First Lady of Wesleyan Dies at 101

Posted 08/06/08
Katharina “Kay” Butterfield, wife of Wesleyan’s 11th President Victor Butterfield, died July 7 in Maine. She was 101 years old.

Victor and Kay Butterfield worked at Wesleyan from 1943 to 1967. Kay’s passing reminds the Wesleyan community of the profound and lasting contributions that her family has made to the university.

“I’ve often heard how students and alumni would burst into song when they encountered Mrs. Butterfield, a woman whose devotion to and affection for Wesleyan continues to inspire,” says Wesleyan President Michael Roth.

In 1982, Kay received the Baldwin Medal, the highest award of Wesleyan’s Alumni Association. In 1997, Wesleyan awarded her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano declared July 27 Kay Butterfield Day in the City of Middletown.

The following biographical notes were published in the Commencement program that year:
“A graduate of Cornell University, where she was women’s editor of the Cornell Daily Sun, she taught at the Deerfield Public School and the Riverdale Country Day School and was secretary to President Henry M. Wriston ’11 at Lawrence College. When Victor Butterfield came to Wesleyan as director of admissions in the fall of 1935, Mrs. Butterfield adopted the city as well as the campus. She was, within a year, president of the Middletown League of Women Voters—and remained an officer and member of the state and local League for more than 60 years. She was a member of the Middletown Board of Education for 13 years, and on the board of the YMCA for 25 years; in 1957, she was named “Woman of the Year” by the local chapter of B’nai B’rith, and she received the 1968 United Way Community Service Award. She was a founder and officer of the Connecticut Citizens for the Public Schools and a volunteer teacher of English as a Second Language.”

She volunteered for decades at the Wesleyan Blood Drive and more recently, Kay served as honorary chair of Wesleyan’s 175th Anniversary Committee.

The Butterfield family will hold a service for Kay in Middletown in the fall. Condolences may be sent to her children Daniel Butterfield and Margot Siekman in care of:

Ms. Margot Siekman
538 Bear Pond Road
Buckfield, ME 04220

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to the Class of 1954 Butterfield Scholarship at Wesleyan. Donations may be made payable to Wesleyan University and sent in care of:

University Relations
Wesleyan University
318 High Street
Middletown, CT 06459

More information on Kay Butterfield’s life is online in a previous Wesleyan Connection article at