Saint Mary launches scholarship program for future investors

The University of Saint Mary, Leavenworth, is launching a full-ride scholarship program for students interested in learning how to invest and trade financial securities.

The program, known as the Spires Trading Team, will consist of five current USM students who will trade securities on a daily basis during the 2021-2022 academic year under the oversight of Kevin Fox, former managing director at the D.E. Shaw Group, and Harold Bradley, former chief investment officer of the Kauffman Foundation. Any proceeds from the team’s efforts will be used to support Spires Trading Team activities and scholarships.

The new Spires Trading Team program provides USM students with real-world experience while they earn their degrees.

“The University of Saint Mary is excited to offer this hands-on opportunity for our students to learn trading strategies from local experts,” University President Sister Diane Steele said. “The Spires Trading Team is a win-win for our students. Investing real money will give our students a competitive advantage in their careers and will provide additional opportunities to apply the skills they are learning in the classroom. This unique partnership extends USM’s mission of helping students realize their God-given potential.”

The Spires Trading team will focus on investment theory, fund and risk management, and hands-on trading strategies. The program is open to USM seniors, juniors, and qualified second-semester sophomores. The five selected students will receive a scholarship that covers tuition, housing, and meal plans at the university’s main campus in Leavenworth.

Phil Watlington, USM accounting program director and assistant professor, will serve as a coach of the Spires Trading Team. Nicole Hess-Escalante, chair of the USM Division of Business and Information Technologies and associate professor, will provide direction and oversee academic integration of the program.

Students interested in joining the Spires Trading Team for the 2021-2022 academic year can apply at An initial review of applications will begin Aug. 1.

Post-Civil War photo negatives document African- American Exodusters building new lives in Leavenworth

In the turbulent years following the Civil War, around 27,000 former slaves migrated to Kansas. They called themselves “exodusters” and they were fleeing Jim Crow laws. Some of them are remembered in a portrait exhibition of an African-American community in Leavenworth, Kansas.

by Julie Denesha, KCUR and Kansas News Service

Photographer E.E. Henry’s portrait of Samuel Green, 1880 and an unknown photographer’s portrait of Geraldine Jones, 1870s-1900s. Glass plate negatives photographed in Leavenworth, Kansas, from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.
Unknown photographer’s portrait of James Turner circa 1895 and photographer Harrison Putney’s portrait of Private Paul Schrader of Ottawa, Kansas, and three soldiers from the 23rd Volunteer Infantry circa 1895-1899. Glass plate negatives photographed in Leavenworth, Kansas, from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.
Unknown photographer’s portrait of H. Hopkins children and an unknown photographer’s portrait of Thomas Meadows circa 1890. Glass plate negatives photographed in Leavenworth, Kansas, from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.
Photographer’s studios lined Delaware Street, in the early days of Leavenworth, Kansas. Everyday people rushed to take advantage of the new technology that could produce an image within minutes. This enlargement of a negative from the Everhard collection shows the studios of Jay Noble and E.E. Henry.

Photo studios were busy places in Leavenworth, Kansas, in the late 1870s. Thousands of everyday people flocked to have their pictures taken.

Today, some of those pictures have re-emerged — and they tell a story of an African-American community that took root in the town as Black families migrated to escape the Jim Crow south.

An exhibit on display at the Black Archives Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri, features a series of black-and-white portraits that have survived more than a century. (

An older man and woman are decked out in their Sunday best. A quartet of soldiers poses in front of a woodsy backdrop. A young woman in a black hat looks boldly into the camera lens. All of the subjects are African-American.

Jade Powers is assistant curator of art at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. She takes a special interest in highlighting artists and subjects underrepresented in museum collections. (Photo by Julie Denesha)

Jade Powers, assistant curator of art at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, wasn’t involved in the creation of the exhibit, but she takes a special interest in highlighting artists and subjects underrepresented in museum collections.

“So often, the portrayals before were not maybe how African-Americans saw themselves or they were very political in a negative way to keep, you know, a certain status quo. And so with these images, it’s so exciting,” Powers said.

“I mean, you’re looking at couples, you’re looking at soldiers. It just really expands on the history of America.”

In the turbulent years following the Civil War, around 27,000 former slaves migrated to the land of John Brown. They called themselves “Exodusters” and they were refugees from Jim Crow laws and lynch mobs. Their journey came to be known as the “Great Exodus.”

“There seems to be a real interest from Black and Brown artists, to really look at historical figures and reimagine them or be able to uplift them in different ways,” Powers said. “I am not a practicing artist, but I imagine someone could have a field day with stories of these people taken from this historical narrative.”

