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Oscar Winner to Headline Great Plains Dinner

March 4, 2019

Award-winning writer and director Kevin Willmott will be the keynote speaker for the 2019 Friends of the Plains Dinner on Friday, April 26. As a writer on the Spike Lee film “BlacKkKlansman,” Willmott won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay at last month’s Academy Awards.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Plains and Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University, the evening begins at 6 p.m. with a hosted reception in the KSTC Ballroom of the Memorial Union on the ESU campus.

“We are exceptionally grateful to have Kevin Willmott as our keynote speaker so recently after his Oscar win,” said Max McCoy, director of the Center for Great Plains Studies. “It’s an important recognition for an important film, one speaks to us directly with humor, insight, and sometimes anger.” 

Willmott, a native Kansan who has 11 films to his credit, is a professor of film at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. As a director, Willmott has 11 films to his credit, including “The Battle for Bunker Hill,” “Jayhawker” and “CSA: The Confederate States of America.” He is also an actor and producer.

In 2018, Wilmott also directed an independent film about Emporia’s legendary newspaper publisher, William Allen White, What’s the Matter with Kansas.” The film aims at re-introducing the “Sage of Emporia” to a new generation. It’s narrated by broadcast journalist Bill Kurtis.

Willmott grew up in Junction City and received a B.A. in Drama from Marymount College and an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University.

Tickets for the event cost $30 and can be purchased online at by emailing the Friends Organization at

The Friends of the Plains was organized in 1981 to support the research, scholarship, and outreach activities of the center. They have hosted the annual dinner for 38 years. Past speakers have included Bill Kurtis, Robert Day, Nancy Landon-Kassabaum and Jim Lehrer among others. For more information about supporting the Friends Organization, please contact the current chair, DeWayne Backhus at



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