Colleagues reflect on impact of former dean 

Former colleagues are remembering a retired dean this week as a calming presence who helped guide the Kelce College of Business through challenges, and as someone who stayed connected to the college long after his retirement. 

Terry Lester Mendenhall died on Oct. 27 in Pittsburg; he was 88. Services were held on Nov. 1. 

“He continued to be a big supporter of the college even in retirement, and he and his family contributed to the capital campaign for the Kelce building project,” said current dean Paul Grimes. 

Mendenhall grew up in Nebraska, where he worked for the family dry-cleaning business and somehow still managed to graduate from high school at age 16. He went on to college in Nebraska and was drafted into the U.S. Army to serve during the Korean War. Stationed in Germany, he served as a parts specialist for the infantry’s frontline defense along the German/Soviet border. 

When he returned, he used the G.I. Bill to earn his master’s degree from the University of Nebraska, then started his career in the petroleum industry.  

He felt pulled to education, though, and joined the faculty at Pittsburg State University in 1964. He immediately began work earning his doctorate degree through Kansas State University. When he retired in 2003, he was one of the longest-serving deans of the Kelce College of Business. 

Mendenhall moved into the role of dean at a time in which difficult issues faced Kelce College of Business, recalled Professor Donald Baack, who teaches management courses in the college.  

“One of his first tasks was to act in the role of liaison to help build bridges within the entire Pitt State academic community,” Baack said. “His pleasant demeanor and willingness to engage served him well.” 

Mendenhall also was tasked with helping the college attain accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business after a previous attempt had failed.  

“This involved recruiting and hiring qualified faculty, plus shifting to a greater emphasis on academic research within the college while maintaining quality classroom experiences,” Baack said. “He also had to ensure all internal documents and protocols were in order.” 

Mendenhall moved into retirement before the final approval took place, but Baack credited him with playing a highly instrumental part in achieving the objective. 

“In addition to being a highly effective classroom teacher, he also was considered by many to be a calming source of inspiration and direction for the college as an administrator,” Baack said. 

After retirement, Mendenhall traveled the world with his first wife, Ellen, until her death, and later traveled with his second wife, Norma. He was active in the community in Sunflower Kiwanis, SBDC Delta Mu Delta, and Sigma Phi Epsilon, and was a longtime member of St. John’s Lutheran Church. 

He is survived by his children, grandchildren, and a great grandchild. 

The family suggests sending memorials to charities of their choice or the Kelce College of Business for its capital campaign.

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