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Longtime NPR reporter to speak on campus

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Prairie View Mental Health Services will celebrate 40 years of its “Food for Thought” series by bringing the woman behind a well-known radio voice to the Hutchinson and Newton areas, including a stop at Bethel College.

Longtime listeners to National Public Radio will recognize Jacki Lyden’s voice from her frequent work as a substitute program host on NPR, where she currently hosts the weekend broadcasts of All Things Considered. Lyden joined NPR in 1979, becoming one of its first correspondents stationed outside Washington, D.C.

She will speak Tuesday, April 14, at the Hutchinson Town Club (200 E. Sherman in Hutchinson) at 11:30 a.m. and on Prairie View’s Newton campus (1901 E. First Street in Newton) in the recreation center at 6 p.m. She will also be at Bethel College that afternoon at 3 p.m. in the Administration Building chapel.

There will be book signings in conjunction with each event. For more information about the Hutchinson Town Club or Prairie View events, for which tickets are required, contact Brandy Beer at 1-800-362-0180 ext. 6443 or 316-284-6443. Lyden’s Bethel College appearance is free but seating preference will be given to Bethel College students, faculty and staff.

Lyden is working on a new book, Vox Babylonia, scheduled for publication this year from Houghton Mifflin. A memoir of Iraq, it covers four years of journeys through the war there and focuses intimately on Iraqi civilians whose lives intersected with Lyden’s.

Her previous book, Daughter of the Queen of Sheba (Houghton Mifflin, 1997) is out in eleven foreign editions and tells of Lyden’s experiences growing up in the 1960s in a small Wisconsin town with a manic-depressive mother and an abusive stepfather.

New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani called Daughter of the Queen of Sheba “one of the most indelible portraits of a mother-daughter relationship to come along in years, a book that belongs on the shelf of classic memoirs” and “a book that stands, remarkably, as both a reporter’s unsentimental act of recollection and a love letter to an impossible and captivating woman.”

In 1989, after a decade with NPR, Lyden became the network’s London correspondent, where her coverage included a number of stories on the IRA in Northern Ireland. When, in the summer of 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Lyden went immediately to Amman, Jordan, from which she covered the Gulf War, also traveling to Baghdad and to many other Middle Eastern countries. Her work supported NPR’s 1991 win of an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for Gulf War Coverage. Since that time, she has also reported from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and other countries. In 1995, she did a groundbreaking series for NPR on Iran.

Her pieces for NPR include the documentary Anatomy of a Shooting, an investigative piece that aired June 23, 2006. It recounts the death of Lyden’s translator at the hands of an American soldier, whom Lyden has since come to know well.

Lyden was at home in Brooklyn on Sept. 11, 2001, and was NPR’s first reporter on the air from New York that day. She stayed on the story from Ground Zero, and shared in the organization’s George Foster Peabody Award and Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for coverage of 9/11.

In December 2001, Lyden arrived in Kabul to cover the nascent Afghan government and reawakening culture. In 2002, she received the Gracie Award from American Women in Radio and Television for Best Foreign Documentary, together with producer Davar Ardalan, for “Loss and Its Aftermath,” about bereavement among Palestinians and Jews in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.

Lyden is a graduate of Valparaiso (Ind.) University and its Christ College Scholars program. She has also done the university’s program of study at Cambridge University and was a Benton Fellow at the University of Chicago from 1991-92. She is a popular featured speaker and has written for Granta, Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times and The Washington Post, among others. She divides her time between Brooklyn and Washington, D.C. She is married to Washington Post senior photographer William (Bill) O’Leary.

KHCC-FM Radio Kansas, the NPR affiliate in Hutchinson/Wichita, is a sponsor of Jacki Lyden’s south central Kansas appearances.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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