Kenyon L. Butterfield served as president of the college during an important growth period in the early part of the 20th century. Butterfield came to Massachusetts from the Rhode Island School of Agriculture where he had served as president. He started his career in Michigan, where he had edited the Michigan Grange Visitor, worked as superintendent of the Michigan Farmers' Institute, and taught rural sociology at Michigan Agricultural College.
Butterfield became president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1906, remaining until 1924. He made major changes on the campus, doubling the size of the staff and recruiting faculty from across the country to offer more specialized instruction. He organized the academic departments into five divisions, himself heading the division of rural social science. From 1906 to 1916, the institution's budget expanded from $150,000 to $700,000 by attracting research funding. Passionate about education's potential to benefit farming communities, Butterfield instituted a host of outreach programs, including summer schools for farmers, agricultural clubs for school children, and a federation for rural progress.
During his tenure, he was given a leave of absence during World War I to serve as a member of the Army Educational Commission of the Young Men's Christian Association with the American Expeditionary Force in France. He helped to organize the World Agricultural Society while in France. After returning to the College, he founded the American Country Life Association, remaining its president until his death.
After leaving Amherst, Butterfield returned to Michigan State to serve as president there. Upon retiring from college administration, Butterfield devoted his life to working as an international missionary. During the late 1920s and early 1930s he traveled to the Middle East, India, Burma, China, Japan, and other Asian countries.