by Kara Petrovic // Fall 2013
Even at age 97, Jane (Marshall) Campbell frequently finds herself reminiscing about the University of Kansas City (UKC), UMKC’s predecessor. As a student in the entering class of 1933, Campbell says her time at the university remains one of her fondest memories.
“The university has always held a special place in my heart,” she says. “It’s hard to believe that it’s been 80 years since its founding.”
Whenever she feels the urge to recall her time at UKC, she pulls out the scrapbook her mother compiled. Within the book’s tattered bindings are pictures and news stories about UKC’s first years.
Campbell’s father, John A. Marshall, a prominent Kansas City businessman during the late ’20s, worked with the city’s Chamber of Commerce and local officials on the university’s establishment.
“My parents wanted me to obtain an education. However, when I was ready for college we were in the midst of the Great Depression and money was tight,” Campbell says. “My father was a huge supporter of the university, because he knew it would bring advantages to the city and provide me with a well-rounded education.”
While most of Campbell’s friends attended the University of Kansas or the University of Missouri, she attended UKC, which was within walking distance of her family’s home.
By happy coincidence, the university was ready to open its doors at the same time Campbell was ready to start her education. Although her father had a vested interest in the university, Campbell says he didn’t realize it would be ready in time for her to join the first class. He was pleased she stayed close to home.
Upon entry at UKC, Campbell was interested in pursing medicine. But with a limited number of women in the medical field, she opted to pursue a degree in home economics, as her mother believed it would be too difficult for her to find work after graduation.
“My home economics degree was a good decision though, because I got a job right out of college,” she says.
Among the 250 students in UKC’s inaugural class, Campbell says she had the opportunity to meet a lot of people and make new friends. Between attending class in Dickey Mansion (now known as Scofield Hall) and the carriage house and spending countless hours in the mansion’s greenhouse for lab work, she also found time for social activities.
She says her favorite memories are of the faculty, who all held Ph.D.s in their selected fields. She also recalls the student-led walkout during the spring of 1934 in which students protested the firing of two professors.
“I was a real rebel, but it was exciting,” she laughs. “My father was just happy I didn’t make the paper.”
After two years at UKC, Campbell transferred to the University of Kansas to finish her studies.
“My mom wanted me to go away for growth,” Campbell says. “KU was so different from UKC. The classes at KU were bigger and it didn’t have the same feeling of closeness. I enjoyed my time at KU and had some really good professors, but most of the professors I had at UKC were better.”
After graduating from KU, Campbell began working for a local gas service company. She moved to Texas two years later after marrying Albert Cook, an officer in the Navy. After being stationed in Texas, California and Virginia, the couple settled in Arlington County, Va., with their three children. After the children were grown and her husband’s retirement, they ended up in Clarke County in Virginia.
After Cook’s death in 1983, Campbell remarried and spent the next 21 years traveling across the United States in a motorhome with her husband, Douglas.
Even throughout her travels, Campbell returned to Kansas City often to visit family and the university. In 1983, she visited campus to celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary.
“It was very exciting to come back and see so many people I knew,” she says.
And although Campbell hasn’t visited Kansas City since her brother John’s death in 2003, she continues to keep a close eye on UMKC.
“I hardly recognize it now,” she says. “It’s been amazing to see the school’s transformation over the years and its impact on the community.”
Now as the university celebrates its 80th anniversary, Campbell says she’s been looking through her scrapbook more than usual.
“I pulled it out recently and shared it with my son who was visiting,” she says. “I look back at my time at UKC very fondly. It was exciting to be part of that first class. I may not have graduated from UKC, but it remains a very special place to me.”