Despite the great empathy W.N. Ferris showed for students in his letters, he did not show the same sympathy to students when he talked to them. Most students thought that he was sarcastic and autocratic. He was not much for small talk and really did not like to talk to students in their own language. Sometimes he would cross the street to avoid walking with a student or group of students. If it were a female student and he was smoking his cigar, he always crossed the street to avoid the "young lady," explaining that a gentleman should not smoke in the company of a lady, even outside.
But when one of the students contracted typhoid fever, Mr. Ferris personally saw to it that the student had constant care. He kept the parents and grandmother informed with frequent progress reports. When the parents came to visit their son, W.N. Ferris invited them to stay in his home. After the young man got well, Mr. Ferris assured the parents that they need not rush to pay the medical expenses that their son had accumulated.
On another occasion, when a student died and the ground was too frozen to bury him, Mr. Ferris allowed the body to be placed in his own mausoleum until the spring thaw.