Wiggins Family Funds Endowed Scholarship

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Larry Wiggins and Joan Wiggins Goodknight have made a gift of $55,000 and a commitment of an additional $50,000 to fund the George S. Wiggins Football Scholarship, which was presented to Athletics Director John Currie and head football coach Bill Snyder in a recent ceremony at the K-State Alumni Center.

The scholarship will be awarded to an undergraduate student enrolled in any curriculum and participating in varsity football at Kansas State University. Preference will be given to students who are residents of Kansas, playing the position of fullback/running back.

Establishing a scholarship in George's name had been a dream of his family's since his courageous death while serving in the U.S. Army. The recent gathering at the Alumni Center was meant to not only establish the scholarship, but also commemorate what would have been George's 100th birthday. A collection of George Wiggins' personal memorabilia, on loan from his family, is currently on display at the Alumni Center, including his letterman's sweater and graduation photo.

"George Wiggins was obviously someone with tremendous courage and a lot of heart," said Currie. "We are proud to be able to offer our student-athletes an endowed K-State Athletics scholarship in his name."

George graduated from K-State in 1932 with a bachelor's degree in physical education. During his time as a student, he was a fullback for the Wildcat football team, then known as the Kansas Aggies. He was also a member of Scabbard and Blades, a campus organization similar to today's ROTC program at K-State. After graduation, George was hired as a physical education instructor, history teacher and high school football coach at Cherryvale High School, in Cherryvale, Kan. He and his wife Maxine were married in 1932.

George's service in Scabbard and Blades made him an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves upon graduating from K-State, and in 1941 he made the decision to volunteer his service in the Army during World War II. He was elevated to the status of captain and was sent to the Philippines where he was to train the Philippine army.

In 1942, he and his fellow soldiers, as well as the Philippine army, were captured by the Japanese and forced to participate in the infamous Bataan Death March - a 60-mile march from the Bataan peninsula to Japanese prison camps. George survived the march to become a man of agency and a thoughtful leader during his imprisonment, according to a soldier who spent nearly two years with him as a fellow prisoner of war. The soldier, a West Point graduate from Houston, Texas, had escaped from the Japanese and arrived back in the United States in November 1944.

George's brother, Don Wiggins, interviewed him and wrote to his parents what the soldier had told him about "Wig," as George was known among friends, from their time together.

"He knew Wig very well, and the last thing he said was there wasn't anything that he could say to express the appreciation and gratitude for the things that Wig did for them while they were prisoners," Don Wiggins wrote. "He also said that if anyone deserved a medal it was Wig, for he had done more for the morale of the prisoners than any other one man."

George died in a Japanese prison camp on Feb. 9, 1945. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the United States armed forces for valor in the face of the enemy.

"My mother had always wanted to establish a scholarship in honor of my father's memory," Larry said. "He wasn't just a part of the football team, but a part of the K-State family. With this scholarship, he's back home at K-State where he belongs."

Larry Wiggins is a member of the K-State Athletics' Ahearn Fund and the KSU Foundation's Presidents Club, a philanthropic leadership organization for friends and alumni of K-State.

Endowed funds established through the Ernie Barrett Athletic Endowment Society give K‑State supporters the opportunity to provide scholarships specifically for student-athletes. Endowments are the vehicle through which a Wildcat supporter can leave an individual or family legacy at K-State and have an impact on future student-athletes' lives forever.