Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Evie Hemphill

“St. Louis on the Air” Producer

Evie Hemphill joined the St. Louis on the Air team in February 2018. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature in 2005, she started her career as a reporter for the Westminster Window in Colorado. Several years later she went on to pursue graduate work in creative writing at the University of Wyoming and moved to St. Louis upon earning an MFA in the spring of 2010. She worked as writer and editor for Washington University Libraries until 2014 and then spent several more years in public relations for the University of Missouri–St. Louis before making the shift to St. Louis Public Radio.

When she’s not helping to produce the talk show, Evie can typically be found navigating the city sans car, volunteering for St. Louis BWorks or trying to get the majority of the dance steps correct as a member of the Thunder & Lightning Cloggers of Southern Illinois. She’s married to Joe, cat-mom to Dash and rather obsessive about doubt, certitude and the places where refuge and risk intersect.

Dr. Sameer Vohra
SIU School of Medicine

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” at noon Tuesday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

For Dr. Sameer Vohra and his colleagues, a focus on improving the lives of people in southern and central Illinois has long been at the heart of their work. But now, in the age of COVID-19, the urgency of their mission is more obvious than ever.

Vohra leads SIU School of Medicine's Department of Population Science and Policy as its founding chair, and the coronavirus pandemic has magnified many of the challenges that the region’s small cities and rural communities already faced.

As Vohra and crew continue their research, interventions and policy recommendations aimed at addressing existing health disparities and building stronger communities throughout the state, the impacts of the current crisis loom large.

Eric Strand on the trail
Eric Strand

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” over the noon hour Friday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

Longtime St. Louisan Eric Strand has worked in the hospitality industry for nearly 40 years, doing many different jobs before becoming the chief operating officer for Drury Hotels. And when the COVID-19 crisis left many frontline hospitality workers in the lurch, Strand wanted to do something to help them out.

Anne Austin working with ancient tattoos
Anne Austin

As a scholar who works with human remains, Anne Austin had long looked closely at bones. Her training is in osteology and Egyptology, and for many years she worked to expand the world’s knowledge about the health, medicine and disease of past civilizations. 

But in 2016, her focus suddenly turned from bones to ancient skin — and body art.

“As I was doing my research, I accidentally came across this really heavily tattooed mummy — minimum 30 tattoos, on her arms, her shoulders and her back,” Austin recalled. “That discovery literally rewrote what we understand about tattooing in ancient Egypt. And since then, I’ve been able to go back and find more tattoos at the site [where] I work.”

Struggling with stress, isolation and economic upheaval
Kristen Uroda for NPR

The current era of social isolation and job loss is challenging for most everyone. But for people with a substance use disorder or who are in recovery, the COVID-19 crisis can present even more difficulties.

Daily life in the age of coronavirus is riddled with stressors, and stress can lead to an increase in substance use — as well as the possibility of relapse for those working to stay sober. And while virtual versions of critical support systems are still possible in many cases, face-to-face accountability and social opportunities are indeed diminished.

But along with those concerns, there’s also reason for hope. Jenny Armbruster of the St. Louis-based organization NCADA sees what she’s described as some “unintended positive side effects” of all of this, too.

Barr branch library
File photo | Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Mere months ago, the two largest library systems in the St. Louis region kicked off the year 2020 with a major announcement: that their libraries, moving forward, were officially fine-free.

“We’re not about fines,” St. Louis Public Library’s CEO Waller McGuire said at the time. “We’re not about rules. We’re about helping people learn. Helping people enjoy themselves. Helping people gain access to information, which is vital to their lives.”

Weeks later, the change proved to be an unusually prescient one. As both the city and county library facilities closed their doors indefinitely amid the COVID-19 shutdown, both systems were quick to assure patrons that they needn’t worry about returning overdue items during the crisis.

Webster University commencement in 2015
U.S. Embassy Vienna | Flickr

In a job market characterized by furloughs, layoffs and rescinded internship and job offers, this spring’s university graduates face challenges beyond their canceled graduation ceremonies.

For St. Louis native Chase Kohler, a self-described “Boeing boy,” the COVID-19 crisis has meant a quick pivot within an industry he’d been hoping to enter for years. When the pandemic hit, he was extremely worried about the sudden change in his career prospects. Several companies he had applied to work for after graduating from the University of Missouri-St. Louis this spring froze their offers to him or stopped the interview process.

