Dark Days for the Dean
With the new clinical campus set to open, 1924 should have ushered in a period of calm for Dr. Sudler. Developments in state politics intervened.
Two changes nine years apart caused turbulence in Dr. Sudler’s life. A Board of Regents had governed KU for nearly 50 years when on
July 1, 1913 a new State Board of Administration took its place. Where the regents had been part-time and unpaid, the new board consisted of three full-time members appointed and dismissed by the governor. Faculty expressed concern over the degree of influence the governor now held over KU. Their fears became reality when Jonathan Davis was elected governor in 1924.
Davis wanted to reward his political supporters with appointments across the state. His plans for KU included replacing the deans of the law school and engineering school. Dr. Sudler was on vacation when he learned the Board of Administration had dismissed him.
Chancellor Ernest Lindley attempted to defend Dr. Sudler. The board soon dismissed him as well. On July 28, the medical school faculty wrote a letter of support for Dr. Sudler. In September, Dr. Sudler published a pamphlet explaining he had not wanted to leave KU, no warning had been given, and a sufficient reason had not been provided. All to no avail. The medical school fell into chaos. Replacing Dr. Sudler proved to be a difficult task. Multiple candidates refused the position. Others made unreasonable demands.
Eventually the storm began to settle. Faculty member Dr. Harry Wahl agreed to serve as acting dean. Governor Davis was voted out of office in 1925. KU returned to the Board of Regents system. Chancellor Lindley was reinstated. After 14 years of service to the university Dr. Sudler moved on to other pursuits. The School of Medicine later honored Dr. Sudler by hanging his portrait in the school and naming a building after him.
“Those who knew Sudler’s years of devoted services to the institution, his complete sincerity, honesty and lack of guile, the way he steadfastly stuck to the old ship through storm and stress and almost complete shipwreck felt that, in seeing him unceremoniously tossed overboard just as calm waters appear head, one could no longer say, ‘It can’t happen here.’”
-Medical School Faculty Support Letter for Dr. Sudler
The 22nd Governor of Kansas
Democrat Jonathan Davis took office as the 22nd Governor of Kansas on January 8, 1923. The KU alumnus had an eventful two-year term. Women’s suffrage and prohibition were endorsed in Kansas under his watch. The regents Davis appointed dismissed Chancellor Lindley and Dr. Sudler. Rumors swirled the governor was beholden to the Ku Klux Klan. Police arrested Governor Davis on bribery charges the day after he left office. Although he was acquitted, the former governor never again held public office.