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

Marie Van Velsor (Rogers) Will


Marie Van Velsor Rogers was born September 24, 1864, the only daughter of Charles and Catherine Steele Barnes Rogers. Although she never lacked for suitors, it wasn't until she was 27 that she gave into Thomas Will's determination, admiration, and affection. Thomas Will attended services at her father's church in Boston while a graduate student at Harvard and fell in love with her when he heard her sing. Their wedding on July 1, 1891, was presided over by her father and W. F. Warren, President of Boston University.

Following their marriage, Thomas taught at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, for two years before moving his wife and two young children (Lawrence and Marian) to Kansas in 1894, where he taught political economics at Kansas State Agricultural College. They lived at "Sunny Slope" or Stingley Place northeast of campus. Marie joined the Domestic Science Club and entertained on campus in the in community with her lovely singing.

The political upheaval in 1897 which gave the Populists power resulted in Will being offered the presidency of the college. Despite the ongoing controversies at the college three consecutive presidential wives attended Domestic Science Club meetings together: Fairchild, Will and Nichols.

The Republicans regained power in 1899 and the backlash removed Will from the presidency, leaving Marie and Thomas Will to have served the shortest tenure as first lady and President of K-State, two years.

After leaving Kansas, the family moved to Trenton, Missouri, where Marie served as first lady of Ruskin College and had her third child, Gertrude. Marie and the children later followed Thomas to Washington, D.C., where he became interested in the Florida Everglades. In 1916 the family moved to Belle Glade, Florida, where Marie spent the last fifteen years of her life.

Marie died on March 5, 1930. Thomas died seven years later to the day. They are both buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale. The Thomas E. Will Memorial Highway was named in his honor.

Marie Will

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