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Kansas Wesleyan History: Home

Historical information about Kansas Wesleyan University

Highlighted Resources

Histories of KWU:
Fifty Years of Kansas Wesleyan History 1886-1936 by John S. Cornett (published in 1936)
The Time Now Past: Kansas Wesleyan History 1886-1961 by Jack Warner VanDerhoof (published in 1962)
Prologue to the Future: Kansas Wesleyan 1962-1986 by Bernita Breon Mitchell (published in 1986)

Link to Historic Buildings on Campus

"Earl Corder Sams and the Rise of J. C. Penney" by David Delbert Kruger from Kansas History (Autumn, 2012)

List of the Presidents of Kansas Wesleyan

Archived Materials

Kansas Wesleyan University Archives:  The archives are a closed collection in Memorial Library. If you would like access to any of the materials in the archives, you will need to contact one of the librarians and make arrangements at or 785-833-4396.

Kansas Wesleyan's 130th Anniversary

Happy 130th Birthday!

Who else is sharing a milestone this year?

The Salina YMCA celebrates its 130th anniversary.
The Salina Symphony celebrates its 60th year.
The Smoky Hill River Festival is in its 40th year.
The Pioneer Clock was installed 25 years ago.
Christ Cathedral laid its cornerstone 110 years ago.

The Statue of Liberty was unveiled 130 years ago.
Coca-Cola was invented 130 years ago.
The first gas-powered auto was invented by Karl Benz 130 years ago.

Historical Time Line

1882-1888: A period of extraordinary growth of higher education institutions in Kansas: Campbell College in Holton, Bethany in Lindsborg, College of Emporia, Kansas Christian in Lincoln, Salina Normal, Southwestern in Winfield, Midland in Atchison, St. John’s in Salina, Cooper Memorial (Sterling), McPherson, Bethel in Newton, Central Normal in Great Bend.

1883: The new Conference of Northwest Kansas of the Methodist Episcopal Church meets for a first annual meeting, where the possibility of a college is discussed.

1885: The Conference of Northwest Kansas raises $3500 toward a new college. Several cities vie for the location of the new college, but the city of Salina’s offer of 15 acres and $26,000 is accepted. The name Kansas Wesleyan University is decided upon. A plot of land ½ mile south of the city limits of Salina is chosen.

1886, Sept. 15: The Administration Building is completed and opens its doors to the first class of 2 college students (one senior and one freshman), 61 students in preparatory classes, 25 in music, 20 in business, 9 in normal school, 27 in training school. Tuition and fees are $13.00. Most students live in Salina with host families or in rented rooms.

1886: The Athenaeum Society for women students is formed. Student societies were the heart of student social activities and where oratory and forensic competitions began. Later, the Y. M. C. A. and Y. W. C. A. are active student groups..

1887: H. M. Mayo is the first graduate of Kansas Wesleyan.

1889: The Zetagatheon Society for women and the Delphian Society for men are formed.

1890: Two student publications, the Wesleyan Lance and the Kansas Wesleyan Advocate, merge to form the Wesleyan Advance.

1891: C. W. Burch is the first graduate to complete all of his work at Kansas Wesleyan.

1892: T. W. Roach is contracted to develop a commercial (business) department in downtown Salina, later becoming the Kansas University of Commerce, then the Kansas Wesleyan College of Commerce, and even later the Kansas Wesleyan Business College. The Music school is also in downtown Salina and includes high school students taking lessons.

1892: The Ionian society for men is formed.

1893: The first informal “pick-up” game of football is played against Baker University. Baker wins, 44-0. Student injuries are so severe that administration and faculty ban football for the next five years. Baseball is the only varsity sport for many years.

1901 or 1902: Peate Telescope tower is built

1903: First season of football with 6 games is played, with a student coach. The team loses to Bethany, 40-0. The football team regularly plays against local colleges, high school teams, and larger universities such as Wichita State and Kansas State during the next few years. In 1910, football is again cancelled until 1914.

1904-1905: Schuyler Hall opens as a dormitory for women, dining room, and library. It is named in honor of one of the first professors of philosophy and one of the first presidents, Dr. Aaron Schuyler.

1908: Carnegie Science Hall opens.

1909: University Methodist Church is organized to serve the university and south Salina, with services held in the Administration Building of Kansas Wesleyan, until 1917 when the present structure is built.

