This month is Wichita State University’s 50th birthday!
On July 1, 1964, the University of Wichita officially joined the state university system. It was not an easy journey.
The University of Wichita had been municipal university since the 1920s. By the 1960s, however, many in Wichita believed that the time had come for WU to join the state university system, serving the state, not just one city.
In 1878, the editors of the Illinois Staats-Zeitung, a German-language newspaper out of Chicago, visited Wichita and noted that the city’s population was about a third German, among them mayor and Wichita founding father Wilhelm “Dutch Bill” Greiffenstein. The visitors were impressed that there was even a fraternal “Turnverein,” or Turner’s Society, in town.
I recently had the privilege to lead two walking tours along Douglas Avenue. Many were amazed at how much the center of Wichita has changed.
A photograph of Douglas and Main from 1870 shows a few wood structures and tents in the middle of a grassy plain. Two years later, according to one recollection, the intersection “clanged with the noisy spurs of Texas cowboys and Mexican ranchmen” and “a brass band played from morning to far into the night on a two-story platform raised over the sidewalk.”
The oldest surviving structure on Wichita State’s campus, Fiske Hall’s story began in 1904 with a donation from Charlotte Fiske of Massachusetts to construct a new men’s dormitory at what was then Fairmount College.
Dr. Galyn Vesey is a unique individual in the context of Wichita history. Vesey received his Ph.D. from Syracuse University and his academic career included stints at Utica College and Alabama A & M University. He not only represents “living history” but also seeks, as a scholar, to re-create an important part of Wichita’s African American historical experience.