Transcribed from History of Wyandotte County Kansas and its people ed. and comp. by Perl W. Morgan. Chicago, The Lewis publishing company, 1911. 2 v. front., illus., plates, ports., fold. map. 28 cm. [Vol. 2 contains biographical data. Paged continuously.] p.612-615 transcribed by Christopher Shockley, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, on October 23, 2000.

Owen M. West

PROFESSOR OWEN M. WEST. - A pre-eminent figure in commercial education in Kansas is Professor Owen M. West, president of the Kansas Commercial College, whose enlightened ideas and splendid methods have proved of marvelous benefit to the youth of this section. This institution which is the pride of the city, is one of the best in the United States and presents advantages which cannot be found anywhere else. There are at the head of this school men of education, ability and experience, who have made a success of the commercial school business and who are here combining their ability and knowledge in making this the foremost institution of America. The Kansas Commercial College is particularly fortunate in its president; scholar, educator, gentleman, he has been summed up, and not only is he esteemed in highest degree as an educator and instructor, but as a citizen of unusual public spirit.

The Kansas Commercial College, located at 721-723 Minnesota avenue, was founded in the year 1903, its original location being the corner of Fifth and Minnesota avenue. Its founders were the McKee brothers, F. J. and E. E. It first had capacity for about one hundred and twenty-five pupils and afforded a general business and commercial course. From the first its results were unusually gratifying. After remaining at the first address for three years the college was moved to the present location.

On March 19, 1910, a corporation was formed by the McKee brothers with a capital of thirty-five thousand dollars, and Professor West was made president, which position he holds at the present time. The corporation owns and manages two other schools, one at Lebanon and one at Norton, Kansas. Their present location is most advantageous and the college which is attended by about five hundred pupils annually, has the benefit of the most modern equipment, while the handsome building which houses the institution was especially built for the purpose. The various departments are as follows: Commercial (This is not necessarily to prepare one for a business position but to give him the practical knowledge he needs in commercial law, accounts, etc., whether he is to be a doctor, business man, preacher or farmer); Bookkeeping taught by actual business; Commercial Law; Rapid Calculation; Penmanship; Shorthand, the Gregg and Pittman systems being taught; Grammar; Correspondence; and English. It is of such an institution as the Kansas Commercial College that Horace Mann was doubtless thinking when he said: "If a father wishes to give his son a legacy better than houses, land, gold or silver, let him send him to an an institution where he can obtain a practical business education. Such knowledge is most directly conducive to mercantile honor and success." And to such did Henry Ward Beecher refer when he observed: "Whatever occupation you may choose as your life work, the first step is to secure a practical business education. By all means attend a good college."

The Kansas Commercial College makes a specialty of preparing stenographers and bookkeepers for civil service and it also has courses preparing aspirants for the positions of rural mail carriers and mail clerks, custom house assistants, departmental clerks, salesmen, and mechanical and architectural drawing and drafting. In addition to the day school, there is a night school for those who cannot attend during the day, this being on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, and covering the same line of studies. At the present time the teaching force numbers six. The official personnel of the college is as follows: president and treasurer, Owen M. West; secretary, S. R. Maxwell; vice president, Louis Tedder; board of directors, Messrs. O. M. West, S. R. Maxwell, Louis Tedder, Samuel McWilliams and J. D. Rice.

The Kansas Commercial College has prepared hundreds of students, most of whom are holding positions high in the business world; they are in the government employ and also in that of the state, county, city; they are found in the largest commercial and manufacturing houses in the country.

Owen M. West was born and reared at Fithian, Illinois, fourteen miles west of Danville, his parents being James H. and Lura J. (Davis) West. When young Owen was a boy about nine years of age he removed to Linn county, Kansas, and there he received his public school education, He subsequently entered the Kansas Normal School from which he was graduated in 1897. He at once entered upon a career as a teacher and was eventually elected county superintendent of schools of Linn county, Kansas, serving two elective and one appointive terms. He continued in the field of public school education until 1902, when he engaged with the National School of Correspondence and had charge of their vast interests in Kansas and Oklahoma, with the most excellent results. In 1903 he resigned to accept the principalship of the Chelsea School of Kansas, Kansas City, Kansas, which position he retained until after his election as president of the Kansas Commercial College. He resigned that, however, to take full charge of college affairs.

Professor West is a prominent and popular fraternity man, holding membership in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows; the Knights of Pythias; the Redmen; the Fraternal Aid; the Life and Annuity; the Workmen; the Modern Woodmen of America; Ben Hur; the Triple Tie; and the Yeomen. Politically he is independent and takes great interest in putting the man into office who stands for the cleanest and most altruistic service to the people. He has never married.

Professor West is a man who takes a fatherly interest in the welfare and progress of his students and he with his educational staff, do everything possible to advance the pupils as much as possible in every direction. He is a big hearted gentleman and stands at the head of his profession. While county superintendent of school of Linn county, he did much to improve the school system, making it one of the best in the state and this zeal is apparent in all his endeavors. In fact, he is known throughout the state and far beyond it, as an educational leader.

Professor West is of peculiarly philanthropic and admirable nature. He has done much to help the needy and poor, and his every day life is replete with kind deeds. During the year 1911 his home was broken and fond ties were severed, death claiming his mother.

Professor West is of most lovable personality and has hosts of enthusiastic friends. One of them, the editor of Popular Therapeutics, published at Nevada, Missouri, recently was moved to an appreciation, from which a few enlightening paragraphs are here taken:

"I knew Mr. West some fifteen or more years ago, during the stormy days in Kansas. He lived in Linn county and I was residing for a time in the southwest part of the state, and both of us were active in politics in those good old days when politics in Kansas was the most militant thing in the world. West as a young man was successful in politics in his own county for the reason that he obtained that reputation invaluable to a politician: i. e. 'He always delivers the goods.'

"He has a great school in Kansas City, Kansas. The college has adequate equipment and the students it turns out are in demand, because of their thorough training and capability to do the work along various commercial lines. The course taught at the Kansas Commercial College is in advance of the large majority of courses taught in the various colleges in this country. Civics and Political Economy are thoroughly taught and also a course of instruction in salesmanship. This latter course is practically psychology as applied to the selling of the commodities of commerce. The course in Commercial Law is the best course I have ever come in contact with in a business college."

The Kansas City Journal of August 7, 1911, says:

"A test of the practical efficiency of the class of shorthand of the Kansas Commercial College was made last week in the district court, Kansas City, Kansas, when the members of the class successfully took the proceedings of a case on trial. It is said that within thirty minutes after the trial had closed copies of the evidence were presented to the court and attorneys which corresponded verbatim with that of the official court stenographer. Friends of Prof. West, president of the school, have been congratulating him on the success of this demonstration, as well as for the distinction his school is winning as an institution of complete business training."

In concluding this brief record of an admirable man there can be no more fitting manner of so doing than to quote from the clever tribute of a fraternal friend. Says this gentleman:

"West has been immortalized by the poets. 'Let me have about me men who are fat, sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights,' said William Shakespeare, and had West in mind. James Whitcomb Riley, speaking of West said: 'When God made Jim, I bet he didn't do anything else that day but jes set round and feel good.' And O. W. Holmes, anticipating West, said, 'You hear that boy laughing? You think he's all fun, but the angels laugh too at the good he has done. The children laugh loud as they troop to his call - and the poor man who knows him laughs loudest of all,'"

Biographical Index