Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame inducts university president
Jon Wefald first moved to Minot, N.D. as a teenager with his family. For
the first year and half, he and his siblings Kanut, Ann and Bob, and parents,
Walma and Olav, lived in Pats Motel. A lot has changed in the 53 years
Today, Wefald 59, is in his 16th year as president of Kansas State
Wefald has presided over the university since 1986, and his success recently
garnered the "full-blooded Norwegian" induction into the Scandinavian-American
Hall of Fame.
"I come from humble beginnings," Wefald said. "Nobodys
more surprised than me."
Recent Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame inductee, and Kansas State University President, Jon Wefald '59.Wefald struggled through Minot High School and was told by an English teacher that he wasnt smart enough to make it in college. He sought a different environment after graduation, but wanted to remain close to his Scandinavian roots. Ignoring his teachers discouragement, Wefald left for what was then Pacific Lutheran College.
"PLU gave me a sense of confidence about my future and an opportunity
to blossom," Wefald said. "I owe Pacific Lutheran a lot."
Wefald graduated cum laude and went on to earn a masters and a Ph.D., both in history and political science. He then took a faculty position in 1965 at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. In 1971, Wefald jumped at the opportunity to be Minnesotas Commissioner of Agriculture, a position he held until 1977. His years at Southwest State University (Minn.) as president (1977-1982), and as Chancellor of Minnesotas State University system (1982-1986) made him an ideal choice for president of what was then a struggling Kansas State University.
During Wefalds tenure, KSU has added more than 1.8 million square feet
of new university buildings, and enrollment has increased from about 13,000
in 1986 to about 23,000 in 2002. KSU students are now second in the nation
among public universities in the number of Rhodes Scholarship winners since
1986, and KSU is the only public university over the past 15 years to rank
among the top 10 of U.S. schools in winning 91 Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater
and Udall scholarships since 1986.
While honored by the accolades that
have come with KSUs success, nothing gives him more personal satisfaction
than his induction into the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame in October.
The best part is the Hall of Fame happens to be in Minot.
The Hall has inducted 55 individuals since it began in 1984, including Charles
Lindbergh, Buzz Aldrin and Walter Mondale.
"Its a long way from living in Pats Motel," Wefald said. "Going back to Minot for this honor was the ultimate thrill."