For some participants this afternoon, a sample of Call Hall’s “Wildcat Birthday 150” ice cream might have been the highlight of festivities at Ahearn Field House marking the beginning of Kansas State University’s 150th anniversary. One day they’ll better appreciate what it means to be part of the legacy of such an outstanding institution.
Not that there wasn’t plenty of reason to ooh and ahh at displays outlining the history of a proud university whose growth has propelled that of Manhattan itself. An exhibit opening this afternoon at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art can further enlighten visitors with artifacts associated with various aspects of K-State.
As KSU history Professor Jim Sherow wrote in a special section on the anniversary, what evolved into Kansas State University was born during the Civil War. That it was the nation’s very first land-grant institution, made possible when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in July 1862, is only one of KSU’s many claims to fame.
It’s probably as difficult now, in an era in which introductory classes hold hundreds of students, to imagine that first term’s total enrollment of 52 students as it would have been for the founders to imagine that their undertaking would one day educate more than 20,000 students every year.
The university through the years has benefited not just from the determination of those early individuals but from a succession of leaders with varied skills. Some were visionaries and some were builders, adding facilities and departments. Some were traditional academics, and the strengths of yet others involved old-fashioned salesmanship as well as the ability to consolidate gains and position the institution for its next period of growth. It is their combination of talents — and the talents of the distinguished faculty and students they have helped attract — that make the university what it is today.
Yes, there is much to celebrate — one superb program after another — both academic and athletic. Yesterday’s students have become today’s leaders in all walks of life in Kansas, the nation and internationally. They’re researchers, educators, business executives and political figures. And today’s students will follow in their footsteps, contributing to the next generation of leaders.
It is, after all, the untold thousands of individuals who’ve brought their own hopes and dreams to Kansas State University — by whatever name is has been called over the decades — that define its greatness. Happily, such a solid foundation sets the stage for an even more promising future.
Happy Birthday, KSU.