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Beatlemania still strong on Cumberlands campus thanks to one professor


Semmel talks with a student in the midst of his action figures, wall art, and music recordings.

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. – His classroom isn’t ordinary. Dr. Semmel doesn’t stand in front of the dim room, but sits dressed in his black suit and tie at a back desk, near the light switch with a remote in hand.

We all live in a yellow submarine…

As the Beatles’ 1968 cartoon clip fades, Semmel rises, brings light back to the room, takes his position at the lectern and begins to tell of the music group’s significance to popular culture.

Though this is something he does every semester in his Intro to Mass Media class, it is apparent this topic isn’t monotonous to Semmel. He beams, almost rising to his toes.

To his pupils, Semmel is the “Beatles” guy. His office is legendary, and it can give a dizzying effect. A conversation piece doesn’t seem to accurately describe his work dwelling—it’s more like a mini pop culture museum.

“Unfortunately, my collection of Beatles memorabilia and other memorabilia has spilled over into several rooms in our house,” says Semmel. “My family is VERY understanding.”

Not able to choose a favorite, Semmel says that he is particularly fond of his Beatles lunchbox and copy of the Beatles board game “Flip Your Wig.”

Dr. Keith Semmel joined the University of the Cumberlands faculty in 1990 and was named chairman of the newly formed Department of Communication and Theatre Arts in 1998.

He earned his first degree in speech communication, graduating from Mansfield University with a B.A. in 1976. He then moved on to Bowling Green State University, where he completed an M.A. and a Ph.D in Interpersonal and Public Communication in 1977 and 1980, respectively.

Semmel’s particular interests and areas of research include mass media, film, animation and popular culture. His media forum, "The ‘Death’ of Paul McCartney: A Case Study in Mass Media and Modern Mythology," is a popular annual event at the University, presented every Halloween. He also offers a special topics course in the Beatles and hosts two radio shows on Cumberlands’ 94.5 FM, one of which is called, “Strictly the Sixties.” Semmel also doubles as the station’s manager.

It is easy to assume that Semmel is what keeps the Beatles’ prominence from fading with the younger crops of students he encounters year after year. But according to Semmel, this isn’t true.

“A lot of my students know about The Beatles because of an older sibling, or parent, or grandparent,” says Semmel. “The Beatles music just seems to transcend age and generation, a tribute to the original brilliance of their music.”

And as a pop culture expert, what are his predictions for The Beatles’ legacy?

“They have managed to survive for 40+ years, and I think they still sound as fresh and relevant as they did back in the Sixties,” says Semmel. “I have no reason to think that that will change. If anything, I think their appeal will increase as time goes by.”

This is good news for future students who want to watch “A Hard Day’s Night” or write a term paper on Beatlemania.

Dr. Semmel’s interests and expertise are not limited to Cumberlands students. In honor of The Beatles first appearance on American television, Semmel is to present the multi-media presentation, "The Beatles on Sullivan: The Historic 1964 Broadcast" at 6:30 p.m., this Friday, February 9th, the 43rd anniversary of the original airing, at the Laurel County Public Library. The presentation will trace The Beatles leading up to this historic broadcast. The hour-long event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 606-864-5759 or visit the library’s web site at