Lester W. Nixon – 1997 Inductee

Lester W. Nixon was born June 1, 1897, to the Reverend Thomas Jefferson Nixon and his wife Mary on a farm southeast of WaKeeney, Trego County, Kansas.  Lester’s father was a Methodist circuit minister serving rural communities in Trego, Graham and Rooks Counties.  Lester graduated from Natoma, Kansas, High School in 1916 and became certified as a teacher.  He began his teaching career in a one-room rural school outside Natoma.  In 1918, when his family moved to Salina he enrolled in Kansas Wesleyan College to earn his Bachelor’s degree.  However, he was drafted into the U. S. Army in early fall reporting for induction a few days before World War I ended; he was sent home a few days later.  He resumed his studies at Kansas Wesleyan College that winter and graduated in 1921 with majors in English, drama and teacher education.

That fall Lester resumed his teaching career at Covert, Kansas, High School in Osborne County as a teacher and principal.  In 1922 he moved to Natoma as superintendent of the city school system, and then to Potter, Kansas, in 1923 as high school principal.  While at Potter, he met his future wife, Maudine L. Smith, who was a teacher at the high school.  They were married June 1l, 1924, in the Smith Chapel southeast of Marshall, Missouri.  Since Potter – and many other rural Kansas schools at that time – had a policy prohibiting the hiring of husband and wife teachers in the same school system, they moved to Sun City in Barber County, Kansas, where they both taught in the high school.

Lester and Maudine moved in 1926 to Elizabeth, New Jersey.  Lester attended Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York City, earning his Master of Education degree in 1927.  That year Lester was elected to Phi Delta Kappa, a national honorary education fraternity.

In June 1928 the family moved to Boulder, Colorado, where Lester’s father was operating a chicken farm but was in ill health Lester spent the spring and summer of 1928 in Boulder helping his father run the chicken farm and taking post graduate courses at the University of Colorado.

Lester became interested in teaching at the college level and accepted a position at the then-year old El Dorado (Kansas) Junior College (now Butler County Community College) for the 1929-30 school year.

The depression years were not particularly kind to junior college enrollments, so Lester also taught some English classes in the El Dorado High School.  Lester continued his professional education, taking post-graduate courses at Emporia State University, Friends University, and the University of Colorado; he also taught several summer sessions at the University of Colorado.

Lester gained renown throughout the Kansas junior/community college system for his expertise in developing outstanding drama and debate teams; in fact, his 1938, 1950 and 1955 debate teams place first in the National Junior College Debate Tournaments.  He was deeply interested and concerned with his students, and encouraged them to complete their college degrees and go on to rewarding and challenging careers.  Lester received many honors in his lifetime from his peers and others for his achievements in education, including being nominated Outstanding Kansas Teacher of the Year in 1959.  Several times he turned down opportunities at four-year universities to stay in El Dorado. He retired from teaching at last in 1967.

During his years in El Dorado, he was very active in the community and served on the boards of many civic organizations; he was a strong supporter and member of the Bradford Public Library, the El Dorado Community Concert Association, the Knife and Fork Club, the El Dorado Little Theater, and the First United Methodist Church.  In recognition of his outstanding achievements as a college teacher and community leader, in 1982 the college named its library as the L. W. Nixon Library in his honor.

Lester Nixon passed away in El Dorado on June 27, 1999, at the age of 102 years old. He was laid to rest in Walnut Valley memorial Park in El Dorado, Kansas.

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