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

Janet McLean (Henry) McCain


Janet McLean Henry was born on November 23, in 1910, Ft. Collins, Colorado, the daughter of Joseph and Elsie (McLean) Henry. She studied ballet, auditioning for Anna Pavlova as a child. She studied language at Colorado A&M, where she met James McCain, an English instructor and journalist for the local newspaper.

They married on December 18, 1931, and remained at the university where Janet completed her bachelor's degree. In 1942, they moved to California where James worked toward his dissertation at Stanford. Before he could complete his dissertation, they moved to Washington, D.C., when Lt. Commander McCain was placed in charge of the Navy's enlisted classification program. Their only child, Sheila, was born in 1944.

At the end of the war, they moved to Missoula where McCain became the president of Montana State, and the youngest president in the state system. The family moved to Manhattan when McCain accepted the presidency of Kansas State College in 1950. During their 25 years as president and first lady, they saw a great many local and national changes. In 1959, Kansas State College became Kansas State University.

The Landon Lecture series began in 1966, with Janet acting as hostess to many speakers, including Governor Alf Landon, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. Truman Capote spent time at the house while researching In Cold Blood. Janet McCain was a stylish, gracious hostess and a perfectionist. She was an active and enthusiastic member of the Social Club, beginning the traditional Spring luncheon for new and retiring board members. She was a member of P.E.O. and instrumental in founding a local chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta.

McCain retired in 1975 and the couple moved into their retirement home at 2111 Sunny Slope. They lived there only a short time before relocating in Topeka when McCain was appointed Commissioner of Labor for the State of Kansas.

James McCain passed away in 1987, and Janet moved to Overland Park to live with her daughter. Janet passed away in 2002 at age 91, followed by her daughter in 2006.

Janet McCain

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