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K-State Today

January 6, 2014



Former history professor leaves gift to Kansas State University

By Marisa Larson

A retired Kansas State University history professor who died in 2012 has provided more than $400,000 to the university through his will.

The bequest from former Manhattan resident George Dent Wilcoxon will create two undergraduate scholarships in history and a fellowship for a graduate student in history. Both funds are named in honor of Wilcoxon’s mother, Cora Stewart Wilcoxon.

Wilcoxon was a native of Murphy, Ore. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1936, master's degree in 1938 and his doctorate in history in 1941, all from the University of California, Los Angeles. His first teaching position was at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., then he moved to Chaffey College in Ontario, Calif., where he helped prepare administrators for posts in occupied territories in Europe and Asia through the Army Specialized Training Program.

In 1946, Wilcoxon became a member of the history department at K-State, where he spent the rest of his career, earning the rank of full professor in 1948. After 38 years of service, he retired in 1984, but he continued to teach part time for an additional 12 years.

Wilcoxon’s original field of study was 18th-century England. Later he became interested in ancient Greece and Rome, mastered Latin and Greek, and taught advanced courses on ancient Greece and Rome throughout his career at K-State. In 1979, his study of early Athenian history, "Athens Ascendant," was published.

He was especially interested in student affairs and served as the faculty representative to the Student Senate for 23 years and as the co-advisor to the Blue Key, the senior leadership honor society, for 10 years. Wilcoxon's fondness for students was returned.

"When he died, a number of former students wrote to me to tell me he was one of the best professors they’d had," said his friend and former colleague Al Hamscher, professor of history at K-State. "It's nice that so many students remembered him from 30, 40 years ago."

In creating two scholarships through his estate plans, Wilcoxon ensured that his desire to help students continued after he passed.

"Wilcoxon wanted to help students passionate about history," Hamscher said. "The fellowship for graduate students will be especially helpful. They tend to be underfunded, so he wanted to help make up the gap."

Philanthropic contributions to K-State are coordinated by the Kansas State University Foundation. The foundation staff works with university partners to build lifelong relationships with alumni, friends, faculty, staff and students through involvement and investment in the university.