It falls to Fred Fairchild, president of K-State's faculty senate for 2008-09, to help lead the university to a new leader.
"One of the biggest challenges we'll face this year has to do with a change in leadership," said Fairchild, a professor of grain science and industry. "The faculty senate will offer strong input on the selection of a new president. Dr.. Wefald did a wonderful job with this university, and it's going to be challenging and rewarding to find someone to take K-State to new heights."
As the face of education is changing, Fairchild said, several university programs will be seeking new leadership. Continuing education, information technology and the office of international programs are all under interim guidance, and Fairchild looks forward to finding permanent leadership for each.
If anyone is in a position to make decisions based on understanding of the K-State community, it's Fairchild. While studying at K-State for his undergraduate degree in architectural engineering, Fairchild took a job one summer that would pave a path to his career and eventually lead back to the university.
"I got a summer job at a flour mill in Arkansas City after my junior year of college," he said. "I got really interested in the grain process, so I went to people at K-State and asked them if there was a need for engineers in the milling field.
"They were able to get me a grant for research in flour mill design, and this became my master's thesis."
After receiving his master's degree in milling technology, Fairchild spent 30 years in the milling industries of California, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa before returning to K-State as a professor.
Fairchild, a licensed professional engineer, is the type of person who's always engaged in his profession as well as his community. He belongs to the Kiwanis Club. He spent 40 years working with Boy Scouts of America. As a miller, he served on committees for the American Feed Industry Association. He's a member of Gamma Sigma Delta, the agriculture honorary, and he recently received the Phi Kappa Phi award for service to the university. His teaching prowess has been honored by the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture.
"I get involved wherever I am."
When asked how he likes to spend his free time, Fairchild answers, "What free time?" before admitting an interest in collecting model trains and studying railroad history. He considers his eight grandchildren his real "hobbies."
In his role as faculty senate president, Fairchild has several goals for what he'd like to accomplish during his tenure.
"We have some great faculty on this campus," he said. "I want to work on trying to improve faculty salaries and workloads. We need to define what an appropriate workload is and how much a person is expected to do."
Such concrete issues affect all faculty members, and Fairchild encourages them to get interested and get active.
"Faculty senate is the one place on campus where one can see the bigger picture of the university," Fairchild said. "You see all of the different colleges and departments come together and exchange thoughts and ideas. If you always stay in your own area you don't always see how the university works as a whole.
"By participating in faculty senate, one gets to have varied input on matters or initiatives, and one can get insight into what's going on with the university.
"And you meet new people."
Photo: Fred Fairchild takes the controls at the grain sciences flour mill on the north side of campus. He’s been involved with the milling industry since he was a junior in college.