History will be made at Fort Hays State University next week when Dr. Edward H. Hammond becomes the longest-serving president in the school's 105-year history, and everyone is invited to join in the celebration at a reception in his honor.
The reception will be an informal, come-and-go affair from 3 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31, in the Dreiling Lobby of Sheridan Hall. The university encourages everyone to stop by, enjoy some refreshments, recall anecdotes from the past 20 years, and offer a word of congratulations to President Hammond.
It was 20 years ago, on Easter weekend 1987, when members of the Kansas Board of Regents gathered in a Johnson County hotel to interview finalists in search of a new FHSU president. By Saturday afternoon, an invitation had been offered and accepted. Dr. Hammond would be the eighth president of the only state university in the entire western half of Kansas.
The new president was no stranger to the Wheat State. He had lived in Overland Park and attended high school at Bishop Miege in Shawnee, and he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Emporia State University. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. In the intervening years, prior to accepting the FHSU presidency, Dr. Hammond held administrative positions at the Universities of Louisville, Seton Hall, Southern Illinois, Purdue and Missouri.
FHSU was founded as the Western Branch of the State Normal School of Emporia, and its first leader was William S. Picken, who actually held the title of "principal." Dr. William A. Lewis succeeded Picken on Sept. 1, 1913, and assumed the title of president. He died of a heart attack in office on Oct. 10, 1933, and his official tenure of 20 years, 1 month and 9 days was the longest of any FHSU president, even though he spent the last eight months mostly convalescing from a heart attack he suffered early in his last year.
Dr. Hammond officially began his presidency on June 22, 1987, so he will become FHSU's longest serving president on Wednesday, Aug. 1, the morning following the Tuesday afternoon reception.
President Hammond can look back on 20 years of significant accomplishments. When he arrived in 1987, a top priority was to "electrify" the campus by equipping faculty, students and staff with computers. That was accomplished, and the upcoming academic year will see the realization of a campus-wide mobile computing environment, as all incoming freshmen are equipped with "tablet" personal computers.
President Hammond also made the bricks and mortar of the university a priority. Sheridan Hall was renovated in 1991. A new science building, Tomanek Hall, was completed four years later. Three other venerable campus buildings -- Martin Allen Hall, Albertson Hall and McCartney Hall -- were extensively remodeled. The Sternberg Museum of Natural History was moved to a much larger facility near Interstate 70. The physical improvements continue. The nearly $8.5-million renovation of the Memorial Union will be completed in time for the beginning of the fall semester. Also, the long-anticipated Robbins Center, housing the FHSU Foundation and the Alumni Association, will open early in the fall semester.
More than the physical nature of the university has changed under President Hammond's leadership. Capitalizing on advances in communications technology and a long history of delivering education-at-a-distance across western Kansas, FHSU reached across the globe to establish a partnership with Sias International University in Xingzheng, China, and now has active partnerships with four Chinese universities with an annual enrollment of about 2,200 FHSU students.
By combining the lowest tuition in the state with an energetic and dedicated faculty that gives close personal attention to students, FHSU has seen enrollment climb from a plateau of about 5,000 through the '90s to 9,300 last fall.
Building on these accomplishments, President Hammond has outlined some ambitious goals for the future.
The university will focus on four geographic areas to increase enrollment on campus: the traditional service area of western Kansas; the "turnpike corridor" in eastern Kansas that contains the majority of the state's population; eastern Colorado; and the world at large, as more international students come to Hays.
A complete renovation of the university's oldest building, Picken Hall, is in the works.
Learning -- the core mission of the university -- will be enhanced by continuing internationalization efforts and other initiatives. Along with mastery of computing technology, students will improve such basic competencies as writing skills. In a more global sense, FHSU, and especially the faculty, will take a leading role in the coming Bio-Tech Age.
Along with Dr. Jon Wefald, President of Kansas State University, President Hammond is the longest serving of the leaders of the six universities in the Kansas Board of Regents system.
FHSU's Chief Executive Officers
William S. Picken, Principal, 6/23/02-9/1/13
William Alexander Lewis, President, 9/1/13-10/10/33
Clarence Edward Rarick, Acting President and President, 10/12/33-8/1/41
Lyman Dwight Wooster, President, 8/10/41-8/15/49
M.C. Cunningham, President, 8/15/49-6/30/69
John W. Gustad, President, 7/1/69-6/21/75
Gerald W. "Jerry" Tomanek, Acting President and President, 6/21/75-5/17/87
Edward H. Hammond, President, 6/22/87-present
CEOs in Regents System
President Jon Wefald, Kansas State University, 7/1/86-present
President Edward H. Hammond, Fort Hays State University, 6/22/87-present
Chancellor Robert Hemenway, University of Kansas, 6/1/95-present
President Donald L. Beggs, Wichita State University, 1/1/99-present
President Thomas W. Bryant, Pittsburg State University, 7/1/99-present
President Michael R. Lane, Emporia State University, 11/1/06-present