Dr. John F. Kvach serves as Vice President of Liberty Learning Foundation. Previously, Dr. Kvach spent ten years as Associate Professor of Southern History at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has authored two books and many articles on various historical subjects. Dr. Kvach serves on numerous local and statewide boards including the Alabama Humanities Foundation and the Alabama Bicentennial Committee.
EVENT: When did your passion for history begin?
JK: I’ve loved history my entire life. I remember at 8 years old, sitting on my grandfather’s knee, and he asked me, “What do you want to do with your life?” I said, “I want to be a history professor.” He laughed and said, “No really, what do you want to do?” “I want to be a history professor.” I guess I got the last laugh!
History is about getting connected and engaged with people and helping them tell their stories. People are hungry for their past, their context in the world, and to understand where they came from.
EVENT: You’re not a Huntsville native. When did you come here?
JK: I was born in Maryland. I moved to Huntsville in 2008 [for the History Professor position at University of Alabama – Huntsville] and I’ve never been made to feel an outsider. I give about 40 to 50 talks a year, and one thing I like to tell people is that I wasn’t born in Alabama, but I got here as quickly as I could.
EVENT: How did you approach teaching your students?
JK: When I co-authored the pictorial book of Huntsville [Images of America – Huntsville] in 2013, my goal was to take students out of the classroom. History is not all about dates – I never asked my students to recite dates; I can go to Google for that. Writing history is a process of telling someone else’s story. I taught my students that when you’re writing about people, you need to be truthful, authentic and empathetic.
EVENT: You no longer work for UAH. What are you up to now?
JK: I left UAH last July and joined the Liberty Learning Foundation, which is about teaching civics, history, financial literacy and digital citizenship to children. I find this more fulfilling than teaching history.
EVENT: You’re also involved with the Stovehouse development on Governor’s Drive.
JK: The developers of Stovehouse wanted to save it, and preserve its history. I do “special assignments” for Stovehouse community engagement. Stovehouse is about piecing history together. It is mixing the old and the new. It has a hipster, stark vibe in a blue-collar place. We were able to obtain old photographs, and we’ll have them enlarged so that people can see what it once looked like. The Stovehouse area is being branded as the West Side – not a “place,” but more a way of thinking. It’s sensitive to the people who lived there. We want to show people that Huntsville is more than just rockets.
EVENT: It sounds like you really like working with people and the community!
JK: I think of myself as a “dot connector” – putting people in touch with other people to do big things!