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Innovation and Inspiration: The Campaign for Kansas University
University Archives & Manuscripts - Exhibits
First Ladies of K-State: Mildred Farrell

Mildred Leona (Jenson) Farrell


Mildred Leona Jenson was born September 11, 1887 in Utah, the only child of Nels and Johanna Wilhelmina (Holmgren) Jenson. She met Francis David Farrell in Logan, Utah, where she was attending preparatory school and he was a student at Utah State College. After receiving her BA in English from the University of Utah, she taught high school English at her alma mater, Brigham High School.

On September 16, 1913, she married Farrell. The couple moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked with the Department of Agriculture and their daughter, Frances, was born.

In 1918, at the request of their old friend from Utah State College, Pres. William Jardine, they moved to Manhattan where her husband served as the Dean of Agriculture for Kansas State Agriculture College. They rented a house near the Jardines' at 1007 Houston.

In 1925, her husband became K-State president. She was the only first lady to have a baby during her tenure, son James. Both of their 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. As her mother visited every winter, she started a group for faculty mothers, to help them connect with each other.

She served as First Lady for nearly two decades, serving through the difficult Depression years and the beginning of World War II. After her husband retired in 1943, they remained in Manhattan, moving to a limestone house at 2120 College Heights. Following her death in 1965, her husband moved to a retirement community in Topeka where he resided until his death in 1976. Their ashes are inurned behind an inscribed plaque in the east wall of the nave at Saint Paul's Episcopal Church in Manhattan.

Mildred Farrell

Biographical information on the First Ladies was provided by:
Dr. Michaeline Chance-Reay, Assistant Professor, Women's Studies and COE, author of Land Grant Ladies: Kansas State University Presidential Wives