Tubman, Twain and Lee liven up corporate meetings - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Tubman, Twain and Lee liven up corporate meetings

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Photo courtesy of Mike Keller. Patty Cooper portrays Eleanor Roosevelt during a presentation for the History Alive! program. Photo courtesy of Mike Keller. Patty Cooper portrays Eleanor Roosevelt during a presentation for the History Alive! program.
Photo courtesy of the West Virginia. Humanities Council Al Stone is planning to retire in 2015 as Robert E. Lee. He’s working on a book about his experiences, “Generallee Speaking.” Photo courtesy of the West Virginia. Humanities Council Al Stone is planning to retire in 2015 as Robert E. Lee. He’s working on a book about his experiences, “Generallee Speaking.”
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Corporate West Virginia just might benefit from history lessons shared by Robert E. Lee, Harriet Tubman and Mark Twain.

That's the thought process behind the expansion of the History Alive! program through the West Virginia Humanities Council. The list of well-studied historical figures has basically been limited to schools, libraries and community events in the past. It's now being promoted to the business community.

Mark Payne, program officer at the council, said the timing was right to encourage employees, customers and clients to "think outside the box."

"It's always been a popular program that people appreciate and take a lot of satisfaction in," he said. "We occasionally received requests from corporate groups. Some ‘sister' councils in other states have been doing it with success.

"We wanted to expand the program reach to allow more people to benefit. We think there are companies and for-profit groups that will be interested who have not been able to participate in the past."

The Humanities Council currently has 14 character presenters on the roster. Clara Barton, Mary Lincoln, Babe Ruth and Chief Cornstalk are among the speakers available for booking at conferences, meetings and trade shows.

"We think there might be interest to add an educational and entertaining program in such settings," said Payne, who is based at the Council office along Kanawha Boulevard in Charleston.

Wood County resident Patty Cooper has portrayed Betsy Ross and "Mad" Anne Bailey, a Revolutionary War scout from the region. She is a believer in the saying, "Those who do not know history are bound to repeat it."

Her current characters are Civil War spy Belle Boyd, who lived in Martinsburg, and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who made numerous treks to assist the New Deal community of Arthurdale in Preston County.

"I really do look like (Eleanor) when I put on the dress, gloves and hat," said Cooper, who formerly worked as an interpreter at Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park.

"She was the woman who kind of changed the role of women in the White House and government," she said. "There will never be another Eleanor Roosevelt because of the way times have changed for women."

Cooper is planning Amelia Earhart as her next character. The aviator once landed her plane near where Cooper's home in Vienna now stands.

There's just one historical figure associated with Al Stone of Hinton. After more than two decades, hundreds of speaking engagements and 25 movie projects, "He is Robert E. Lee," Payne said.

Stone began studying Lee in 1990 and became the History Alive! character five years later. At age 70, he's planning to retire in 2015.

He says Lee has valuable lessons of leadership and duty to offer the corporate world.

"Robert E. Lee was a great leader and a person who was committed to duty like no other," said Stone, who is preparing "Generallee Speaking," a book of his experiences. "No matter what the consequences would be, he recognized that he had to do his duty.

"You can be a follower, but you can be a leader-follower by setting an example for others," he said.

For program information, visit wvhumanities.org or call Payne at 304-346-8500.