Will, Thomas E.

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Will, Thomas E.

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Thomas Elmer Will was born November 11, 1861 in Prairie Adams county Illinois. In 1880 he taught at a country school and in 1882 he entered the Illinois State Normal School, graduating in 1885. In the fall of 1888, he studied at the University of Michigan for one year. He then entered the senior class at Harvard College and graduated in 1890. On completing his university studies, he married Marie Van Velsor Rogers of Cambridge, Massachusetts and accepted the chair of history and political science at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. He held the position at Lawrence University for two years after which he went to Boston where he delivered courses of lectures on economics and wrote a series of sociological articles for the “Arena” publication for one year. Will came to Kansas State in 1894 to become the chair of Political Economy, serving in this role for three years before becoming President in 1897. Notable during Will’s presidency was the establishment of the first on-campus bookstore and dining hall, but these services were closed after his removal as president in 1899. Kansas in the 1890s was the center of political upheaval between Populists and Republicans, and issues surrounding Populism and the free silver combination led to the removal of President Will together with several other faculty members after Republicans gained control of the Board of Regents. He devoted six years following the close of his work at Kansas State Agricultural College to emphasize the principles taught in his lectures, addresses, and papers while President, including time at Ruskin College in Trenton, Missouri, and as president of the New Socialist College in Wichita, Kansas. He became well-known in the 1930s as an advocate for the development of the Everglades in Florida, and he helped found the settlement Okeelanta in Palm Beach County, Florida. This led to the naming of the Thomas Will Memorial Highway in his honor in 1941, four years after his death.


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Compiled by Sydney Lippman, June 2011, from information of the university website, internet sources, and archive resources, with edits made by Jarrod Kuckelman in November 2020.




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