Jon Wefald couldn’t help but wipe away tears Saturday afternoon when he stood behind a podium in front of numerous family members, friends and K-Staters.
But then again, the former Kansas State University president and man credited for so much of KSU’s emergence since he came to Manhattan in 1986 didn’t expect to ever stand in a multi-million dollar building named after him.
“It’s one of the great moments of my life, to have a building like this named after anybody — especially me,” Wefald told KMAN after the dedication ceremony for Wefald Hall. “I wasn’t looked upon too favorably in high school, you know, that I had no chance.”
The ceremony featured various speakers, including current K-State president Richard Myers, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, KSU head football coach Bill Snyder and Wefald himself. Oh, and the K-State marching band and a few cheerleaders were there to celebrate the day, too, which coincided with the university’s Open House weekend.
Wefald Hall is K-State’s first residence hall to be built in more than 50 years. It is eight stories high, houses space for 540 students and cost $60 million to build. It is paid for largely by student fees.
Snyder, who was hired by Wefald in 1989 and led the football program from the basement of the NCAA to a national title contender, said he enjoyed seeing the public display of emotion from his friend.
“What was so significant about it is how genuine and sincere those tears were,” Snyder said. “You can just tell there’s a reason why he spent his 23 years at Kansas State University — how much he cared about this university and this community.
“If you looked around the room today, you see people — I mean, this isn’t two-three-four-five-year people — these are people who are invested in this university and this community, so it took on so much more meaning than a residence hall.”
Myers, who succeeded former K-State president Kirk Schulz in November, said there’s much to take from Wefald’s legacy.
“I think to be bold,” Myers said. “He took some risks to make us better.”
The day was filled with many stories that celebrated the Wefald family. Sen. Roberts — a long time friend of Wefald — reminisced about the 2003 Big 12 championship game in Kansas City, where Snyder’s Wildcats shocked the college football world with its upset of the Oklahoma Sooners, who were ranked No. 1 in the country and considered by many the greatest college football team ever assembled.
Roberts, a KSU alum, expressed the joy of that night and the moment Wefald told him to join in conducting the K-State marching band after the game.
James Reittinger, another K-State alum and the architect of record for Wefald Hall, was emotional in his thanks for the opportunity to lead the building’s construction, crediting his time in a KSU residence hall as a freshman important to his growth as a person.
Bob Wefald, who was the Attorney General for North Dakota from 1981-1985, playfully acknowledged the low expectations for his brother growing up before praising his education legacy.
“You can kind of will yourself to doing better than people think you can do,” Jon Wefald said after numerous well-wishes and congratulations from supporters. “And that’s of course what America’s all about. You can be nobody one day and somebody the next, but it takes incredible work, certain amount of hope and optimism, and also, just never giving up.”
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Source: KMAN Local News