November 11, 2014 - It seems appropriate that King’s College would be the site of a memorial to those who immigrated to the United States and worked long and hard to better the lives of their families and make Northeastern Pennsylvania a major commercial market. King’s was founded in 1946 by the Congregation of Holy Cross following a request from Bishop William J. Hafey of the Diocese of Scranton to establish a college to educate the sons of coal miners.
Thanks to a gift from James Burke, a local native, member of King’s first graduating class in 1950, former chair of the College’s Board of Directors, and a scholar of the mining industry, King’s will house the Miners Memorial, a permanent outdoor exhibit detailing the life of anthracite miners during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The exhibit will include a “Wall of Honor” commemorating individual miners and breaker boys in perpetuity at the request of their descendants.
The Miners Memorial will be an addition to King’s on the Square, a learning and living center for King’s students located on Public Square. The Miners Memorial will complement another recent donation by Burke of local artist, Sue Hand’s, “The Anthracite Miners and Their Hollowed Ground” which is on permanent display on the first floor of the building.
The Miners Memorial will be dedicated at a public ceremony to be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday, November 15. Burke is expected to speak as well as Father John Ryan, C.S.C., King’s president. Following the dedication, the Miners Memorial will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
“It is my hope that the Miners Memorial, in conjunction with Sue Hand’s wonderful art exhibit, will become a major attraction in downtown Wilkes-Barre and instill in visitors an attitude of gratitude for the gifts bequeathed to us from our mining ancestors.” said Burke.
The mining industry was a major part of Burke’s childhood. A native of South Wilkes-Barre, he had an uncle that worked at the Woodward Colliery and a cousin who died in the Avondale mine fire.
Following his graduating from King’s, Burke became the chief financial officer of Paramount Pictures in 1970 and was instrumental in the commissioning of the acclaimed motion picture, “The Molly Maguires,” starring Sean Connery, Richard Harris, and Samantha Eggars.
In 2007, Burke produced a musical version of “The Molly Maguires”, which was attended by more than 6,000 people at the Kirby Center of the Performing Arts.
The Miners Memorial will consist of five bronze tutorials mounted on black granite pedestals depicting the lives of coal patch miners and their families and a bronze Wall of Honor. The Wall of Honor is being coordinated jointly by King’s College and the Wilkes-Barre based Anthracite Heritage Foundation.
King’s College is a Catholic College Sponsored by the Congregation of Holy Cross.