“I was interviewing with several airlines and a couple aerospace manufacturers,” Kohler told St. Louis on the Air, “and it pretty much all ended in the same week. … The aviation industry in particular has been hit really hard during this pandemic, so obviously their hiring is not going to pick up for, I would say, several more months.”

Glen Anderson ear saver design
Glen Anderson

Back in March, when officials at the University of Missouri-St. Louis sent out a universitywide call for anyone on campus with 3D printers to try to print face masks, Glen Anderson wanted to help. An associate professor of three-dimensional design, he hoped his academic department's three 3D printers might work well.

After more research, Anderson found that printing masks with these particular machines just wasn’t feasible. But he wasn’t finished brainstorming. He thought there had to be a way to contribute, and soon enough he happened on an idea for a useful product that he is now manufacturing — and donating — by the thousands: surgical mask ear savers.

All that's required to participate is some sunshine, a camera and some brief virtual training.
Nicole Miller-Struttmann

Reading the headlines of 2020 can be pretty overwhelming. Between a pandemic, an economic crisis and even a much-hyped sighting of “murder hornets” in the Pacific Northwest, it can all leave one feeling pretty helpless about attempting to be a force for good in the world.

But on an ecological level, at least one such attempt can take place right in one’s own backyard — and Nicole Miller-Struttmann and bee experts everywhere will be grateful for it. Miller-Struttmann and fellow biologists at Webster University and St. Louis University are launching Shutterbee, a collaborative project powered by citizen scientists.

It requires only some sunshine, a camera and completion of a single virtual training session on May 20, 21 or 23. Shutterbee’s organizers are intent on reaching a real scientific goal: to discover how landscape features and land management decisions affect bee diversity and behavior.

Nancy Morrow-Howell is the director of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging and a professor at Washington University.
Washington University

Even the quickest scan of statistics related to the coronavirus pandemic makes it painfully obvious the disease has hit some communities and segments of the population much harder than others. And to an expert on aging and social policy such as Washington University’s Nancy Morrow-Howell, those troubling realities come as no surprise.

But as the crisis shines fresh light on longstanding disparities on a multitude of fronts, along with the everyday impacts of systemic racism and ageism, Morrow-Howell also has some hope for real improvement — particularly when it comes to a deeper understanding of older adults as the diverse individuals that they are.

Alana Woodson, who goes by Alana Marie professionally, interviews John Wright, former superintendent of the Kinloch School District, for her film project.
The Kinloch Doc

The story that Alana Woodson has devoted so much of her time over the past few years to telling is far from a simple one. After all, it’s about Kinloch, Missouri, a once-thriving suburb that has nearly disappeared. Her father’s childhood home there is no more. And what was once a community of 6,500 black St. Louisans has dwindled to less than 200 residents today.

But Woodson, who goes by Alana Marie professionally, has stayed the course, interviewing dozens of people and gathering countless hours of footage for her ongoing documentary project, “The Kinloch Doc.”

A short version of the film was screened at festivals in 2018 and 2019 and is available to view online. The feature-length iteration is currently in its rough-cut stage, and Woodson has been crowdfunding to help cover post-production expenses. She and her team launched a Kickstarter campaign April 10, and with just a handful of days left to raise funds, they’ve now surpassed their goal of $20,000, drawing support from several hundred backers.

Two Wash U students protest the Vietnam War following the Kent State shootings. The placard at left reads in part, "Four students were killed yesterday."
Washington University Photographic Services Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections

As a high school student and budding photojournalist years ago, Mike Venso first took an interest in what occurred at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, through the lens of another photographer: John Filo. Filo was a student at Kent State when he captured the Pulitzer Prize-winning image of Mary Ann Vecchio grieving Jeffrey Miller, one of the four students killed by Ohio National Guard troops during a campus protest 50 years ago Monday.

Venso, who would later meet Filo, eventually left photojournalism and entered the museum field, where he now works as the Missouri Historical Society’s military and firearms curator. His interest in the Kent State shootings and related Vietnam War-era protests at colleges and universities across the country, including Washington University in St. Louis, has stayed with him.

