“When I die the best thing people can say is that I was a hard working woman.“
Joyce Thierer is of the fifth generation of a Flint Hills farming family. Her parents, Lowell and Myrtle Gustafson Thierer, lived near Volland when she was born on September 3, 1949. Her grandparents lived on ranches within a few miles of each other. Joyce got her start at first-person interpretation when her grandfather Thierer told her stories about her great-great grandmother, Mary Fix who came to Kansas in 1856, one of Joyce’s favorite first hand presentations to this day is that of Mary Fix. Joyce also was inspired by the story of Calamity Jane, who lost her mother at the age of 14 and had to learn to support herself. Calamity Jane also trusted her horse as her best friend, just like Joyce at that young age. Joyce’s mother was a true cowgirl, and was a great inspiration to Joyce when she wanted to study vocational agriculture. In the 1960’s her parents created a museum and started a living history festival, Molasses Days, which brought people to their homestead for 20 years. When Joyce entered Kansas State University, she intended to study Animal Science, but opted for American History instead, receiving a BS in 1972. Joyce has gone on to further her education with several degrees, including, Masters in Library Science from Emporia State University 1980, Masters in American History, Emporia State University 1986, PhD in American History, Kansas State University, 1994. Her long list of distinguished awards includes, We Kan! Award, Mary Headrick Award, You Make a Difference Award, Fellowship of Performance Art-Kansas Arts Commission, Santa Fe Trail Association Education Award, Ruth Schillinger Faculty Award, and the Liberal Arts Science Teaching Award. She has developed numerous academic and history presentations including the Ride into History first person presentations she performs with spouse, Ann Birney. She also is a member of the Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma Humanities Councils Speaker’s Bureaus. Thierer is the author of “Telling History: A Manual for Performers and Presenters of First Person Narratives.” Joyce Thierer and Ann Birney received an NRCS/USDA EQIP grant to bring back the Tallgrass prairie on land Thierer inherited. After restoring the prairie by removing non-native vegetation, Thierer and Birney received a Grassland Award from the Wabaunsee County Conservation Program. Joyce’s son Chris Wisneski lives in Albuquerque, NM and plans to return to Wabaunsee County in the near future, so another generation can live in and appreciate the Flint Hills of Kansas.