Volunteer Mary Ann Brown, left, and Samantha Poirier, director of the Leavenworth County Historical Society, flipped through enlargements from negatives saved by Mary Everhard at the Carroll Mansion Museum. (Photo by Julie Denesha)

The photos would never have come to the public eye if not for the persistence of Mary Everhard, a photographer who moved to Leavenworth in the 1920s.

Everhard had a keen interest in history. As older photographers closed their doors, she bought up their archives.

Eventually, her collection took up an entire room, floor to ceiling, 40,000 negatives in all. Everhard guarded them for years, through two tornadoes, a flood and a fire.

“It’s such an incredible story,” said Mary Ann Brown, a volunteer at the Leavenworth County Historical Society “It’s hard to know even where to start with Miss Everhard.”

Brown is part of a team that’s been scanning Everhard’s negatives since 1998. She considers Everhard a folk hero — the woman who preserved decades of early Leavenworth history. But people didn’t always appreciate Everhard’s efforts.

Mary Ellen Everhard studied photography in New York City before moving to the Midwest in the 1920s to set up a studio in Leavenworth, Kansas. (Photo from Leavenworth County Historical Society)

“When she decided to retire, she went to the local banker and she wanted to know what she could get for these negatives,” Brown said. “And he said, Miss Everhard, you might as well just throw these in the Missouri River. They’re not worth anything.”

Thankfully, the negatives escaped a watery grave. A collector from Chicago purchased them in 1967. He sold off parts of the collection to different museums.

One of them was The Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas. Today the Carter keeps around 6,000 of Everhard’s negatives in temperature-controlled vaults. The portraits on display at St. Joseph’s Black Archives Museum come from that collection.

“Even though photography is often talked about as one of the more democratic art forms, that still took a certain amount of money and a certain amount of access and standing to have an image taken,” said Kristen Gaylord, the museum’s assistant curator of photographs.

“A lot of Black Americans didn’t have that right away after the end of slavery,” she noted. “So especially the 19th Century images, I would say, are unusual, which is why they’re so valuable to us.”

Gaylord sees Mary Everhard as a woman ahead of her time.

“Not only was she a successful female photographer at the time, but she’s also the one who saw the need to conserve all these negatives,” she said.

The Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, California, also acquired a portion of the Everhard collection. In the late 1990s, the Leavenworth County Historical Society raised the funds to purchase 25,000 negatives from the Autry and return some of the images to the city where they started. They form the heart of the historical society’s photography collection — the one that Brown and fellow volunteers have been working on for years.

Thanks to Mary Everhard, the Chicago collector and those volunteers, the images that could have landed in the Missouri River now tell a story about early Leavenworth and the people who called it home.

And the exhibit at the Black Archives Museum in St. Joseph tells us that the story includes former Black residents of the South, who put down new roots in the state of Kansas.

Julie Denesha is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Kansas City. Contact her at
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to
See more, including more historic photos, at

Kansas prisons have some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the country

More than 5,000 inmates and 975 prison staff have tested positive for the coronavirus.

by Nomin Ujiyediin, Kansas News Service

Leoti Masterson hasn’t seen her son, Jeff, since March. She used to visit him at the Winfield Correctional Facility once a week to play cards, reminisce and pray together, sometimes for hours at a time.

But when the pandemic started, Kansas prisons stopped allowing visitors as a coronavirus precaution. Now, Masterson makes do with daily phone calls no longer than 20 minutes.

“He’s my closest family member,” Masterson said. “So, yeah, this is hard.”

Yet suspending visits hasn’t kept the coronavirus from Kansas prisons. It was first detected at the Lansing Correctional Facility in early April. Cases have been found in staff and inmates at nearly every facility since.

More than 5,000 inmates have tested positive. The nonprofit news website The Marshall Project, which takes a critical look at the country’s criminal justice system, says that puts Kansas among the states with the highest infection rates in its prisons.

Out of roughly 2,800 prison workers in Kansas, 975 have tested positive for the virus. Twelve inmates and three staff members have died. Meanwhile, Kansas has yet to respond to requests to release inmates to reduce their chance of getting sick.

The Kansas Department of Corrections has instituted some policy changes to prevent the spread of the virus, including quarantining all positive inmates at Lansing, which has newer buildings with better ventilation.

The agency has also given cloth masks to all inmates and staff and tried various social distancing measures at prisons.

Still, some staff and inmates have said such measures are either ineffective or hard to enforce. And like other prison systems, the corrections department has not stopped transferring inmates between facilities.

Meanwhile, advocates for incarcerated people continue to say that releasing prisoners would alleviate some of the close quarters where it spreads most quickly — protecting both those inmates and the surrounding communities where staff live.

