A Visser homecoming


Virginia Visser and Dr. Mary VisserHomecoming 150 held special meaning for Virginia Visser, former first lady of Emporia State University. 

“I’m so caught up in what goes on in the university, I don’t feel I’ve ever lost touch with ESU,” she said during her visit. 

Visser’s husband, John, served as university president from 1967 to 1985. During the Vissers’ tenure, Kansas State Teachers College became Emporia Kansas State College (in 1974) then Emporia State University (in 1977). 

Virginia Visser attended Homecoming events with her daughter, Dr. Mary Visser, who grew up on the campus and later followed her own career in higher education. Mary Visser is professor and coordinator of exercise science/exercise physiology at Minnesota State University, Mankato. 

“I think Dad would have been absolutely awed” to see the changes to campus, she said, including in The Teachers College, housed in the building named for John Visser. “Not just the physical building (Visser Hall), but what’s going on in there.” 

Both mother and daughter recalled the turmoil on campus during much of John Visser’s tenure. “There was much more of an us-against-them mentality on campus,” Mary said, noting that demonstrations against the Vietnam War were common on campuses across the country. 

“There were riots on campus,” Mary Visser recalled. “Dad went out to talk to the students. He was very committed to working with students.” 

Virginia Visser admitted to some worries during that time. 

“I was always afraid someone would attack our house,” she recalled, although the situation never developed. 

After John Visser stepped down as president, the couple retired to Vassar in neighboring Osage County where they lived a number of years. Virginia now lives in Mankato, Minn. 

“I like coming back here,” Virginia Visser said. “If I’m ever in Emporia, I stop by the university.” 

Both found the current campus climate much more positive than 45 years ago. 

“This place is definitely going forward,” Mary Visser said. “It’s clean, neat and the kids look excited — even during Friday classes.” 

“I’d welcome the opportunity to work here,” she added with a smile.