In Memoriam: Celebrating the legacy of Wayne Woolsey

Wayne Woolsey

Wayne Woolsey may not have graduated from Wichita State, but he left a lasting legacy at the university and for the thousands of students who will walk its campus.

Born and raised in Texas, Wayne earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas and his master’s from Texas A&M. He served as a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force before embarking on a career as a geologist, moving to Wichita in 1968. He began drilling and operating wells in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, eventually joined by his wife, Kay, who served as Woolsey Operating Company’s vice president. As they grew their business, they consolidated their holdings into Woolsey Companies, specializing in oil and natural gas exploration and production.

Wayne and Kay Woolsey
Wayne and Kay Woolsey

In 2018, Wayne and Kay gave $12 million to Wichita State University, the largest gift in its history. They designated $10 million to the construction of Wayne and Kay Woolsey Hall, home of the Barton School of Business, and $2 million to the WSU Geology Department, which supported the petroleum geology program and provides scholarships for field-camp experience.

“Wayne and Kay were exceptionally generous people, but beyond that they cared deeply helping develop future entrepreneurs and business leaders,” said Elizabeth King, president and CEO of the WSU Foundation and Alumni Engagement. “Their support of the university will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of students and faculty for generations to come, and it was a great privilege to work with them on their gifts to Wichita State.”

In 2022, the Woolseys gave an additional $1.3 million to the Woolsey Hall project, ensuring the building would reach its full potential and help attract talented students and faculty to WSU. A portion of the gift was used to create the Kay Woolsey Garden in memory of Kay, who passed away in 2019. The remainder of the gift went toward the endowed Woolsey Hall Technology Fund, ensuring the technology throughout the building stays current as years pass.

“Wayne Woolsey’s commitment to the Barton School of Business was nothing short of extraordinary. His visionary generosity laid the foundation for Wayne and Kay Woolsey Hall and underscored his deep dedication to advancing education,” said Larisa Genin, dean of the Barton School.

Wayne died peacefully in his home on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather and is survived by daughters, Cheryl (Roger) Crisler, Carla Haggard; sons, Marc (Hillary) Woolsey, Matthew Woolsey; grandchildren, Jennifer (Hunter) Glasscock, Simon Woolsey, Summer Woolsey, Gavin Woolsey, Grayson Woolsey; brother, Rogers (Cherry) Woolsey; nephews, Derek Woolsey, Damon Woolsey, Barry Woolsey.

“It’s not every day you meet someone as invested in the future of our students and community as Wayne was,” said WSU President Rick Muma. “His generosity has laid a foundation for countless dreams to flourish here at Wichita State.”

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