A tradition at Kansas State University has been to name a building after former university presidents. Of the 10 men to hold the office during the university’s first century, nine were once honored in such a fashion.
Since the mid 1970s, however, the practice has fallen fallow and even receded. No building has been named after a president since the auditorium’s designation as McCain Auditorium following the retirement of James McCain in 1976. Although two presidents have completed their service since then, neither has been recognized. Meanwhile, the 1990s reconstruction of the library named after former president Frank Farrell including renaming of that facility as Hale Library after a major donor.
The result is that whereas a quarter-century ago nine of the university’s 10 former president’s had been enshrined on campus, today only eight of the 12 former presidents are similarly recognized.
The money issue alone partly explains the move away from the once-common practice of honoring former presidents – and other key faculty — by enshrining their names on buildings. Because those buildings require large private donations to be completed, the practice here and elsewhere has been to offer naming rights as an incentive to obtain such donations.
As understandable as that concession is, recognition of the vital contributions made by former presidents to the university’s growth and development remains a laudable pursuit, and one that ought to be revived.
At K-State, that opportunity could be seized today at the risk of no loss of donations if administrators chose to pursue it. The Leadership Studies program, established by Jon Wefald, operates out of a relatively new building constructed during the final years of Wefald’s tenure and without the sale of any naming rights. Given President Wefald’s contributions to the university in general and to the leadership studies program in particular, it would be altogether fitting to revive this once-common practice by reflagging the Leadership Studies building as Wefald Hall in his honor.