Five years. That’s how long I’ve been at K-State, and as my departure from this great university on May 16 looms ever closer, so does the end of President Jon Wefald’s tenure here.
Wefald has single-handedly taken K-State from a small, strictly agricultural school and has turned it into one of the premier public universities in the nation.
Throughout this issue of the Collegian, I’m sure you have read about his amazing accomplishments from the new buildings erected on campus to the money he has raised during his time as president.
But above all the accomplishments and the accolades he and the university have received during the past 23 years, nothing stands out more about Wefald than the fact that he still genuinely cares.
Every day Wefald can be seen around campus, and every day he waves and says “hello” to every person who passes by. He even stops to talk to someone who recognizes him and wants to chat.
As my years on K-State’s campus started to fly by, I became more aware of my surroundings and started to realize that K-State was filled with great people in every position — staff members, professors and especially administrators like Wefald.
But it didn’t really hit me until last summer, when an F4 tornado struck Manhattan.
As Wefald proclaimed that the campus would be better than ever and I watched the campus transform from a near disaster area to the beautiful campus we have today in just a few short months, I knew this was the culmination of Wefald’s achievements.
That was also the first summer I got to meet with Wefald face-to-face when he visited the newsroom and signed a ceiling tile.
Before signing the tile he sat and hung out with us, not because he did not have anything else to do, which he did, but because he cares.
He is the same way when it comes to the athletic department, too. Wefald knew the revenue brought in by a successful football and basketball program would be able to bolster the rest of the university.
Wefald’s first action to help the football program was to hire an offensive coordinator from the University of Iowa — Bill Snyder.
As expected, it took Snyder quite a few years to turn the football program around, giving credit to Wefald for never wavering and always believing in him. If that would have happened today at another university, the head coach would have been fired.
But it hasn’t been a completely smooth road for Wefald and the athletic department.
There have been times when Wefald has become too involved.
He pushed former athletic director Tim Weiser out the door because of irreconcilable differences. The move cost K-State $1.9 million.
Then there is the contract extension for then-head football coach Ron Prince that happened right before the 2008 season. The extension increased Prince’s buyout from $300,000 to $1.2 million and increased his salary $750,000 to $1.1 million. All in all, that one extension cost the university an additional $1.25 million in 2008 alone.
Running a major university is a tough gig, and for all Wefald has done for K-State, those are the only major blunders he’s had with the athletic department.
For the last 23 years, one man has led the charge of everything that has happened at K-State. And without him genuinely caring about everything that goes on under his watch, K-State would still be a small agricultural school in the middle of Kansas that no one outside of the state would have heard about.
Brad Dornes is a senior in print journalism. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.