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President Kenyon Butterfield, Renaissance man

Kenyon L. Butterfield
Kenyon L. Butterfield Credit: UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST LIBRARIES SPECIAL COLLECTIONS AND UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES

Kenyon L. Butterfield may have been one of the longest serving presidents in UMass history — steering the ship from 1906 to 1924, when the university was still known as Massachusetts Agricultural College — but he had a bit of Renaissance man in him too.

Earlier in his life, Butterfield was editor of the Michigan Grange Visitor newspaper in Schoolcraft, Mich. Later, Butterfield took a leave of absence from MAC during World War I to embed with US troops in France as a member of the YMCA’s Army Educational Commission. While in France, he helped set up the World Agricultural Society.

Further, when his academic career ended, he spent the late 1920s and early 1930s serving as a Christian missionary in the Middle East, India, Burma, China, and Japan, among other places.

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Back home, though, Butterfield is credited with taking MAC through a crucial growth period by, among other things, doubling the size of the staff, bringing in faculty members with subject specialties from around the nation, and organizing the school into five different academic divisions, including the Division of Rural Science, which he led.

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