Corrections officials declined multiple requests for interviews and did not answer emailed questions. But in a statement, spokesperson Randy Bowman said the department was working closely with public health officials.

“We continue to coordinate our response to COVID-19 with officials at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to ensure all mitigation efforts are consistent with current public health practices,” Bowman said in an email.

Social distancing

Jeff Masterson, Leoti Masterson’s son, said he tested positive for the virus in August and was moved from Winfield to Lansing. In emails and letters, he said that inmates don’t always wear masks properly and some quarantined at Lansing claimed they no longer had symptoms even if they were still feeling sick.

“Everyone wants out of there and back to their relative normal,” Masterson said. “So inmates work the system.”

Masterson was moved back to Winfield after about two weeks. In early December, he was transferred to the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility.

At Winfield, where he usually serves his sentence, Masterson said the dining hall was closed, but inmates sit near each other to eat in residential areas. They have access to soap in bathrooms, but hand sanitizer, paper towels, bleach and vinegar are banned. Recreation is separated by floor, although he says people typically don’t wear masks and there are no social distancing rules.

People in other prisons have reported a similar lack of distancing. Mari Flowers, the mother of a woman in the Topeka Correctional Facility, said her daughter has been quarantined in a tent in the prison’s laundry room since she began her sentence at the end of October.

“They put these women in an impossible situation,” Flowers said. “They can’t even make it inside the prison.”

Flowers said her daughter, Jordan Fuller, had been tested for COVID nine times. Fuller’s quarantine has started over four times. Flowers said the prison was waiting for every new arrival to the prison — dozens of women — to all test negative at the same time before letting them into the main prison buildings.

“They don’t deserve to be treated that way. They’re already in a bad place. They put themselves there and they know that,” Flowers said. “But I just feel they need to take better care of these people.”

The corrections department did not respond to questions about the facility. The Topeka prison did not return a request for comment.

Jon-Wesley O’Hara is a corrections officer at Topeka, the state’s only women’s prison. Enforcing pandemic precautions is difficult, he said, now that the prison has been relaxing disciplinary measures that can sometimes delay early releases for good behavior. He said officers are left with little recourse when inmates refuse to wear masks.

“It is up to us to try to mitigate their decisions as much as possible,” O’Hara said. “We need to take this a lot more seriously.”

Kansas prisons have struggled with understaffing, which the pandemic has exacerbated. Officers have to miss work because they’re quarantining, taking care of children or working at other prisons that need the help. The ones who are left sometimes have to pull double shifts that can last as long as 16 hours. O’Hara said.

The corrections department offers extra pay for officers in COVID-positive units, but O’Hara said that for some employees, that extra money is approaching the state’s statutory limit for employee merit pay.

“This is a hard job,” he said. “It gets harder every day, and this is just another level of stress.”

When O’Hara’s roommate, who also works at the prison, tested positive for COVID, they had to stay home from work. O’Hara said he had to call his ex-wife to tell her he couldn’t see his children for Thanksgiving.

“That is the hardest thing in the world to not be able to see your kids,” he said. “You will never be able to replace that in-person contact.”


Throughout the pandemic, criminal justice activists have advocated for the widespread release of people from prisons, jails and detention centers as the only effective way to socially distance. Jails and prisons in California, Michigan, New Jersey and other states released thousands of people over the course of the year.

In April, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas filed a lawsuit to compel Kansas prisons to do the same. Leavenworth County Judge David King dismissed the suit. Gov. Laura Kelly’s office approved the release of only six people in May.

Since then, the ACLU says it has filed more than 90 clemency applications for Kansas prisoners with the state’s prisoner review board. About 30 of them are waiting for a decision from Kelly, but the applications haven’t been denied or approved. The organization still maintains that release is the best solution for COVID spread in prisons.

“The only way to make sure that the transmission rates go down,” said ACLU legal director Lauren Bonds, “is to make sure that people in prisons can observe the same protocols that we’re being told to observe out here in the community.”

Bonds said many of the clemency applications are for people who have a short time remaining on their sentences or have jobs, housing and family waiting for them on the outside. Their release, she said, could also mean reducing community spread in towns where many of the residents work at prisons.

“The consequences … are not limited to what will happen to inmates,” Bonds said. “This is a community health issue.”

In an email, a Kelly spokesman said the governor is still considering the requests.

“The Governor will consider every clemency request after she receives a full process of developing facts and with input from those affected,” he said in an email.

Nomin Ujiyediin reports on criminal justice and social welfare for the Kansas News Service. You can email her at nomin (at) kcur (dot) org and follow her on Twitter @NominUJ.
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to
See more at