Former K-State president Jon Wefald dies of heart attack

Midday in Kansas
Published: Apr. 16, 2022 at 2:17 PM CDT
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - Former Kansas State University President Jon Wefald has died of a heart attack. He was 84.

Kansas State University took to Facebook on Saturday afternoon, April 16, to notify the community of the passing of the former president.

“The K-State Family is deeply saddened to learn of former K-State President Jon Wefald’s passing,” current K-State president Richard Linton said. “Dr. Wefald’s legacy is one of transformation, growth and true passion for our great university. Our condolences and thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Wefald served as president from July 1986 to June 2009.

In 1999, he and several universities and legislative leaders wrote “Homeland Defense Food Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Program” — also known as “The Big Purple Book.” The book outlined the university’s infectious disease research programs and established K-State as a biodefense and agrodefense leader.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security named Manhattan as the home of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF.

Outside of academics, Wefald revitalized K-State Athletics, particularly with the hiring of Bill Snyder as football coach in 1989, who went on to lead K-State to two Big 12 championships and unparalleled national prestige.

U.S. Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) called Wefald one of the university’s most impactful and transformational leaders.

Funeral services are pending and information will be available at a later date.

Kansas State University leaders and friends of the university offered their condolences to the Wefald family.

Richard Linton, Kansas State University president:

“I was deeply saddened to learn of former K-State President Jon Wefald’s passing. Dr. Wefald’s legacy is one of transformation, growth and a true passion for our great university. I am honored and challenged by the opportunity to share the experience of serving as K-State’s president and will strive to honor the example he set through his service. Our condolences and thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Chuck Taber, provost, and executive vice president:

“Jon Wefald led an impressive campaign that increased the number of endowed professorships and university distinguished professors at our university. His vision enhanced the university’s academic and research profile through these efforts, which also provided new opportunities for our students through access to some of the top minds in academia. His contributions have truly laid the path for K-State as the nation’s premier next-generation land-grant university.”

Pat Bosco, former vice president for student life and dean of students:

“President Wefald moved our school from very good to great, but most importantly, he made us relevant. His work made us proud to wear purple and to be a member of the K-State family. There simply is not an area of the university we all love that Jon Wefald did not impact – facilities, scholarships, champions on and off the field, private gifts and enrollment. We will miss his passion to serve, interest in doing what is right for K-State and his contagious enthusiasm. I was honored to be one of his first appointments and took great pleasure in serving in his cabinet for his entire presidency.”

Bill Snyder, former head football coach:

“Jon was not only a very special leader of Kansas State University but also a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and friend. Jon was a major part of the reason we came to Manhattan. He was always so very determined to assist our program and all other programs — athletic and academic — to become the very best they could be. He and his wife, Ruth Ann, cared about people – students, faculty, staff and community — and were always seeking ways to be of help. Their commitment to the university is unparalleled. Sharon, Sean and I and our family are grateful to Jon for so strongly supporting our time here.”

Greg Willems, president and CEO, KSU Foundation:

“K-State lost a legend on Saturday. Jon Wefald was an extraordinary member of the K-State family, and our great university would not be what it is today without his outstanding leadership. He will be greatly missed.”

Gene Taylor, director of athletics:

“It is a sad day for Kansas State University and the Wildcat family. President Wefald helped transform Kansas State into what it is today and was the driving force behind elevating our university into one of the top land-grant schools in the country. His passion for athletics was also well documented and his impact on not only our program but also the Big 12 Conference will always be a part of his legacy. He will be dearly missed and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”

Amy Button Renz, CEO and president, K-State Alumni Association:

“President Wefald created a lasting legacy at Kansas State University and we are a better university because of his leadership. He was a passionate leader and a good friend to many, including me. Ruth Ann and the entire Wefald family are in my thoughts and prayers.”

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