Twente, Esther

Year Inducted: 
Esther Twente
  • Namesake for the School of Social Welfare building, Twente Hall
  • 1946-1957: Chairman of the first School of Social Work, which previously had not been a separate department
  • Director of Family Services in Kansas City, Kansas
  • Awarded the Kansas Welfare Workers’ Association Lifetime Membership for her work as the Assistant Superintendent of the Kansas Emergency Relief Commission
  • 1956: Aided in community planning for 3 small communities in Australia as a Fulbright Lecturer
  • Founding member of the Kansas Council on Children & Youth and state of Kansas representative to 3 White House Conferences on Children & Youth
  • 1971:  Named the Distinguished Senior Citizen of Kansas and author of book Never Too Old about her work as a senior citizen

Esther Twente, 1895-1971, was a beloved Emerita Professor of Social Welfare and Social Worker.  Her tireless efforts are remember and memorialized as the namesake for the School of Social Welfare building, Twente Hall.  Her funeral program remembered her as “a social worker and social educator whose professional life spanned more than half a century, an active part in the organizational life of her community and her profession, a researcher and writer eager to learn more about the world in which she lived and to share her ideas with others, a warm human being always available to those who needed counsel and support, and ready to enjoy what life had to offer with her family and friends.”

Professor Twente received her BA at the University of Missouri and her MA from the University of Chicago.  She began her career as a social worker in New York in 1918 with the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities.  As her professional focus remained on people in small rural communities, as she herself had grown up in, in 1924 she moved to Arkansas City, KS to work with the Red Cross and public schools, where she stayed until 1929.  At that time, she served as Director of Family Services in Kansas City, Kansas.  She then served as Assistant Superintendent of the Kansas Emergency Relief Commission.  For this work, the Kansas Welfare Workers’ Association awarded her with their Lifetime Membership.

In 1937, Professor Twente came to the University of Kansas to teach in the Sociology Department.  In 1946, she worked diligently to establish a separate Department of Social Work, which we now know as the School of Social Welfare.  She served as Chairman of the School from 1946-1957, where she led the way in social work education.  Former Professor Marston McCluggage of the Sociology Department commented, “She has exemplified in her own career those qualities of integrity, honesty, sympathy, and intelligent curiosity to which those of us who have careers in education aspire.”

Professor Twente continued to teach and research full-time until 1966.  This career included serving as a Fulbright Lecturer in Australia in 1956, where she aided in community planning for 3 small communities.  She also provided leadership for the development of the Kansas Council on Children & Youth, and served as a representative of the state of Kansas at White House Conferences on Children & Youth three times.  In 1963, the Esther Twente Scholarship Fund was established in her honor.  As an instructor, “she loved teaching and gave unstintingly to students, working with them often at her home after hours, feeding them, and sometimes managing to provide needed resources unobtrusively.” 

Professor Twente also served as a model senior citizen and worked tirelessly to support that community.   From 1961-1963, she travelled to Marion County (KS) on leave to direct an aging project.  From 1964-1967, she was awarded NIMH funds in Holton, KS for the mobilization of aging resources; she was awarded a similar NIMH-grant to complete another project from 1969-1971.  She published a book, Never Too Old, about her work as a senior citizen, which garnered a warm reception.  In 1971, Professor Twente was honored as The Distinguished Senior Citizen of Kansas.

Chancellor Malott recalled: “As Ilook back at treasured memories, Miss Twente stands out as one of the real builders of the University.  She was quiet, unassuming, but persistent.  Personally modest, she had a forward gleam in her eye that led one to feel that in her chosen profession, she was on the forefront of change and experience.”

Signup for our e-Newsletter
Calendar of Events