Story Corps

vintage microphone
Story Corps

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit that provides people the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of their lives. It’s one of the largest oral history projects of its kind.

Kalamazoo Community Foundation brought StoryCorps to Kalamazoo and invited community members to share 18 unique stories that illustrate why we love where we live.

This project has created an invaluable archive of our community’s voices and wisdom for future generations at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. You may listen to shortened versions of these interviews below or at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation's page: STORYCORPS: EVERY VOICE MATTERS.




Marilyn Schlack, president of KVCC, on the Kalamazoo Valley Museum

For many years the Kalamazoo Valley Museum has been a vibrant center of activity in downtown Kalamazoo. Here KVCC President Marilyn Schlack talks with Tom Thinnes about the school becoming the museum's "parent."


Betty Upjohn Mason, Kalamazoo philanthropist

Betty Upjohn Mason has been involved in philanthropy in Kalamazoo for more than 60 years. Over those years she has watched women's roles change as new generations contribute to community-building efforts. Here she talks with her son-in-law, Joel Orosz –– Distinguished Professor of Philanthropic Studies at Grand Valley State University's Johnson Center for Philanthropy –– about her experiences as a woman in the field.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Madelyn Pinder, of the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center

When Pharmacia merged with Pfizer in 2003, the company's headquarters moved out of Kalamazoo County, leaving many unemployed. The Southwest Michigan Innovation Center formed as a solution to the problem. It was a way to keep scientists in our community by providing a space for business startups. Here the Innovation Center's Madelyn Pinder and Kalexsyn Co-Founder Dr. Robert Gadwood talk about the center's beginnings.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Carol Snapp and Rick Hughey of the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation

Kalamazoo is home to many theaters, studios, museums and other groups and organizations devoted to the arts. Some have won national awards; others are newly founded. Here Carol Snapp and Rick Hughey of the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation discuss how the arts contribute to placemaking and a sense of community.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Chris Broadbent and Matt Lechel about the Kalamazoo Farmers' Market

Last year the People's Food Co-Op assumed operations of the Kalamazoo Farmers' Market. Each year the market on Bank Street hosts retailers, growers, producers and artisans who sell items like produce and other foods, plants and flowers, and hand crafts and goods, and is a gathering place for people from throughout the county. Here Market Manager Chris Broadbent and People's Food Co-op Board Chair Matt Lechel talk about the market's atmosphere and how food promotes community.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Carrie Pickett-Erway, our President/CEO, about diversity, equity and inclusion

Since its beginning in 1925, the Community Foundation has believed that our community draws its spirit, vitality and character from the diverse mix of people who live and work here. Here our president/CEO Carrie Pickett-Erway talks with St. Thomas More's Fr. Kenneth Schmidt about some struggles and successes we've encountered along our diversity, equity and inclusion journey.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Von Washington and Deb Droppers about Art Hop

Downtown Kalamazoo became home to the United States' first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in 1959. While the space is no longer for pedestrians only, it's still a place where local businesses flourish and the community gathers and connects. Here Von Washington and Deb Droppers talk about Art Hop and the ways in which "The Mall" makes downtown Kalamazoo a vibrant center of activity.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Sister Ginny Jones, the first caretaker of the Bow in the Clouds Nature Preserve

The Sisters of St. Joseph gave the Bow in the Clouds Nature Preserve to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy in 2007. Sister Ginny Jones was the preserve's first caretaker, starting her efforts to clean and develop the space (at the time owned by Nazareth College) in 1968. Sister Ginny was a key force in building boardwalks throughout the preserve so it could be explored without disturbing the plants and animals that populate it. Here the Land Conservancy's Nate Fuller talks with Sister Ginny about the space and her vision for it.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Jasmine Granville, a recipient of The Kalamazoo Promise who now attends WMU

Jasmine Granville, a student at Western Michigan University, was a sophomore in high school when the creation of The Kalamazoo Promise was announced. Here she talks about what this transformational scholarship program means to her.


