By Lawrence Journal-World, July 4
Few American university presidents or chancellors have made such a positive difference in their institutions as did Jon Wefald in his 23 years as president of Kansas State University.
The Minnesota native stepped aside as KSU president in 2009, and, last month, university and Kansas Board of Regents officials announced that a new “transformational” eight-floor residence hall at the school would be named Wefald Hall.
In making this announcement, Regent Ed McKechnie said, “This is a transformational hall, which is pretty neat for a transformational guy.”
Regent Fred Logan said, “I think if you look at higher education in Kansas, Jon Wefald, it’s fair to say, was an historic figure and he was an historic president.”
Wefald arrived in Manhattan in the summer of 1986 after serving as chancellor of Minnesota’s state university system. K-State was down in most every category: enrollment, private fiscal support, faculty morale and the condition of its physical plant. The school also was close to being ousted from the Big Eight athletic conference because its football team had one of the nation’s worst win-loss records.
In the next 23 years, a huge transformation took place under Wefald’s leadership. Student enrollment grew from approximately 16,000 to more than 23,000; new buildings were added on the campus; research funding climbed from $18 million a year to nearly $134 million; private fiscal support grew from about $6 million a year to close to $100 million; faculty excellence was upgraded, student academic achievement in various national competitions topped most other public universities; and morale, enthusiasm and school spirit soared.
From being on the brink of dismissal from the Big Eight Conference, the K-State Wildcats football team became a winner, bringing home conference and post-season bowl championships.
Wefald turned the school around!
He put together a good, hard-working and talented support team and was an enthusiastic, full-time recruiter and supporter of the university. He made a point to balance his efforts to strengthen the school, making sure the physical plant, faculty, students, academic and athletic programs all were treated fairly.
Wefald served far longer than most university presidents and chancellors. Today, university leaders usually serve between five and seven years. It is a tough and demanding job.
It is entirely fitting that the new 540-student “transformational” residence hall, which is designed with a nontraditional environment, will carry the name of Wefald, a nontraditional and sometimes maverick university president who got things done.