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Former WSU president Armstrong dies at age 70

7:51:39 AM CDT - Thursday, October 07, 2004

WSU's 10th president, Warren Armstrong, passed away at his Oklahoma home Oct. 1 after experiencing health problems for several months. He would have turned 71 on Oct. 16. Services were held Oct. 5 in Miami, Okla.

Armstrong served as WSU president from 1983-93, placing a strong emphasis on research, academics and doctoral programs.

Warren Armstrong"I credit President Armstrong with the strength and reputation of our faculty, particularly through the introduction of doctoral programs," said Jim Rhatigan, longtime, former WSU vice president of student affairs.

"He overcame objections from our sister institutions about our capability to provide doctoral programs in engineering, and history shows how right he was to pursue those programs," Rhatigan said.

Armstrong led the charge to add doctoral programs in electrical, mechanical and industrial engineering. Doctoral programs in psychology, chemistry, education and mathematics were also approved during his tenure.

When Armstrong announced plans to retire as president from WSU in 1992, then Kansas Board of Regents chairman Jack Sampson said, "Significant achievements have been made at the university since Dr. Armstrong's arrival. Highlights of his tenure include the establishment of the university's research mission focused on the business/manufacturing environment in which the university is located, the creation of the National Institute for Aviation Research, and the completion of the university's first major capital campaign, the 'Commitment to Excellence.' His many accomplishments will be appreciated by both WSU and the Wichita community for many years to come."

Specific accomplishments during the Armstrong administration include the tripling of sponsored research activities and the addition of 367,000 square feet of new facilities, including the Child Development Center, Devlin Hall, National Institute for Aviation Research, Woodman Alumni Center, and a science classroom and laboratory building, later named Jabara Hall.

He also sought and achieved membership for WSU in the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Universities, contending that WSU was an "urban grant" university serving a metropolitan area just as Kansas State University serves the agricultural community.

For many, the decision to eliminate football in 1986 was a major disappointment. Growing debt in athletics led administrators to make this move, but controversy about WSU's lack of football has existed to some degree ever since.

Following his retirement from the presidency in 1993, Armstrong returned to his self-professed "unending interest in the Civil War," teaching a class on it and publishing a book on the role of Union chaplains.

When he retired from teaching in 1999, he was quoted as saying, "I know I will miss university life. I've been on one side of the desk or the other ever since the fall of 1939," referring to his journey from elementary school to college professor, dean and university president. "It's been a good life."

A memorial has been established with the All Saints Episcopal Church in Miami, Okla., and for the WSU history department in care of the WSU Foundation, 1845 Fairmount, Wichita, KS 67260-0002. Condolences should be sent to Mrs. Joan Armstrong at 33054 Mockingbird Court, The Coves, Afton, OK 74331.

-- Compiled by Joe Kleinsasser


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