Hemingway images
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

Nearly a century ago, long before Ernest Hemingway married St. Louis native Martha Gelhorn, he found himself quarantined with his first wife, Hadley Richardson, who was also from St. Louis.

In the summer of 1926, as Hemingway and Richardson’s young son, Bumby, battled a highly contagious respiratory illness, doctors ordered them into isolation. And if you have to be quarantined, the location doesn’t seem so terrible at first glance: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s place on the French Riviera. But the mix of company could have been better in terms of keeping the household peace: In addition to the Hemingways and their nanny, the quarantined bunch also eventually included Ernest’s lover, Pauline Pfeiffer, who later became his second wife. 

And if you wondered whether Pfieffer was a St. Louis native — yes, Hemingway ultimately married three St. Louis women. Only two, thankfully, joined his quarantine.

Three-year-old Auggie helps take care of school parakeets Copernicus and Galileo.
Samantha Clarke

When Dani and Logan first broke up last year, they weren’t in a place financially or otherwise where it made sense to separate their lives completely. They shared a lease on a one-bedroom apartment in St. Louis’ Tower Grove South neighborhood, and their breakup was a pretty amicable one as far as breakups go. So they stayed put for the time being and made it work.

In February, they talked things through and ultimately decided to extend the lease a while longer. But then a pandemic hit. And while it’s one thing to share living space with an ex, it’s quite another to have to shelter in place together for weeks on end.

Actors Garland Scott and Linda Kennedy
The Ghost Who Walks

When Cody Stokes decided to shoot “The Ghost Who Walks” in his native St. Louis, it wasn’t because he was trying to make the city itself a character or was set on showcasing certain regional icons. In fact, the Gateway Arch doesn’t make a single appearance. But Stokes did choose St. Louis as his backdrop with good reason — and for viewers who know the region well, there’s plenty of local imagery to enjoy over the course of the fast-paced, 106-minute film.

“I think that the advantage is this is just an untapped visual landscape,” Stokes told St. Louis Public Radio’s Jonathan Ahl last summer during the 19th Annual Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. “There’s really not a lot of films shot here that make it to a wider audience or get seen by many people at all.” And now, “The Ghost Who Walks” has indeed reached movie lovers near and far. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Phoebe Judge, at left, at Lauren Spohrer are the co-creators of "Criminal" and "This Is Love."
Justin Cook & Liz Clayman

Since its inception in 2014, "Criminal" has never been just another true crime podcast. Where some shows spin their speculative wheels or endlessly whip listeners back and forth between evidence of innocence or guilt, "Criminal" has a reputation for pointing its microphone at the deeply human moments and stories that lurk behind the headlines — and consistently premiering a fresh, tightly crafted story two Fridays each month.

And over the years, a handful of "Criminal" episodes have brought the podcast’s co-creators, Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer, to the St. Louis region for interviews and research — putting them in conversation with everyone from convicted aircraft hijacker Martin McNally to local historians and journalists.

In 2015, for instance, Judge interviewed Ferguson protestor Ed Crawford, the subject of an iconic photo taken by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Robert Cohen. A year later, the podcast team dug into the history of the Evening Whirl, a crime-focused newspaper that first began publishing in St. Louis in 1938. And in January of this year, Criminal brought new attention to a horrific massacre that occurred in southern Illinois nearly a century ago.

The Mexican wolf is one of the most endangered wolf species in the world, with only a few hundred left in the wild.
Endangered Wolf Center

Back in January, long before most Americans were suddenly stocking up on groceries and other essentials, Regina Mossotti and her colleagues were already paying close attention to COVID-19 headlines. They decided to order several months’ worth of food — for their wolves, that is. And now, they’re glad they did.

Mossotti, a wildlife biologist, is director of animal care and conservation at the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Missouri. While some staff members now work from home, Mossotti and other animal caregivers are continuing their essential on-site roles, even as they’ve had to temporarily shut down the educational programs so critical to the nonprofit’s revenue.

“We won’t let the care of our animals be affected,” she has said. 

Kristin Sobolik was appointed chancellor April 9.
University of Missouri-St. Louis

About a week ago, the University of Missouri-St. Louis announced it had a new chancellor: Kristin Sobolik. Her selection followed a national search that ultimately led right back to campus. Sobolik has been part of the UMSL leadership team since 2017 — first as provost and most recently as interim chancellor.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Sobolik joined host Sarah Fenske to share how she plans to lead the university in the uniquely challenging months ahead.