Jim Van Zandt and Mark Riley about the USTA Boys National Championships

The USTA Boys 18s and 16s National Championship came to Kalamazoo in 1943, largely due to the efforts of Dr. Alan B. Stowe, a chemistry professor and tennis coach at Kalamazoo College. When he died suddenly in a car accident 14 years later, Athletic Director Rolla Anderson was appointed director of the tournament. Anderson has since stepped down, but he left a long legacy of volunteerism. Here former tennis coach and tournament volunteer Jim Van Zandt and the tournament's current director, Mark Riley, talk about how this has impacted Kalamazoo.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Judy Sarkozy, the beloved owner of downtown Kalamazoo institution Sarkozy Bakery

Judy Sarkozy has a doctorate in physiological psychology, but chose a decidedly different career path when she came to Kalamazoo 40 years ago: she opened a bakery. After disaster struck the bakery –– a downtown Kalamazoo institution –– in 2012, Judy was forced to start from scratch. Here she talks with Dhera Strauss about rebuilding.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Krista Johnson, a neonatal nurse who received our Clarence L. Remynse Scholarship

Krista Johnson, a native of Kalamazoo, received our Clarence L. Remynse Scholarship and earned a degree in nursing from Cedarville University in Ohio. Here she talks with Dan DeMent about her career and returning to Kalamazoo.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Warren Lawrence, a resident, friend and supporter of the Village of Vicksburg

Vicksburg (population just under 3,000) is located about a half hour south of Kalamazoo. Says lifelong Southwest Michigan resident and Vicksburg stalwart Warren Lawrence, it's a place where you can make a friend just by picking up a shovel or paintbrush and jumping in to help out. Here he talks to fellow Vicksburg friend Kristina Powers Aubry about his experiences in the village and about what makes it so unique.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Lois Richmond and Sharon Shane, members of the Ladies' Library Association of Kalamazoo

Established in 1852, the Ladies' Library Association of Kalamazoo was the first women's club in Michigan. Guided in part by Lucinda Hinsdale Stone, a local educator and world traveler, the Association was known as a "college for women" and promoted the cause of equal education for women. The organization recently completed a renovation of its historic building in downtown Kalamazoo. Here Sharon Carlson talks with members Lois Richmond and Shirley Shane about the founding of the group and its change in membership over the years.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Martha Parfet, the 87-year-old granddaughter of our founder, W.E. Upjohn

Martha Parfet talks about her grandfather, Dr. W.E. Upjohn; his love of Kalamazoo; and the gift he gave to help establish the Community Foundation in 1925.


Michael Williams and Buddy Hannah about the evolution of the Northside neighborhood

Michael Williams has traveled the country, but always come home to Kalamazoo. He attended Kalamazoo Public Schools, received his master's degree from Western Michigan University and for a time lead the Douglass Community Association. Here he talks with his longtime friend Buddy Hannah about his experiences and the evolution of Kalamazoo's Northside neighborhood since the 1960s.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Rachel Eagly, a young mother and stroke survivor

Rachel Eagly thought only elderly people had strokes –– until she had one a week after the birth of her son. Since then, Rachel has rebuilt her life, learning to speak and move again, and becoming a homeowner through the help of Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity. She still has some lingering effects from the stroke, like some lack of mobility and difficulty remember words and formulating sentences, so she wrote a book to help explain it to her young son. Here she talks with her speech language pathologist and friend, Sandra Glista, about her experience.
This recording was produced by Maggie Kane, with the interview recorded by StoryCorps.


Toni Thompson and Jerry Albertson, supporters of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

What was once simply an idea in the minds of some community members, the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail is now 17 miles of paved trail with segments in Oshtemo Township, downtown Kalamazoo and northern Kalamazoo County. Once complete, it will be 30 miles in total. Here Toni Thompson and Jerry Albertson talk about the trail's beginnings and the community funding efforts that are making it possible.