George R. Waggoner, a former longtime dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Kansas University, died Sunday at Lawrence Memorial Hospital following a long illness. He was 74.
Mr. Waggoner served as dean of the College from 1954-75. In 1975, he became associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, specializing in international programs and development, a job he held until 1981. That year he returned to the English department as a professor, and was professor emeritus of English at the time of his death.
"George Waggoner was a great educational leader, a marvelous mentor and a good friend," Del Shankel, executive vice chancellor for KU's Lawrence campus, said today. "Much of the quality of our educational programs at KU is directly attributable to his vision and his strong leadership on behalf of international education and talented honors students. We shall miss him very much."
MR. WAGGONER was largely responsible for opening the educational exchange between KU and Latin America. He went to Costa Rica as part of a Carnegie Corp. program set up after then-Vice President Richard Nixon received a hostile reception in Venezuela during the waning years of the Eisenhower administration. The result of his trip, Mr. Waggoner recalled, was that "we still have 25 students go to Costa Rica every year."
Mr. Waggoner also was proud of his role in establishing an undergraduate honors program at KU in 1955.
The interest Mr. Waggoner showed in his students was admired by his peers. Frances W. Heller, Roy A. Roberts distinguished professor emeritus of law and political science at KU, recalled that one Big 10 university professor considered him "the finest liberal arts dean in the country." Heller added that few people have accomplished as much as an academic leader.
"HE HAD the remarkable ability to get people to think about what they were doing," Heller said.
Mr. Waggoner was born Feb. 4, 1916, in Wagoner, Okla. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in English from KU in 1936 and 1939 and a doctorate in English from Wisconsin University in 1947. In 1969, he received an honorary doctorate in humanities and education from the Universidad de Oriente in Venezuela.
He began his teaching career at KU from 1938 to 1941 and was an assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University from 1947-48. He was an assistant professor at Indiana University from 1948-53 and associate dean of the college of arts and sciences there from 1952-54, before returning to KU.
Mr. Waggoner served in U.S. Naval Intelligence during World War II. He was a member of the Lawrence Unitarian Fellowship, Phi Beta Kappa, Modern Languages Assn. and Latin American Studies. An auditorium is named in his honor in KU's Wescoe Hall.
HE MARRIED Helen Talbert in 1942 in Lawrence. She died in 1961. He married Barbara Ashton in 1962 in Kansas City, Mo. She survives at the home.
Other survivors include three daughters, Jane Deschner, Billings, Mont., Sarah Hoffman, Lawrence, and Margaret Kogler, Hays; a stepdaughter, Jennifer Ashton-Lilo, Calgary, Alberta; a stepson, Thomas E. Ashton III, Bellingham, Wash.; a brother, John, Bath, England; and eight grandchildren.
Graveside services at Oak Hill Cemetery are pending. Rumsey Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.