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Butterfield, Kenyon L.
President, Massachusetts Agricultural College: 1906-1924
Kenyon Butterfield served as president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College during an important growth period in the early part of the 20th century. A native of Michigan, Butterfield was trained as a rural sociologist at Michigan Agricultural College (BA, 1891) and the University of Michigan (AM, 1902), and gained experience as editor of the Michigan Grange Visitor, as superintendent of the Michigan Farmers' Institute, and as a field agent for the Michigan Agricultural College. After a brief and lackluster appointment as President of the Rhode Island School of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (1903-1906), Butterfield arrived at the Amherst campus in 1906, ready to fulfill his vision of agricultural education in service to the nation.
Politically progressive and activist in spirit, Butterfield quickly made major changes on campus, doubling the size of the staff, recruiting faculty from across the country to offer more specialized instruction, and expanding the college's public mission. Organizing the academic departments into five divisions, he took personal leadership of the division of rural social science. During his first decade at MAC, Butterfield oversaw growth of the institutional budget from $150,000 to $700,000, largely by attracting research funding, and in an effort to harness the potential of higher education to the direct benefit of farming communities, he initiated a host of outreach programs, including summer schools for farmers, agricultural clubs for school children, and a federation for rural progress. As President, he was noted, too, for initiating a program for women's education, which eventually developed into the School of Home Economics.
Outside the college, Butterfield was deeply engaged in agricultural matters at the national level. In 1913, he was appointed by Woodrow Wilson to the Commission for the Study of Agricultural Credits and Cooperation in Europe, and in 1917, he chaired the Massachusetts Food Supply Commission. Taking a leave of absence during the First World War, Butterfield served with the Army Educational Commission of the Young Men's Christian Association and as Educational Director for the American Expeditionary Force in France, where he helped organize the World Agricultural Council. After returning to the College, he founded the American Country Life Association, remaining its president until his death.
After leaving Amherst in 1924, Butterfield returned to Michigan State College to serve as president. Upon retiring from college administration four years later, he devoted himself to missionary work abroad, traveling the Middle East, India, Burma, China, Japan, and other Asian countries during the late 1920s and early 1930s. He died at home in New Jersey on November 26, 1935, leaving his wife, Harriet (Millard) and two sons.
- View the finding aid for the Butterfield Papers
- View the online collection of materials relating to Butterfield's involvement in women's education at MAC.
Butterfield House, a dormitory built in 1940, was named in honor of President Butterfield.
- Cary, H. (1962). The University of Massachusetts: A History of 100 Years. Amherst: University of Massachusetts.