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Virtual Family Day to honor Whitehair family as Kansas State University's Family of the Year

Friday, Sept. 11, 2020

Members of the extended Whitehair family

Members of the extended Whitehair family wear "Whitehair 55" jerseys at a K-State football game in October 2015. Photo credit: Dick McCreight. | Download this photo.


MANHATTAN — Kansas State University's Family Day will look different this year, but that's not stopping the 2020 Family of the Year from being honored for their Wildcat pride.

The Whitehair family has been selected as the Family of the Year by Chimes, the junior honorary, which sponsors the annual competition. The family will be honored during Virtual Family Day Saturday, Sept. 12, via the Chimes Facebook Page and website, and the K-State Parents and Family Program social media pages.

"The members of Chimes select the Family of the Year based on their affiliation with K-State, what family means to them, and their demonstration of K-State pride," said Jayden Hanna, Chimes' co-director of events. "The Whitehair family, though large in number, is a close-knit family that represents what it means to be Wildcats through their support for each other and the university. After visiting with them via Zoom, it is clear to see they embody K-State values and demonstrate what it truly means to be a part of the K-State family."

According to the family's nomination application, Whitehair extended family members are descendants of John and Mary Neyer Whitehair, who settled in Dickinson County, Kansas, in 1875 and started their family when Kansas State University was a fledgling land-grant institution. Family members span four generations of K-State current students, alumni, former students, contributors to the KSU Foundation and Ahearn Fund, and Wildcat fans. More than 75 family members have earned bachelor's degrees from the university, 18 have earned master's degrees, four are Doctors of Veterinary Medicine graduates and one earned his Doctor of Philosophy.

"Members of the extended Whitehair family continue to take pride in their university roots," Janet Whitehair Cooper, Manhattan, said in her nomination application. "They are community leaders in many parts of the United States, giving credit to K-State for developing their characters and preparing them for the work world — and they continue to give back to the university."

The Whitehairs have been distinguishing themselves on and off the gridiron, thanks to their K-State degrees. 

Cody Whitehair '14, who was the Wildcats' team captain and All-Big 12 player, is in his fifth year in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. While on the K-State football team, 130 relatives and friends proudly wore "WHITEHAIR 55" jerseys on game days, which was organized by Cody's dad, Kevin Whitehair '89, Abilene.

Another offensive tackle for the K-State football team was Norman Whitehair '43 '52, a first-generation Whitehair K-Stater. He served on the K-State faculty for 35 years and was head of the agricultural economics department for 15 years.

Two family members are Alumni Fellows of the College of Veterinary Medicine, from two generations: Leo Whitehair, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine '53 in 1995, and Michael Whitehair, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine '74, Abilene, in 2018. 

Other noted Whitehairs include Christine Lorson Downey Schmidt, Inman, who served in the Kansas Legislature and on the Kansas Board of Regents. She was on the K-State Presidential Search Committee that selected Kirk Schulz as the university's 13th president.

The Hintz family siblings — Greg '74, Loudon, Tennessee; Maureen Hintz Burson '75 '83, Lincoln, Nebraska; Jim '78, Andale; Alan '80, Lenexa; and Jean Hintz Artz '83, Wichita — have invested through the KSU Foundation in the future of K-State by establishing the Bernie and Bill Hintz Family Scholarship in memory of their parents.

Family members are/were active as students, with membership in Spurs — now Silver Key — including the first president and two Spurs advisors; Chimes, including a chair of Parents' Day, the forerunner of Family Day; Mortar Board; Blue Key vice president; Phi Kappa Phi; Phi Upsilon Omicron; Alpha Lambda Delta; Phi Beta Kappa; Beta Alpha Psi; Kappa Omicron Nu president; Human Ecology Council president; Wheat State Agronomy Club officer and advisor; PRSSA secretary; and K-State Tennis Club co-founder. They have served as West Hall treasurer and scholarship chair, Smurthwaite freshman class president, Ag Ambassador, Ag Expo coordinator, and IFYE participant. Music activities have included Jazz Band, K-State Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Band, Woodwind Quintet and Clarinet Choir.

As alumni, family members have included a K-State Alumni Association board member, KSU Foundation trustees, Ahearn Club members, K-State Alumni Association lifetime members, members of college advisory boards, and a Friends of the Beach Museum of Art board president.

Several family members have chosen careers associated with K-State, working as extension agents, a professor and department head, a graduate class instructor, a librarian, an office specialist, a nurse, an assistant director of Lafene Health Center, and worker at the Swine Teaching and Research Center. Several also worked in campus labs during their undergraduate years.

Extended Whitehair family members have also been active members and alumni/alumnae of Alpha Tau Omega, FarmHouse, Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Gamma Delta, Phi Kappa Theta, Pi Kappa Alpha, Chi Omega, Delta Delta Delta, Gamma Phi Beta, Pi Beta Phi, Sigma Kappa, Sigma Sigma Sigma and Clovia.


Jayden Hanna

Cassidy Finley


Family of the Year

News tip

Abilene, Inman, Manhattan, Salina

Written by

Taylor Provine