Anderson Lawn remains an open space, key gathering place after 139 years

Anderson Hall and the grand lawn opens up to the rest of campus as the sun sets on August 9, 2016. Anderson Hall was named in honor of the university president John A. Anderson, who served from 1873 to 1879. (Archive Photo by Evert Nelson | Collegian Media Group)

Students think of the Anderson Lawn in multiple ways, from pictures of friends and their families after graduation with Anderson Hall in the background to KSUnite last fall, and on many days, students laying on the lawn during a beautiful spring afternoon working on homework like James Massingale, senior in political science.

“It’s just a great environment to come study and enjoy the nice weather,” Massingale said. “I’m surprised more people don’t utilize it out here.”

Anderson Lawn is, and has been, a staple of Kansas State University’s campus for over a century. It has created the same scene in front of Anderson Hall since construction was finished on Anderson in 1879.

Many articles that rank the most beautiful college campuses — such as Travel + Leisure — have featured pictures overlooking the lawn with the sun setting behind the limestone of Anderson Hall, its stoic bell tower creating a mirage of colors and shadows.

Lucas Milner, senior in management, said he was found laying out on a beach towel soaking up the sunshine on the first warm week of the year.

“I’m glad the temperature finally decided to warm up so I can enjoy the sunshine out here,” Milner said. “It’s the perfect spot on campus to come hang out outside and enjoy nature and the view. I don’t come out here often, but when I do, I love it.”

The lawn is not just scenery to show off the beauty of K-State, though. After the College of Business Administration Building was finished in fall 2016, the lawn became the last large, open grass area on campus for students to utilize.

Ironically, being the last, it was also the first official lawn on campus, garnishing a name from the man who allowed the land to bought by the state of Kansas, Hon. John A. Anderson. He went on to become the second president of K-State which was named Kansas State Agriculture College at the time.

“The lawn has always been the place that campus comes together,” said Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students, when asked about the significance of the lawn.

An Agriculture Field Day was held on the lawn in 1911, where livestock were brought on campus and displayed.

Bosco said he recalls being a student in May 1970, during the aftermath of the infamous Kent State shootings, a rally was held on the lawn, and Chuck Newcom, student body president at the time, spoke on the shootings.

On Oct. 31, 1990, over two thousand people — including representatives from every major newspaper and television station in the state, students and faculty — attended a rally on the lawn in support of the College of Human Ecology after it was rumored the college may be dissolved as a result of major budget cuts to the university.

On Oct. 24, 2013, the closing ceremonies for K-State’s 150th anniversary were held on the lawn. The ceremonies included the unveiling of a plaza memorial celebrating the university’s sesquicentennial achievement, which included a time capsule holding historical information that will be opened fifty years from the time of the ceremony.

Then, there was KSUnite on Nov. 4, 2017, when K-State canceled classes for the first time in one hundred years in order for students to attend the Unity Rally on the lawn in the midst of racially motivated incidents.

University president Richard Myers, student body president Jack Ayers, president of the Black Student Union Darrell Reese Jr. and others spoke to challenge the values that the university stands for.

The lawn has provided space for students to gather, challenge social issues, celebrate, mourn and study since the university was founded. It is more than just a lawn surrounded by shrubs and trees; it is a representation of Kansas State as a whole: the students, faculty, history and perseverance that has made what K-State is today.