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Gene Bissell

Breaking Barriers

Throughout its history, Kansas Wesleyan University has been a driving force for social change. In the early days when community members were building fortresses to protect against attacks from Native Americans, Wesleyan was opening its doors, creating an environment for students to think freely and express their opinions.

It was Wesleyan faculty and students who were leading the charge to abolish slavery in Kansas. Our campus community was out front in the fight against segregation. In fact, Kansas Wesleyan University was providing teaching programs for African Americans all the way back in the early 1900s.

During the tense days of segregation, although integrated, the Wesleyan community felt the conflicting emotion and hostility of the times. Legendary football coach Gene Bissell, in the midst of his 26-year tenure, in a courageous and heartfelt act of kindness, ate lunch with an African-American athlete at a restaurant in downtown Salina.

In similar fashion, Dr. Ginny Bevan was instrumental in bringing women’s athletics to the Kansas Wesleyan campus. A 1956 graduate, Dr. Bevan was hired as a physical education instructor and became one of the most influential women ever to walk the halls of our university, introducing volleyball – the university’s first sport for women. Dr. Bevan paved the way for thousands of female athletes to wear a Coyote uniform, and she influenced women across the country to fight for equality in athletics and beyond.

From the seventies peace marches to the open dialogues on current events and global issues in today’s classrooms, students at Kansas Wesleyan are encouraged to think critically, to explore issues beyond their comfort zone and to be engaged citizens in their community and in the world.