Kansas University of Commerce
Professor John S. Cornett’s Fifty Years of Kansas Wesleyan University 1886-1936 contains a section on the school. HathiTrust has the catalogs of Kansas Wesleyan University through 1919. In 1918-1919 local newspapers covered the advertisements and sporting events of the school. The Kansas Wesleyan University website highlights events in the Business College history.
In 1892 the trustees of Kansas Wesleyan University contracted with Thomas W. Roach to organize a commercial department for the school. Roach designed the Kansas Wesleyan Business College as a Christian school in which students were trained “to carry the spirit of Christian idealism into the affairs of the business community.” Cornett noted that diplomas were issued “only to candidates of good moral character,” and were evidence of “hard, conscientious and meritorious work.”
K.W.B.C. began with two students, two instructors and one typewriter. The 1904-05 K.W.U. catalog shows that the school had grown to 993 students, 17 instructors, and equipment valued at more than $60,000.
Cornett describes the program as coming from three departments: Business Administration, Stenography and Business Training, and Telegraphy. “The only government standard telegraph station operated by any school in the United States” was at K.W.B.C. With the outbreak of World War I, the curriculum expanded to include an “auto, tractor and aero school.” The school also received a government contract to teach Morse and radio telegraphy.
As a commercial college, it was run on a business model. The catalog notes that the college was open year around, allowing students to enter at any time. Class work was individualized. After a one-month trial period, students could withdraw with refunded tuition. They paid only for classes taken, with no penalties for missed days. The school guaranteed the rates—for example that $147 would cover six months of classes with “good” room and board. The school guaranteed that students who had completed coursework would receive a position or their tuition would be refunded.
With its expanded curriculum, K.W.B.C. received a new state charter in 1918 as Kansas University of Commerce. K.W.U. catalogs continue to note that its relation with K.U.C. had been strengthened. K.U.C. advertisements still state, “Part of Kansas Wesleyan University.” They state “Our affiliation with Kansas Wesleyan University means everything to students. Here you have a real college life—all the advantages of a university.”
But the contract between the schools apparently lapsed, so K.U.C. became independent in 1919. The 1919 K.W.U. catalog shows no business or commerce department. K.U.C. ads now invite students to participate in forensics and athletics. But at the end of the 1919-20 school year, Cornett notes that K.W.U. purchased K.U.C. outright. In 1926 K.U.C. became a part of a larger Department of Business Administration. Then in 1935, K.U.C. was discontinued, its program transferred to the Department of Economics and Business Administration.
Bricks and Mortar
Commerce began with classes in one room in 1892. Soon however, the school began to occupy 18 classrooms in a three-story brick building at the corner of South Santa Fe Avenue and Walnut Street in downtown Salina. Built at a cost of $30,000, the building was described as new, modern, and thoroughly equipped in a 1905 ad. The Music program also occupied the building. Apparently, K.W.U. discontinued use of the building in 1935. It has since been razed.
In September 1919 University of Commerce was first listed among the Kansas colleges that would field football teams. A coach, Guy Omar had been hired, and prospects for the season looked good. While not a member of the Kansas Conference, Commerce played many of its members. Among opponents listed were Haskell, Cooper, Camp Funston, Kansas Wesleyan, Friends, and St. Mary’s. After losing the opener 72-0 to Haskell, the team enjoyed little success.
That winter KUC continued in basketball against the same teams, with the same lack of success.
1905 Catalog image of the Santa Fe Avenue building. (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiuo.ark:/13960/t52f92f3s;view=1up;seq=68 accessed 12-13-2017