Joe Roberts (at left) and Rob Connoley joined Friday's show.
Joe Roberts & St. Louis Public Radio

Like so many restaurateurs and other local business owners, Rob Connoley has directly felt the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. He’s the chef/owner of Bulrush in Grand Center, and, suffice to say, the acclaimed restaurant and its talented staff aren’t currently able to connect diners to the culinary riches of the Ozarks.

But Connoley reached out to St. Louis on the Air the other day with some genuinely good news to report: He’d successfully applied for a forgivable loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration and, in a matter of days, had also received the money.

On Friday’s show, Connoley joined host Sarah Fenske to share his experience and some lessons he’s learned from going through the process. The conversation also included Joe Roberts, who directs Webster University’s Entrepreneurship Program and frequently collaborates and consults with St. Louis’ Cortex community.

Mike Clark set out in a canoe nearly a month ago to an undisclosed, isolated location on the Mississippi River.
Big Muddy Adventures

For most people, the main ingredients of social distancing and self-quarantine include the walls of one’s dwelling, a solid stash of groceries and a comfy couch. But Mike Clark isn’t most people. And when St. Louis-area officials began urging residents to shelter in place, the founder of Big Muddy Adventures and his dog Dolly headed for an unusual place: a spot he’s dubbed “Quarantine Island.”

The experienced canoeist and adventurer has lived on the remote island in the Mississippi River for nearly a month now, doing his part to flatten the coronavirus curve — and benefit the Gateway Resilience Fund while he’s at it. Big Muddy Adventures is encouraging people to pledge $1, $5 or maybe even $10 to the local COVID-19 relief fund for each day Clark stays put.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, he checked in with host Sarah Fenske from his temporary home. He started by describing the scope and characteristics of his wild surroundings.

A MetroBus operator gives a thumbs up while on the job wearing a mask.
Metro Transit

Early last month, many St. Louis leaders were celebrating what appeared to be a new level of regional collaboration around public transportation. Bi-State Development President and CEO Taulby Roach joined St. Louis on the Air to talk about new security strategies aimed at boosting Metro Transit ridership and overall safety and comfort.

But within a week or so of that appearance, the coronavirus pandemic had changed the transit agency’s focus in a big way. Instead of tweets encouraging commuters to choose public transit and regular “Passenger Profiles” sharing stories of folks doing just that, Metro’s communications began mirroring the urgent pleas of so many other entities in the region: Stay home — and off transit — if at all possible.

St. Louis police Sgt. Heather Taylor is president of the Ethical Society of Police.
Heather Taylor

Police officers, firefighters and paramedics are on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus. If someone gets shot, they have to respond, no matter the risk to themselves. If someone has a heart attack, they rush to the scene, even while the rest of us stay distant and safe.

Clearly, these first responders are at risk. But in St. Louis city, Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards has said he will not release information on those serving under him who are infected with COVID-19 — including the number of infections. A city spokesman confirmed this in an April 10 email to St. Louis on the Air.

Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly
FX Networks

In her soon-to-premiere FX limited series “Mrs. America,” creator and showrunner Dahvi Waller introduces viewers to the late St. Louis native Phyllis Schlafly in unprecedented, full-color fashion.

Schlafly is portrayed by a brilliant Cate Blanchett, whose acting brings to life not only Schlafly’s yearslong fight against the Equal Rights Amendment and its feminist advocates but also other aspects of the conservative leader’s life.

Along the way, Waller’s all-star cast also takes viewers into the minds and lives of a host of lionized female figures of 1970s America, including Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) and Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba).

A new documentary directed and produced by Aisha Sultan (at right) puts the case of Patty Prewitt (at left) in the spotlight.
Aisha Sultan

Seventy-year-old Patty Prewitt has been busy making masks lately — like many citizen seamstresses working to help combat COVID-19. Prewitt, though, is sewing them for staff at the women’s prison in Vandalia, Missouri, where she’s serving a life sentence for the 1984 murder of her husband, Bill.

In the three and a half decades since that stormy and violent night in Holden, Missouri, Prewitt has consistently maintained that she is innocent, and that her husband’s death came at the hands of an intruder who also raped her.

