The University of Kansas Experience
The items displayed in this exhibition document the University’s experiences during the months that the “war to end all wars” raged in Europe. All of the photographs, letters, yearbooks and publications can be found in the University Archives located in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.
Even before the official entry of the United States into the war the University was affected. Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball and Professor of Physical Education was chosen by YMCA administrators to study moral conditions among the troops of the American Expeditionary Forces and to develop a program of sex education. In Sept. 1917, at the age of 56, he set sail for France and served there for 19 months. While there he visited US troops throughout France, lecturing and organizing athletic events.
Other faculty made contributions to the war effort as well. In June of 1918 a pamphlet called The War Record of the University of Kansas was published providing information about the war work of the University. Noted in the preliminary essay was a caution that many of the contributions made by KU faculty and students could not be told so that the “kaiser’s scientists” would not benefit from the information. Also given in the publication are lists of the war dead and the faculty and undergraduates who were serving overseas.
The physical campus also changed. During the summer of 1918, the U.S. War Department had established the Students’ Army Training Corps (SATC). The SATC was a nation-wide program designed to use colleges and universities to provide both military and academic training for enlisted men who were prospective officers. During that summer, the University built barracks along Mississippi Street and next to Marvin Hall to house the nearly 1700 soldiers participating in the program. At the war’s end in late fall, the SATC was disbanded and the barracks were dismantled.
Several years after the war ended an initiative was launched called the “Million Dollar Memorial” campaign. Its purpose was to inspire donations to complete Memorial Stadium, build a student union and erect the “Uncle Jimmy Green” statue in front of Green Hall. The booklet used to launch this campaign can be found on the online exhibition site.
Spencer Research Library
University of Kansas Libraries