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Farrell, Francis D. (3/13/1883-2/13/1979) | Morse Department of Special Collections

Name: Farrell, Francis D. (3/13/1883-2/13/1979)
Fuller Form: Francis David Farrell


Historical Note:

Francis David Farrell was born March 13, 1883 in Smithfield, Utah.  He was called Dave by his friends.  He graduated from Utah State College in 1907 and then, in 1910, worked at the University of Idaho as a professor of irrigation and drainage and organized the first Agricultural Extension Service at that University.  His wife, Mildred Leona Jenson, was born September 11, 1887 in Utah, the only child of Nels and Johanna Wilhelmina (Holmgren) Jenson.  She met Francis in Logan, Utah, where she was attending preparatory school.  After receiving her degree in English from the University of Utah, she taught high school English at her alma mater, Brigham High School.  On September 16, 1913, Francis and Mildred were married.

The couple then moved to Washington, D.C., in 1911, where Francis worked with the Department of Agriculture in irrigation investigations and reclamation projects.  During their time in Washington Mildred gave birth to a daughter, Frances.  In 1918, at the request of their old friend from Utah State College, Pres. William Jardine, Farrells moved to Manhattan where Francis served as dean of agriculture and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station for KSAC.  They rented a house near the Jardines' at 1007 Houston.

In 1925 Professor Farrell became president of K-State and, in that same year, was awarded an honorary doctorate of agriculture from the University of Nebraska.  Dr. Farrell’s tenure lasted 18 years,.  His successor, Dr. James A. McCain, credited the leadership of President Farrell and administrators like him with “the vital role of the land-grant universities in the nation and the world today.”  During his administration President Farrell managed to keep the campus open and active through the Great Depression and World War II and, in times of plenty, strengthened the academic basis of KSU by supporting the arts, library, and cultural resources.  He also brought together one of the finest faculties in the nation.  The names of many of the professors and administrators under Farrell read like a list of campus buildings.  This faculty included J.T. Willard, James Ackert, Margaret Justin, Leland Call, Ray Throckmorton, A.D. Weber, Paul Weigel, Roy Seaton, and R.R. Dykstra.  As a result of his love of reading history, philosophy, poetry and fiction and in recognition of his contributions to the academic life of Kansas State the University Library was renamed in his honor in 1952.

Mildred was the only first lady to have a baby, a boy they named James, during her tenure.  Both of the Farrell children attended Eugene Field Elementary School and K-State.  She was an avid gardener, adding irises and peonies to the gardens around the president's house.  She was active in the Social Club, Domestic Science Club, AAUW, and Pi Beta Phi.  While president of the Social Club she revised the rules for a growing membership and created a Newcomers group.  She encouraged the group to purchase John Steuart Curry's "Sun Dogs" and several Birger Sandzen paintings, contributed to the Girl Scouts Little House, and purchased reading and recreational material for Fort Riley soldiers.

Farrell stayed on after leaving the presidency in his 60s, he said the university needed a younger executive, and remained a part of the faculty even after retirement.  He was a long time member of the Rotary Club, president of the Association of Land Grant Colleges and Universities, the Kansas State Historical Society, member of the agricultural Commission of the Kansas Bankers Association, and the Advisory Council of the National Broadcasting Company.

Following Mildred’s death in 1965, her husband moved to a retirement community in Topeka where he resided until his death on February 13, 1976.  Their ashes are inurned behind an inscribed plaque in the east wall of the nave at Saint Paul's Episcopal Church in Manhattan.

Created by Jordan Herman 08/10/2012

Sources: “Dr. F.D. Farrell dies at 92.” The Manhattan Mercury, February 13, 1976. “Former K-State President Dies.” The Kansas City Times, February 14, 1976. McCain, James A. “Francis David Farrell.” Speech given at Memorial Service Honoring Francis David Farrell, Manhattan, Kansas, February 16, 1976.



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