1911: Glenn Martin flies his self-built plane over southern Salina, near campus. Martin attended Kansas Wesleyan, but later moves to California, establishes several aircraft and aerospace companies, and becomes a major benefactor of Kansas Wesleyan.

1916: King Gymnasium is completed.

1921: Administration Building is moved to make way for a new building. It is renamed Lockwood Hall in 1922 and serves as the fine arts and humanities building for another 37 years.

1922-1930: The Hall of the Pioneers and Sams Chapel are built over a period of years.

1928: The Grafton-Clubb mural “The Coming of the Pioneers” in Sams Chapel is dedicated.

1928: The KCAC is formed with KWU, Bethany, Ottawa, Baker, McPherson, and St. Mary’s.

1928: Rupel Perkins is the first African-American to play college football in Kansas, playing for Kansas Wesleyan. Perkins faces discrimination in many arenas: he is not allowed to play with his team at some colleges, he cannot use most public transportation, and he is required to be in his lodgings before sundown every night, unlike his white teammates.

1930: Greek and Latin are no longer required courses. Tuition plus room and board are $400 a year.

1940: Glenn Martin Stadium is built with WPA labor (Works Progress Administration).

1943-1947: After many years of maintaining enrollment above 300, and largely because of World War II, enrollment drops to 136. After the war, enrollment explodes to 516 in 1947, with many more married students and veterans than ever before.

1948: Memorial Library is built and dedicated to the 24 students who died serving their country in World War II. Students form a line from the Carnegie Science Hall to shift the book collection, one tray at a time, to the new library.

1951: Pfeiffer Hall for Women is dedicated.

1953: Earl C. Sams Hall of Fine Arts is dedicated.

1958: KWU is accredited by the North Central Association. KWU is continuously accredited by NCA, now called HLC (Higher Learning Commission), to the present day.

1959: Lockwood Hall is torn down. McAdams Student Center opens in the basement of the Hall of Pioneers (now housing offices and classrooms for the music programs).

1961: Wilson Hall opens. Campus parties are still chaperoned events.

1968: Enrollment hits 800. Many male students are shuttled to campus from rented barracks at the former Schilling Air Base because the campus residence halls are full.

1969: Peters Science Hall is completed.

1978: KWU chapter of Alpha Chi honor society is chartered.

1987: King Gymnasium burns down. The building had been condemned but there were plans to remove the clock tower before demolishing the structure. The cause of the fire was reported to be of  a “suspicious nature.”

1988: KWU takes over the Asbury nursing program, located at Asbury-Salina Regional Medical Center. In 1994, the program moves to campus.

1991: The Clock on Hall of the Pioneers is dedicated

1994: Woodworth fund is established when Alumni G. Walter “Woody” Woodworth, ’24, and Elizabeth “Betty” (Cuningham) Woodworth, ’26, bequeath part of their estate to support purchase of library materials and for scholarships.

1994: MBA program is launched; fiber optic cable is run to most of the buildings on campus.

2000: Memorial Library is reopened after a semester of extensive renovation, including removing the card catalog, moving offices, and installing the Terry Evans collection of photographs.

2006: The first Project HERO day is organized by the Student Activity Board and continues through 2015.

2008: John Hauptli Student Activity Center opens.

2010: Paul Green and the media students go live with the first internet radio broadcast of KKWU.

2011: Albert Nelson Student Success Center opens.

2014: Glenn Martin Stadium is demolished to make way for the Graves Family Sports Complex. Wesleyan Journey program allows every student to study abroad during their college career.

2015: $1 million technology upgrade expands wifi to every building on campus. The MBA program becomes the first fully-online program offered.

2019:  Kansas Wesleyan received two, million-dollar gifts in June to jump-start a capital campaign that will result in a $4.5 million Nursing Education Center to open at the end of 2020.


Prologue to the Future, Kansas Wesleyan,1962-1986
The Time is Now Past, 1886-1961
Fifty Years of Kansas Wesleyan University, 1886-1936
What It Meant to Be a Coyote II by Jerry Jones (2013)
Memorial Library Archive
To Ride the Wind: A Biography of Glenn L. Martin by Henry Still (1964)
KWU Contact, various issues


Historic Photos


Aerial Views

Aerial View of Salina before 1948, possibly earlier

Aerial View of campus, 1956

Aerial View of Salina, exact date unknown