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State of the University

Wefald attributes success to teamwork and inspirational campus leaders


Reflecting on the leaps and bounds made since he took the helm at 22 years ago, Jon Wefald delivered his valedictory State of the University address Friday Sept. 12.

Wefald, K-State's 12th president, will have completed 23 years as president when he retires at the end of the 2008-2009 academic year.

President Jon WefaldIn speaking of the accomplishments during his long tenure, Wefald credited "the finest administrative team in the history of K-State" and the strategy of empowering faculty, staff and students to get things done.

"At K-State, we empower people," Wefald said, "and people who are empowered almost always exceed all expectations."

When Wefald came to K-State in 1986, enrollment was declining, the football and athletic programs were struggling, research and graduate programs were limited and faculty morale was low.

Over the past 22 years, he said, all of these things have turned around.

Enrollment has gone from 16,000 to more than 23,000, and the student population is more diverse than ever. K-State has won Big 12 championships in football, volleyball and women's basketball, not to mention its ascendance in several national rankings.

In addition, competitive research funding rose to more than $100 million in 2008 -- compared to around $19 million in 1986 -- and overall research funding came in at $220 million.

The number of endowed professorships and University Distinguished Professors increased, and private fundraising has multiplied tenfold since 1986, bringing in nearly $100 million during the last academic year.

Wefald also recalled that 11 K-Staters have been named either the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching national professor of the year for the nation's major research universities or the Carnegie/CASE state professor of the year. For 2007-08, K-State had both a national professor of the year and a Kansas professor of the year.

Such excellence creates an environment that caters to student success, Wefald said. He then detailed K-State's unmatched number of Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater and Udall scholarships awarded since 1986.

"With 124 of these five prestigious scholarships, K-State ranks first out of all 500 public, four-year colleges and universities in America," he said. "K-State students have won 35 more of these prestigious academic scholarships than any public university in the PAC 10, Big 10, Big 12, ACC, SEC and Big East. Our students have won more of these prestigious scholarships than Brown, the University of Chicago, Cornell and MIT."

Wefald said that the K-State team's ability set and execute priorities has led to this success.

Duane Nellis and Fred Fairchild"Our deans and department heads know that in order to be excellent and to be regionally and nationally recognized that we have to set priorities," Wefald said. "I doubt that there is another land-grant university in America that has so many academic leaders willing to determine their top one or two priorities as K-State is doing right now."

This sort of teamwork, he said, enables the university to get things done quickly.

He cited the daunting task of readying the university for the first days of school after the June 11 tornado.

"People said it could not be done in 60 days," he said. "But we have cleaned up and restored K-State, and K-State has never been more clean, neat and beautiful than it is right now."

Though Wefald praised the university's accomplishments during his tenure as president, he said that the best is yet to come.

"We're red hot," he said. "Academically, administratively and athletically, K-State is at the top of its game. Kansas State's future is nothing but bright."


Photos: (Top) Jon Wefald delivers his valedictory State of the University address Friday Sept. 12. (Bottom) Duane Nellis and Fred Fairchild listen to Jon Wefald deliver his address in the Alumni Center.