The world is watching: FHSU Commencement celebrates end of academic year; Gov. Sebelius will award diploma to 95-year-old Nola Ochs

Worldwide attention will focus on Fort Hays State University for the annual Commencement ceremony next week. The graduates will include 95-year-old Nola Ochs of Jetmore, who will become the oldest person on record to earn a college degree.

National and international media -- including Fuji-TV of Japan with an estimated 100 million viewers -- have indicated they intend to cover the ceremony. In addition, as it has done for the past several years, FHSU will provide a live broadcast of Commencement on both the World Wide Web and the area cable TV network.

A spokesperson said Gov. Kathleen Sebelius also plans to attend the ceremony and help present the diploma to Ochs [pronounced OHSH], who, according to Guinness World Records, will break the record of Mozelle Richardson, who received a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2004 at the age of 90. Ochs is receiving a bachelor's degree in general studies with an emphasis in history, and she will walk across the stage with her granddaughter, Alexandra Ochs, who is receiving a bachelor's degree in health and human performance.

The FHSU Commencement begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 12, in Gross Memorial Coliseum on the Hays campus.

Nola Ochs has been the subject of multiple local, state, national and international news stories in the weeks leading up to Commencement, and TV news crews have become a common sight in the buildings where she attends classes. While she welcomes the opportunity to serve as an inspiration to older people everywhere, Ochs also tries to balance the media attention with a determination to complete the semester as a normal college student.

She will be one of many to receive degrees from FHSU. The numbers may change slightly as the degree-checking process concludes, but the current count shows that FHSU will surpass 2,000 graduates for the second year in a row.

The tentative total as of this week is 2,176 graduates, which includes associate, bachelor and graduate-level degrees. The degrees will go to students who completed graduation requirements in summer 2006, fall 2006 and spring 2007. That compares to 2,250 graduates last year, 1,374 graduates in 2005, 1,310 graduates in 2004, 1,168 graduates in 2003 and 1,126 graduates in 2002. The jump in the number of graduates this year and last year reflects the university's astounding enrollment growth from 5,506 in fall 2000 to 9,307 in fall 2006.

Graduates, their families and members of the community always fill spacious Gross Memorial Coliseum each spring for the annual graduation ceremony. Even though the number of graduates includes many Virtual College students who will not come to Hays for the ceremony, seating will be at a premium once again this year.

Kansas Board of Regents member Dan Lykins of Topeka will present a short address at Commencement, and Brenda Meder, director of the Hays Arts Council, will announce the names of the graduates as they receive their degrees. Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, and Dr. Larry Gould, FHSU provost, also will make brief remarks during the ceremony.

The Torch, Pilot and Navigator awards will be presented at the Graduate Faculty Brunch at 11:30 a.m. Friday, May 11, and the recipients will be seated on the platform and recognized during the Commencement ceremonies on Saturday morning. In addition, the platform party will include two special visitors from China -- Dayu Zhao, president of Shengyang Normal University, and his daughter and translator, Qiuye Zhao.

Commencement is free and open to families of graduates and to all friends of the university. No tickets are required. However, seating in GMC quickly reaches capacity, so FHSU is offering several other options for viewing Commencement.

The entire ceremony will be broadcast live to Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center in Sheridan Hall. With its air conditioning, easy access and comfortable seating, the performing arts center may be the preferred choice as a viewing site for many people.
Special seating is available in both GMC and Beach/Schmidt for people with disabilities. The signer, who will interpret for the hearing-impaired in GMC, will also be easily visible in an inset on the large screen at Beach/Schmidt. The ceremony also will be broadcast live by the FHSU student TV station, KFHS, on Eagle Communication cable channel 67 in Hays, Ellis, Russell and WaKeeney.

In addition, the university will make Commencement available both live and for delayed viewing over the Internet so that family and friends can watch the ceremony from distant locations. Those wishing to view the ceremony on a computer should download either QuickTime 7 or Windows Media Player prior to May 12. For a high-quality broadcast, use Windows 2002, Windows XP or Mac OS X v. 10.3.9 or later. The address for the online broadcast is

To order a recording of Commencement, send a check payable to the university in the amount of $10.50 for a VHS tape or $11.50 for a DVD to Fort Hays State University, Attn: Eva Gould, 600 Park St., Hays, KS 67601. Be sure to include your full mailing address. For further information, call (785) 628-4194.

Those who plan to attend the ceremony in person are encouraged to arrive early. Gates at the Cunningham Hall/GMC complex and at Beach/Schmidt will open at 8:30 a.m. Graduates should park on the main campus and gather in Cunningham Hall by 9:15 a.m.; all others are asked to enter GMC through Gates 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Traffic in the GMC area is extremely heavy for Commencement. Parking lots adjacent to GMC typically fill up by 9 a.m., so those arriving after that time are encouraged to park on the main campus. In the event of rain, unpaved lots near GMC will be closed and it will be necessary to park on the main campus. Shuttle bus service will be provided between the campus and GMC. The shuttle buses will stop at the parking lot west of the Memorial Union, in front of Malloy Hall, at the residence hall parking lot next to Wiest Hall and wherever the drivers see groups of people walking toward GMC.

Graduates and faculty will be seated on the main floor of GMC. Relatives and friends of the degree candidates will be seated in the bleachers and the balcony. Seating arrangements for the disabled have been made in the bleacher areas on either side in front of the stage. One person may accompany an individual requiring seating in these areas. Drivers will find Gates 2 and 3, at the northwest and southwest corners, most convenient for dropping off passengers with disabilities. This area fills quickly so either plan to arrive early or attend Commencement at Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

In the past, heavy rains sometimes caused traffic problems during Commencement. Those who plan to attend Commencement in GMC should listen to Hays radio stations to learn whether the parking lots have filled or -- in extreme weather conditions -- whether the low-water bridge over Big Creek on Gustad Drive has been closed, blocking traffic access from the main campus. Rain will not hamper direct access to Beach/Schmidt on the main campus.

While Commencement is a time of celebration, Fort Hays State University asks those who attend to show decorum appropriate to the occasion. Air horns and other noisemakers are not allowed in GMC. Please do not applaud individual graduates because loud demonstrations are discourteous, drowning out the names of the graduates who follow. An appropriate time for applause will be announced. The audience is also asked to refrain from moving around, and graduates should remain for the entire ceremony.

Note to Editors/News Directors: There will be a brief news conference with Nola Ochs and Gov. Sebelius immediately following the ceremony in the Tiger Room in Gross Memorial Coliseum.

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Office of University Relations   |  600 Park Street   |  Hays, KS  67601-4099
(785) 628-4206   |   Fax (785) 628-4152
Kent Steward, Director   |  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |