at the bottom of the newspaper on the front page was like a death toll. Every day, how many had died, how many had died. And I think the university got a newspaper that was in the lounge in the front of the dorm, and you could read that there. Yeah, it was something.
[Interviewer]: Was your fiancé, had he, was he at risk of being drafted once he graduated?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Okay. We, well actually, we had gotten, yeah, we—I’m trying to think. He graduated in June of ’69, and he got his draft notice, and he went to the Draft Board and was interviewed. But because he was a civil engineer working on the interstate highway system, he got a deferment because of his job. Because he worked for Dalton-Dalton-Little-Newport in Akron. And that’s where he worked, in Highland Square in Akron. And back then I think it was just Dalton and Dalton.
He was working on helping build interstate highways, designing them. So, he was deferred because of his national responsibilities. So, we were very thankful for that. I can remember him getting the draft notice and going down and I was praying, Oh dear Lord, oh you know, please don’t let him get drafted because we were going to be getting married.
[Interviewer]: Right, yeah. Oh, very scary. Was your family—
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Let me change that. We were already married, because we got married two weeks after he graduated. We got married June 28th of ’69. And he got his draft notice, I think, like July or August. So, we were already married, and we were living in College Towers—the new, brand new apartment building at the back of campus. And we lived in apartment number 609. So, we actually faced toward the fields and there were all cornfields now behind the campus. Okay.
[Interviewer]: What a year for him. Graduating, getting married, getting a draft notice. Good grief, that’s a lot.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Right. Yes, draft notice, and then thankfully getting a deferment because he was working on the interstate highway system that had—that was still in the process of being built.
[Interviewer]: And what a blessing for him because then he could continue working on what he had trained for and what he wanted to do.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yes. Exactly.
[Interviewer]: A couple of other questions before we go into your memories from the period around the shootings. Did you have—what was your sense of the relationship between local residents of Kent, community members and students—like if you went downtown, went to a bar or the ice cream place?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Okay. First of all, I never went to the bars. I was the student who stayed at home, this was my freshman year, stayed at home in the dorm and all the girls would come in drunk, and I was the one who took them to the bathroom and helped them throw up. And then put them back to bed. It was my roommate, actually.
[Interviewer]: That was your first practical nursing experience.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: And I did not do that.
[Interviewer]: Good for you.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: So, my relationship with the town. My freshman year, I did, the fall of my freshman year, I dated a young man and we would walk the streets and I can remember the streets across from front campus, walking those streets and gazing longingly into the living rooms of homes. Because they had a living room and a kitchen and a family, and it was so different for us.
[Interviewer]: Right, right. Maybe you were a little homesick—
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: So, we would walk those streets. And nobody bothered us. That was my freshman year. My sophomore year, I was already with Rick, and if we did anything, we would go into Cuyahoga Falls and do things with his family. And we also, his family had a house on Lake Mohawk, south of Canton, in the country, in Malvern, and we would go down there every weekend. Because Rick had helped build that house and they had a boat, and so every weekend we were going down there in the summer. And that kind of plays into the story that I have to tell, too.
So basically, my weekends were spent off campus with either Rick’s family or my family, and I really didn’t do much with the residents of Kent as a community my sophomore year, because we were doing other things with our own families.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, sure, okay. So maybe I’ll stop asking questions here and let you tell your stories, starting wherever you like.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: All right, so I was living with my husband in College Towers, in apartment 609. I was a junior nursing student now, and we would have Monday lectures that lasted four hours long. They would start at eight in the morning and go till almost noon. And that was every Monday morning that entire year. And so, I studied very, very hard, keeping my grade point average up, because I wanted to graduate with a 4.0 if I could. And so, when we—and I knew that the—I knew that there were more and more demonstrations on campus. But I also would go home and talk with my husband and we had decided I would not be part of the demonstrations, because it was dangerous. And I was very focused on keeping up my 4.0 GPA.
The story really starts, I think it was Sunday, May 2. We were driving home from Lake Mohawk, in Malvern, and as we were coming up Interstate 76 we could see this orange glow in the sky, over Kent, and we were like, Oh my gosh, something bad is going on. So, when we got off 76 at Route 43, we would usually turn left on 43 and go up to Summit Street and get right up to our home. Well, this time we saw this orange glow in the sky and thinking something really bad is going on, so we turned to the right onto Route 43, going south actually, and Rick found this way using country roads—that we probably had necked on—but found this back-roads way to get to College Towers.
So, we got home, and we’re wondering what’s going on and, by then you know, the TV was on and you could see that they had burned the ROTC Building. And so, we talked about that. Then on Sunday, and here is where maybe I need a little help with the memory, but Sunday there were National Guardsmen already on campus. And if I remember right, they were using helicopters to go over campus and watch things. And they used our building, College Towers, as a turn-around point to go back over the campus. So, all I remember is we could hardly sleep at night because the helicopter would come over the building and we were on the top floor, so you could hear the whrrr-whrrr of the helicopters going over the building and back over campus and then they would come back. So that was Sunday.
So, Monday, we knew that there was, you know, we knew there was demonstrations going on, but Rick and I had agreed I would not attend a demonstration because it was possibly dangerous. So, I went to my nursing class and I think they let us out early, and I went home. So, I get into my apartment and I sit down to study at my desk, and I have a radio there that’s turned on, because I want to know what’s going on.
So, over the radio comes the announcement that two National Guard and two students had been killed. That was the first announcement on the radio. So, I’m like, Oh my gosh. I go across the hallway to my neighbor, and the two of us stand on their balcony and we watched the ambulances come and take away the students. Because we had a direct line of sight over toward Taylor Hall and Prentice Hall, and so we watched the ambulances come and take students away. So, I go back into the apartment and I call my husband, who works now at Highland Square in Akron, and say, “You better come and get me. I’m hearing on the radio they’re closing the campus.” So, I go and I pack a suitcase knowing that we’re going to have to live for at least several days, you know, away. And then I go back to the phone to call Rick again and say, You better hurry and get here! And the phone lines were cut. There was no phone.
[Interviewer]: No dial tone.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: So, I couldn’t reach him. Nothing! So, I thought, okay, I hope to God he’s on his way. So, I get my stuff ready to go, and I’m listening to the radio all the time, and they’re announcing that the, you know, the wounded and the students and, by now, they had changed it to there were four students that were killed. And wounded, not—no National Guard were killed. And that’s an interesting difference there, okay?
So, they were taking them to Robinson Memorial. I don’t know if they took them into the Akron hospitals, whatever. But then Rick came home and here, the Lord was with us, because when he got off of 77 [editor’s clarification: narrator probably means highway 76], he couldn’t turn left to come home quickly, because the road—43 was blocked. So, he turned to the right and used those roads that we had just found on Saturday, to bring, to bring us back home. So, he came back and he got me, took our suitcase, and we went to live with his parents in Cuyahoga Falls.
And when we got into the house, his father said, “They should kill more students.”
And I was shocked. I said, you know, “These are people, you know, you don’t kill people.” Well then, as the TV went on that we’re all watching at his father’s home, his mom and dad’s home in Cuyahoga Falls, then they announced who was killed. And when they said Sandra Scheuer, I knew Sandra. Sandra lived on my dorm floor in Fletcher Hall my freshman year. And I remember seeing her in the bathroom, and seeing her at the telephone area, and she was a person just like me. We were studying, she was a student, she was not somebody who was there to have a good time. She wasn’t somebody who, as far as I remember, went out and got drunk or anything. She was a student just like me. So, I said to my father-in-law, I said, “If they killed Sandra Scheuer, it would be no different than if they had killed me.”
So, at that point, they stopped criticizing that they should kill more students. So, we lived with them for three days, and then we went back to our apartment because they said people who were living in that area could come back. The campus wasn’t open, but the apartment building was open.
So, we went back and we lived in our apartment building. And see, this is what I don’t remember. Is that the time that there were helicopters still there? That they were still going over campus even when we went back three days later?
So, I lived there and wondered what was going to happen? You know, what was going to happen to my nursing? My nursing school? This is my junior year, spring quarter and we were going to the hospital, at that point, I believe it was at least two—two, like seven-hour days a week. Yeah, I think it was two seven-hour days a week, and I was in maternity nursing at St. Luke’s. And I always wanted to be a maternity nurse. I loved babies and children and I thought I’m going either to be maternity or pediatrics, and here they cut my junior year. So, we finished all of our classes by—they mailed us stuff at home—and we finished our classes at home with open-book tests, obviously. And you wrote papers and stuff and you mailed it back in.
Then, all of a sudden, we get the word there would be a bus to take us to St. Luke’s for one week of clinicals.
So, I would go to the bus stop and the bus would pick us up and then we would go all the way to St. Luke’s, drop us off at Luke’s. They took the other people to Mt. Sinai, because it was those two schools that closed to make the Kent State School of Nursing. So, I did five days of clinical in maternity. And that was the end of my maternity nursing.
So, you wonder what effect did it have? When I went down to take my state boards, which I obviously passed, but my lowest score—because, back then, they gave you scores in each area—my lowest score was in maternity nursing. Because we didn’t have the clinicals, we didn’t have the lecture time that we should have had. So anyway, I passed my state boards. But I can show you on my state board thing where my lowest score was in maternity.
[Interviewer]: Such a shame, because that was your interest.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: It was my junior year. So, in clinicals I got to see one C-section. I assisted, I think, with maybe two or three vaginal births, and that was it. Because—
[Interviewer]: You just had that one week.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: It depended on what came in, what came in. Yeah. So, that’s what happened. And then, my senior year, things were very quiet on campus. The mood was very somber. And our first class graduated in May of ’71. It was the first class of nursing, and I think we had about sixty-three students in our class. So, that’s my story.
[Interviewer]: What was it like in the summer of 1970? Were you doing summer work, summer coursework?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: No, at that time the School of Nursing did not have any summer classes at all. It’s what it is today. This is the very beginning. There was no—we were a School of Nursing in name only. Dr. Henderson’s office, I think, was in the basement of Satterfield or Bowman Hall. It was just one room. That was her office. Our classes met all over campus because we didn’t have a place that was our own. We finally ended up in Lowry Hall, and that’s where we ended up having most of our classes, I think, by the time I was a junior. So, we were in Lowry Hall, and that summer there were no nursing classes, and I was working then as a nursing assistant at Akron General Hospital. Because, by the time you finished your junior year, actually at the end of my sophomore year of nursing, I think I was able to get a job as a nursing assistant at Akron General. That was on a surgical floor. At the end of my junior year—yeah, that’s right—the end of my junior year, they promoted me to intensive care. So, I worked in ICU the end of my junior year, and then through my senior year I would go back and work, like over vacation breaks—like Christmas and stuff—I worked for them. And then when I graduated, that was obviously my first job, was at Akron General. Immediately they offer you a job. Of course, they wanted to get bachelor nurses there, so I was one of the first bachelor of nurses they hired.
[Interviewer]: Nice. And were you in the maternity unit?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: No. No, because I had worked intensive care. I remember sitting with the vice president of nursing, she was the one who interviewed for hire and I said, “I’d like to work maternity.” And she said, “Well, you have to have at least one year of medical/surgical behind you before you go into maternity. And since you worked intensive care, we’re opening a brand-new coronary care unit. The first one the hospital ever had, and we would like you to work there.” And I worked on night shift for a year.
So, I worked night shift, solid nights for a year in coronary care and, in May of ’72, Dr. Henderson called me and asked me to become a teacher at Kent State. So, I went back to Kent, and we were living in Tallmadge now at the time, but I went to Kent and I became an instructor of nursing with Kent State.
And I taught there the year—the fall of ’72 to ’73, I taught at Kent. And from there, we bought our first house in Sagamore Hills. I was soon pregnant with our first child, and Paul was born in July of ’73. And then I had Beth in ’75 and then Kent State asked me to come back and be a clinical instructor again as a substitute. So, I substitute taught all the way until ’82. And I would do, I substitute taught down at St. Luke’s, and I—pretty much St. Luke’s and then Robinson Memorial. So, I was a substitute teacher in the clinical area for them.
