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Innovation and Inspiration: The Campaign for Kansas University
University Archives & Manuscripts - K-State Women
Mary (Pierce) Van Zile (1872-1949)

Mary Louise Pierce was born February 7, 1872, in Solomon, Kansas. Shortly after her birth the family moved to Winfield, IA where she completed her elementary and secondary education. She taught in the Winfield, IA, schools, 1888-1889, before attending Kansas State Agricultural College, 1889-1891. She was named Principal of Wayland High School in Iowa, 1891-1892. She married Gilbert J. Van Zile on December 28, 1892. After his death in 1899, Van Zile attended Iowa State College, earning her teacher's diploma in 1904. She taught domestic science at Iowa State College during her senior years. After graduation, she taught at Domestic Science and Art at New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, IL, 1904-1908.

In July, 1908, Mary Van Zile accepted the positions of professor of home economics and dean of women at KSAC, the first time this position was separated from the director of home economics. She held both positions until 1918, when she relinquished her duties as head of home economics, continuing to hold the position of dean of women until 1940. In 1925, Kansas State Agricultural College named a women's dormitory in her honor, Van Zile Hall. She received a Bachelor's degree from KSAC in 1929.

The Association of the Kansas Deans of Women elected her president, 1921-1922. The Kansas State Teachers' Association elected her president in 1927. She was an active member of the Kansas Council of Women, American Association of University Women, Phi Kappa Phi, and Omicron Nu. Van Zile retired and became Dean Emeritus in 1940. She died on Nov. 9, 1949.

Source of information:

Vertical File. Van Zile, Mary
Mary Louise Pierce Van Zile: First Dean of Women at Kansas State Agricultural College by Cynthia Harris (Final Paper, History 586: Advanced Undergraduate Seminar, Fall 1998)