Growing up in Phillips County, Kansas, Omer Voss never guessed that his career would take him around the world, or to the top of the corporate ladder at one of the largest farm equipment manufacturers in the world.
With an understanding of the role leadership plays in our lives, he has established the Omer G. Voss Distinguished Professorship in Leadership Studies.
During a news conference today on the Fort Hays State University campus, President Edward H. Hammond expressed thanks to Voss and his family for the generous gift of $300,000. "We make it a top priority to attract and retain high quality faculty, and this gift will be a strong step in that direction. Under the Faculty of Distinction Program that was created in 2001, the Kansas Board of Regents will match the annual earnings of the $300,000 Voss gift," the president said.
"The combination of the annual earnings and the match from the Regents will help pay for the new faculty position. This generous gift from Omer and his family will make a tremendous difference in the lives of many future FHSU students. It shows what can be accomplished when the university, the Regents and a loyal alumnus join forces to improve the quality of education for our students."
Voss attended high school in Phillipsburg and came to FHSU where he majored in political science, graduating in 1937. "I was very happy in later years to have gone to Fort Hays State," Voss said. "It was the right sized school for a small-town boy and it gave me an excellent background for my law education at KU."
He joined International Harvester in 1936 as an employee in Hutchinson, where he worked summers during law school. Following graduation, he accepted a full-time position in sales and manufacturing for the San Francisco office. In 1951 he joined International Harvester's overseas operation, serving as president of operations in Australia, Great Britain and Canada before returning to the corporate headquarters in Chicago in 1961. He retired as vice chairman of the company in 1979.
Distance never diminished his interest in Kansas or Fort Hays State University. Voss was honored with the FHSU Alumni Achievement Award and he presented the Commencement address, both in 1961. He endowed a scholarship for FHSU students in 1978, and he is a trustee emeritus of the FHSU Endowment Association.
Virgil Scott, president and CEO of the FHSU Endowment Association, thanked Omer Voss for the gift and for making the trip to Hays for the announcement. "It has been a very enjoyable experience to work with Mr. Voss the past few years on finding a most appropriate avenue for him to express his appreciation to his alma mater," Scott said. "Mr. Voss is a man with a great deal of foresight and vision. We are very grateful to him for his generous gift that is an investment in the leaders of tomorrow."
Omer and his wife, Annabelle, stay in touch with FHSU with an annual trip to visit family in Phillipsburg. "I am impressed that Fort Hays State offers this type of program," he said. "We need good leaders in our communities and in our country, and I am proud that my alma mater is at the forefront of the effort to help develop them."
"This gift comes at a critical time in the development of the Leadership Studies program at FHSU," said Dr. Curt Brungardt, department chair. "It is a statement of how important leadership education is for students today, and it provides a greatly needed resource to expand our staff and meet the needs of a rapidly growing program."
The Voss distinguished professorship becomes the university's second faculty position created under the Regents' Faculty of Distinction Program. In June 2002, Dr. Hammond announced that a gift from Philip Frederick Anschutz and Sue Anschutz-Rodgers and the Anschutz Family Foundation would be leveraged with money from the Regents to create FHSU's first endowed faculty position, in the College of Education and Technology. In May 2003, the president announced that Dr. Paul Adams, an FHSU professor of physics, had been selected after a national search to fill the Anschutz Endowed Professorship in Education.