So, I’m a Kent State alumnus and a Kent State former teacher. I love Kent State, I’m very proud of the College of Nursing. When you look at that College of Nursing today, I believe it’s one of the largest one in Northeast Ohio, and we supply—I mean I could get you the stats or you could call them—but we supply something, I want to say almost 40% of the nurses in Northeast Ohio are Kent grads and the school offers everything from a bachelor’s degree in nursing to a doctorate to master’s and all that. The school has grown tremendously in fifty years. I’m very proud of the school.
Also, I’m a founding member of Sigma, no, gosh, trying to remember the name—it’s our nursing honorary. I’m not active in it any longer. Sigma Theta Tau. So, I’m a member of that and I was a founding member of that when it first started. So, a lot of history with Kent.
[Interviewer]: Yes, and you’ve been with the School of Nursing throughout its journey for over fifty years.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yes, absolutely. I was there when they opened the School of Nursing building which was later named Henderson Hall in honor of Dr. Henderson. I went to her funeral. Dr. Henderson, she was wonderful.
[Interviewer]: I have just a couple follow-up questions—things I’m curious about, if that’s okay.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Sure.
[Interviewer]: One thing I’m wondering about is in the immediate aftermath of the shootings and into the summer of 1970, for you to get to—you were working, you said, at Akron General—were you taking back roads? Did you have any more difficulty with the roadblocks?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: You know, I honestly don’t remember. But probably by, you know I really don’t remember, and it’s most likely that I took back roads until the roadblocks were taken down. And then I just took Summit Street to 43 and 43 to 76.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, you guys were pretty good at the backroad thing, it sounds like.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: We were. We knew them.
[Interviewer]: Another thing I’m curious about—I’m sure your parents were hearing the same reports on the news, on the radio, or on television, on May 4, 1970, and were you able to get ahold of them? Were they worried for your safety?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: I could not reach them until we got to Rick’s parents’ house in Cuyahoga Falls, because that was the closest. My parents lived in Hinckley, so I called them from Rick’s parents’ house and said, you know, “I’m safe, I’m okay,” and they were relieved to know. They knew I was never part of the demonstrations; that just—that wasn’t me. I mean, I respected the demonstrators and I wanted the war to end, but I was not a person who was part of the demonstrations. Because nursing was so hard; I mean, my—well, we had to, we had—at that time, there were no classes made specifically for nurses in the sciences. So, we had to take the same chemistry, biology, bacteriology, anatomy and physiology as the biology majors. Nothing was watered down for nurses back then. Today, they have all these classes that are simpler for nursing students. Not when I took it. So, I had to study. And keep up my grade point average. Because I did graduate with a 3.96, I think.
[Interviewer]: Oh, you came close.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Or 3.99. I only had like two B’s my entire college years.
[Interviewer]: Oh, my gosh. And taking those hard classes--that’s really tough.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yeah, and two of those B’s came in that junior spring quarter year when we had to finish things by mail.
[Interviewer]: Oh, wow, wow, yeah.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yep.
[Interviewer]: And it was probably a difficult time to be able to concentrate as well as normal.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Oh, it was. Yeah, it was, absolutely. It was all wrong. Everything was wrong. It’s about the only way to put it. The only thing that was wonderful was the chance to do maternity nursing at St. Luke’s for five days.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, to really do it for a whole week, full time.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yeah, yeah. And that’s the only time we saw our instructors. Our teachers were—it was all by mail.
[Interviewer]: That was hard; that sounds like a really hard time.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: It was.
[Interviewer]: At this point, is there anything you’d like to share, maybe about how these experiences affected your life or affected you personally, emotionally over the years?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Over the years, I would say I am always very proud to be a Kent State grad. And whenever I have an opportunity, I tell people. You know, when they hear that you graduated from college from Kent State they would right away say, “Oh, were you there when the students were killed?” Then I will tell them my story. And, yes, I was a junior in nursing, and here’s what happened. Now, I obviously wasn’t part of the demonstrations, but I still observed the ambulances taking the students away and heard the helicopters whirring over my head in our apartment. You know, it changes your life. Because no matter where you go when you get into the discussion of where did you go to college and all that, it always comes up. So, I have been a very loyal Kent State supporter for over fifty years now.
