Dr. Jon Wefald
Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame
In his foreword to Robert Shoop’s book, A University Renaissance: Jon Wefald’s Presidency at Kansas State, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts called ‘the Wefald years’ (l986-present) at K-State a time “when a very good university aimed high and became an excellent university.” The evidence is substantial: during Jon Wefald’s tenure, the school has achieved the greatest turn-around in the history of Division I football, becoming a power among the nation’s elite; reversed a serious decline in student enrollment; added 1.6 million square feet in new buildings; and led the nation’s 500 public universities in the number of prestigious academic scholarships awarded.
Wefald, a Minot native and full-blooded Norwegian, came to K-State well credentialed. As chancellor of the State University System of Minnesota, he presided over seven state universities, and before that served as president of Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota from 1977-82. He himself was schooled at Pacific Lutheran University, Washington State University and the University of Michigan.
Wefald has all the characteristics that make for a great leader, but perhaps the real secret to his success is in surrounding himself with people ‘smarter than himself,’ and empowering them with responsibility tempered with accountability and shared risk-taking. Finally, he has an irrepressible passion for living, a positive outlook, and a sense of humor that he brings not only to his job, but to life.
A high school counselor once told Jon Wefald that he would, in effect, never amount to anything. Take one look at Kansas State University today and you will see reflected in it a man who, to the contrary, has amounted to very much of everything.