Jean McGavin K’76
Focusing on history at Kirkland and drawn to ideas, culture, and the lived experiences of people led Jean McGavin K’76 to serve as a champion of stories that draw marginalized groups into the mainstream.

As the founder of historychip.com, an online archive of true stories, McGavin ensures personal stories have a global platform. “Without the perspectives of slaves, for example, the history of slavery could be neither accurate nor truthful,” McGavin says. “Growing up during the end of Jim Crow in Virginia, I learned that inclusion of all the pertinent voices was required to make history truthful.”

History Chip revolutionizes history by inviting those around the world — women, people of color, those in developing countries, LGBTQ+ people, the disabled — who do not figure into traditional narratives to tell their stories and take their place.

At Kirkland, McGavin focused her studies on late 19th-century European humanities, including art history, philosophy, history, and literature of the period. After taking her first studio art class during her senior year, she pivoted in a different direction.

“After Kirkland I received an MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts in theatre design and worked as a freelance set designer, predominantly as an assistant, on Broadway for 10 years,” she says. Her credits include Rags, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Song and Dance.

But life rerouted her. “My daughter was born with a serious medical condition that was so much more important than Broadway,” McGavin says. “She survived and is healthy and gorgeous, and I never looked back.”

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On a stage set, and foundational to History Chip, McGavin appreciates the minutiae that tells a story — the wallpaper or books on the shelves. These details of ordinary life, along with the stories of all people, are required for a truthful and robust history.

“I have a number of benchmarks to reach with History Chip that will keep me busy for some time,” McGavin says.

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