In fact, I was going to attend the May 4th 50th celebration, which is cancelled now.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, right, due to the pandemic. That’s a shame. There will be quite a bit of online and virtual things happening.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: That’s good.
[Interviewer]: But I’m thinking maybe the 51st commemoration, if things are safe then, there will be a lot going on in a year, I’m hoping.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yeah, I hope so, because I attended, you know, I attended Ruffner’s talk, and then I was planning to go to other things. I wasn’t able to get tickets for Jane Fonda because that sold out so fast. And I’m on their alumni newsletter—email newsletter for the May 4th honoring, you know, everything. So, I don’t know if it’s appropriate to call it a celebration or not. It’s really an anniversary.
[Interviewer]: Yeah. Commemoration is a word a lot of people use.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yes, commemoration is a better word. Yeah, commemoration. So, I bought two books, and I was going to attend things, and I will do whatever I can online, and probably attend next year.
[Interviewer]: Yeah, yeah. And participate in the Oral History Project, which you’ve done today. So, thank you so much. We’re really trying to reach out and enable people to do this over the phone because that’s an important part of commemorating—is being able to tell your story.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Yes. Yes, it is.
[Interviewer]: I really appreciate your taking the time to tell us your story today. Thank you so much.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: You are very welcome.
[Interviewer]: Is there anything else you wanted to touch on that we haven’t covered before I close?
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: I don’t think so. I mean you’ve covered my experience, my feelings, my family, my loyalty to Kent, which shall remain forever. And, well I donate every year to the College of Nursing; I donate to the scholarship fund for the students who don’t have the money to go.
That’s another point, it just reminded me of that. Because of my 4.0 average my freshman year, the fall of my freshman year, I was awarded a scholarship, an academic scholarship. So, the only thing I paid for four years at Kent State was ninety-four dollars a quarter, which was the tuition. The room and board kept going up, the fees kept going up, but that was all forgiven because I had the academic scholarship.
So, can you imagine going to college—ninety-four dollars a quarter? Oh, plus I had to buy my nursing uniform. But I mean, that is peanuts compared to what students pay today. And that’s also part of the driver to keep my grades high, was I had to keep that academic scholarship. My parents could not afford for me to go to college.
[Interviewer]: Right. That was a huge relief for your father. Good for you. Wonderful.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: Thank you.
[Interviewer]: Thank you, so much.
[Susan Biasella Hohs]: If I can help you in any other way, you’re welcome to call me or email me, whatever.
[Interviewer]: Okay. Thank you so much. I’ll stop the recording and this concludes our interview.
Hohs, Susan Biasella
Student at Kent State University in 1970
|Date of Interview||
Susan Biasella Hohs was a junior studying nursing at Kent State University in 1970. In this oral history, she talks about her life on campus during those days. She describes the dramatic social changes she saw happening even in the short period between the fall semester of 1967 and the fall of 1968. She feels like the campus underwent a "total sea change" during the course of her freshman year. She goes on to relate her experiences on the day of the shootings and describes the indelible memory that seeing ambulances carry away the dead and wounded left with her. She goes on to discuss the substantial impact that the aftermath of the shootings had on her life and career.
|Length of Interview||
|Time Period discussed||
Evacuation of civilians--Ohio--Kent
Kent State Shootings, Kent, Ohio, 1970
Kent State University. School of Nursing
Roadblocks (Police methods)
Scheuer, Sandra, d. 1970
Women college students--Ohio--Kent--Interviews
Special Collections and Archives
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Kent State University
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|Format of Original||
audio digital file
The content of oral history interviews, written narratives and commentaries is personal and interpretive in nature, relying on memories, experiences, perceptions, and opinions of individuals. They do not represent the policy, views or official history of Kent State University and the University makes no assertions about the veracity of statements made by individuals participating in the project. Users are urged to independently corroborate and further research the factual elements of these narratives especially in works of scholarship and journalism based in whole or in part upon the narratives shared in the May 4 Collection and the Kent State Shootings Oral History Project.
May 4 Collection