McPherson offers free webinar on car’s role in society

6-week online summer series launches June 25

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History professor Ken Yohn | McPherson College photo

“Wheels of Change: How the Automobile Shaped Our Lives” is the subject of a free — that’s right, no tuition charges — 6-week summer webinar series being offered online by McPherson College. 

Located in Kansas, McPherson is the college in the country offering a 4-year bachelor’s degree program in automotive restoration technology. The school also has an on-campus summer car restoration series of classes for adults, but this new webinar series isn’t about restoration, it’s about the automobile’s role in society.

The series will be led by Ken Yohn, chair of the college’s department of history and politics. He also restores vintage racing and touring bicycles; his current project is a 1974 Raleigh International. 

“Wheels of Change will spotlight our college’s uniqueness as a leader in the auto industry, while providing participants dynamic conversation with special guests,” said Amanda Gutierrez, McPherson vice president for automotive restoration. “Professor Yohn is well-known for his knowledgeable, engaging, and fun instruction on the evolution of the automobile and its impact on our social and cultural development.”

Yohn teaches courses on the social history of the automobile at McPherson and leads student study trips to Europe and South America. After the webinar series, his next teaching adventure is a “Cars and Castles” tour of Europe.

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“Everyone knows that automobiles completely changed how we live life,” the professor said of the series, “but not too many people realize just how many areas of our lives were revolutionized by four wheels and an engine.

“And thanks to our alumni and McPherson’s extensive industry connections, we will have expert guests from all parts of the industry help me unpack it all.”

The webinar series will feature industry insiders as well as the professor’s presentation.

The first webinar is scheduled to begin at noon (Central time) June 25 and will examine “Four Epic Road Trips that Upended the World.” Those trips were made by Bertha Benz, Ransom Olds, Horatio Nelson Jackson and Alice Ramsey.

Subsequent subjects are:

July 2 — “Paving the Way for the Automobile,” roads, steam omni-buses, bicycles and the entrepreneurs behind them.

July 9 — “Thar be Giants in them Thar Hills!” featuring Henry Ford, Billy Durant and the mega corporations.

July 16 — “The Road to Perdition,” How the automobile liberated women and captivated teenagers.

July 23 — “The Great War,” Industrial pacifism, mobilization and mechanization.

July 30 — “Art for the People,” How Harley Earl and automotive styling democratized beauty.

The series will be presented via the Zoom website and space is limited; each webinar will be on a first-come, first-served basis, the school said.

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Registration information is available at the McPherson webinar website.

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