Prewitt’s case is receiving fresh attention thanks to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Aisha Sultan. She recently released the film “33 and Counting” through the newspaper’s website

Rob Gatter, SLU professor of law, joined Tuesday's program.
Rob Gatter

About three weeks ago — which feels more like months in coronavirus time — Robert Gatter and his St. Louis University School of Law colleague Ana Santos Rutschman drew attention in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to what they consider to be Missouri’s problematic use of “informal quarantine.”

Officials’ decision in early March to simply ask, rather than formally order, a suburban St. Louis family to self-quarantine while awaiting COVID-19 test results seems to have backfired. The family’s attorney has said they weren’t told to stay home until after trips outside the home made headlines.

Michael Wolff, at left, and Dave Roland joined the talk show on Wednesday.
St. Louis Public Radio & Dave Roland

All those hypothetical questions we love to debate around issues of privacy, freedom and other civil rights? Many of them feel a lot less theoretical these days.

The spread of coronavirus — and restrictions placed by the government on the public and private sectors in response — has given these questions a greater sense of urgency.

On Wednesday, St. Louis on the Air convened a conversation focused on COVID-19’s implications for government power and its limits as expressed in the U.S.’ founding documents.

The 70 Grand bus stops near St. Louis University in December 2018.
File Photo | Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

While many people are now working from home due to the spread of coronavirus, other members of the workforce, like grocery store staff, are still required by employers to go out to perform their regular duties and, in some cases, interact with the public. 

And since people need a way to get to those essential jobs, other sectors, such as transit, become inherently essential, too. Metro Transit has significantly decreased its frequency of weekday service and its ridership is down, but some buses and trains are still running.

The Grotto Bridge in Lafayette Park is one of many stunning St. Louis backdrops typically buzzing with weddings during the warmer months of the year.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

This time of year typically marks the start of wedding season, with venues, vendors and engaged couples all gearing up for major gatherings. Now, many such celebrations have been canceled or postponed in light of the ongoing spread of COVID-19, and those working in the event industry are reeling.

But when the upheaval of coronavirus eventually settles down — and even in the midst of it all, in some cases — St. Louis remains a great city in which to get hitched.

Just ask Carolyn Burke, whose small business aims to make St. Louis a destination for elopement. With courthouses currently closed to nuptials, she’s found a workaround by bringing her officiant credentials and related services straight to wherever couples are located.

An image of several books on a shelf
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s no time quite like the present for escaping into someone else’s story for a bit, and, even in the technology-crazed 21st century, the written word is still the go-to medium for doing so. Books have a distinctive way of engaging hearts and minds for hours on end, providing everything from comfort and knowledge to intrigue and comic relief.

And in the St. Louis region, our local booksellers, librarians and authors are great resources for recommendations of what to read — specifically some top picks for a pandemic.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, LuAnn Locke, owner of Afterwords Books in Edwardsville, Illinois, and Jen Ohzourk, regional manager with St. Louis Public Library, talked with host Sarah Fenske and fielded listener requests and suggestions, too.

Michael Kinch
Washington University

Many aspects of everyday life and commerce are grinding to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the online world remains as frenetic as ever. And while virtual tools and social media platforms provide much-needed connections in these isolating times, they’ve also made it easy for harmful misinformation to spread almost as fast as the coronavirus itself.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, we worked to combat some of the false assumptions circulating about the virus. Host Sarah Fenske talked with Michael Kinch, the director of Washington University’s Centers for Research Innovation in Biotechnology and Drug Discovery, and he fielded listener calls in addition to Fenske’s questions.

From left, Deborah Stiles and Kaori Chaki joined the talk show for a conversation that will air during an upcoming broadcast.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

As someone focused on child and adolescent psychology, Webster University’s Deborah Stiles is used to writing about psychological theory and case studies — and working with multiple co-authors in doing so. But one of her most recent projects involves a total of 14 co-authors, and this one isn’t simply ending up in a scholarly journal.

Instead, it’s headed to the halls of power in Washington. Titled “The Psychological Impact of Separating Immigrant Children from their Families,” the 48-page report tells the stories of 10 children caught in the middle of U.S. practices along the nation’s southern border.