Naming a big new dorm at Kansas State University for Jon Wefald is a fine gesture.
Sure, it would be a bit more typical to name a classroom building for a former university president. Historically, that’s been the pattern — hence Anderson, Denison and Waters halls. That would certainly be fitting for Dr. Wefald, the university’s second-longest-serving president.
But a dorm makes sense. If there’s one thing Dr. Wefald should be remembered for, it’s for the enrollment growth his administration oversaw, and naming a dorm to house 540 students ties in neatly with that concept.
The 12th president of K-State served from 1986 to 2009. During that time, the university added 2.2 million square feet of space, and research funding went from $18 million a year to $110 million annually. Student scholarship winners trumped many other prestigious universities around the country. And the football team started winning.
But perhaps most significantly, enrollment, which had been eroding for years, turned around. Dr. Wefald put Pat Bosco in charge of that, and, through a variety of efforts, it worked. Enrollment went from 16,000 to 23,000. That had a major effect on everything, including the Manhattan community. We are all really in Wefald’s debt for that. Because, numbers aside, what it really said was that Manhattan and K-State were moving forward. They were going in a positive direction.
It’s hard to imagine now, given all the growth here in the past decade, but at the outset of Dr. Wefald’s tenure, there was a palpable sense of decline, stagnation and loss. Dr. Wefald changed that. Bringing more students here was at the center of that shift.
Board of Regents members called President Wefald “transformational,” and “historic,” as they approved the proposal to name the dorm for him. They’re right. He was all that.
It’s obvious that Dr. Wefald returns the love, saying K-State is in his blood. He also called the naming of the dorm for him the “thrill of a lifetime.”
We’re pleased that the university and the state have seen fit to do something appropriate to make clear in a meaningful and long-lasting way what Jon Wefald meant to K-State.