Mary Hale Tolar

Director, School of Leadership Studies

Mary TolarAs director of K-State's School of Leadership Studies, Mary Tolar works diligently with faculty and staff to develop approximately 1,200 K-State students into knowledgeable, ethical, caring, inclusive leaders for a diverse and changing world.

Preparing individuals who can solve problems in innovative ways and who are flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances, she says, will be key to meeting the social, political and other challenges ahead.

Before being named the school's director, Tolar served as interim director for approximately six months. Prior to that, she was associate director for civic leadership and directed the school's community service, service-learning, nonprofit leadership and student civic engagement efforts. She also is an assistant professor of leadership studies and director of the Coffman Leadership Institute.

Before joining K-State, Tolar served as executive director of Kansas Campus Compact, a statewide member organization hosted by K-State that works with college presidents across Kansas to advance civic engagement and the public purpose of higher education. She also was deputy executive secretary and chief of staff for the Truman Scholarship Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Tolar is a Truman Scholar, Rhodes Scholar, founding member of the National Association of Fellowships Advisors and co-author/editor of "The Lucky Few and the Worthy Many: Scholarships and the World's Future Leaders." In 2007 she was honored with the Truman Foundation's Staats Award, which recognizes significant contributions to the public sector and extraordinary service to the foundation. She has spent more than 18 years in higher education administration, serving five institutions in capacities ranging from scholarship adviser to development officer.

Her research interests include the art and practice of civic leadership development, women’s pathways to leadership in public service and higher education, and leadership development through service learning.

Tolar has a bachelor's degree in history from K-State, a master of letters in modern history from Oxford University and a doctorate in educational leadership, also from K-State.

Tolar can be contacted at 785-532-6085 or