A record number of graduates -- nearly 2,400 -- will gather along with their professors, families and friends on the morning of Saturday, May 16, for the rite of passage that is Fort Hays State University's annual Commencement.
The festive ceremony begins at 10 a.m. in Gross Memorial Coliseum on the university's Hays campus. For the second year in a row, the bridge over Big Creek on 8th Street immediately west of the campus remains closed, which will impede the normal flow of traffic to some degree. So, it is important for people to arrive early.
Although the numbers may change slightly when the degree-checking process concludes, the current count shows that FHSU will surpass 2,000 graduates for the fourth year in a row.
The tentative total as of this week is 2,385 graduates, which includes associate, bachelor and graduate-level degrees. The degrees will go to students who completed graduation requirements in summer 2008, fall 2008 and spring 2009. That compares to 2,041 graduates last year, 2,176 graduates in 2007, 2,250 graduates in 2006, 1,374 graduates in 2005 and 1,310 graduates in 2004. The jump in the number of graduates for the past four years reflects the university's astounding enrollment growth from 5,506 in fall 2000 to 10,308 in fall 2008.
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.
Commencement is free and open to families of graduates and to all friends of the university. No tickets are required.
Kansas Board of Regents member Janie Perkins of Garden City 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 15, and the recipients will be seated on the platform and recognized during Commencement on Saturday morning.
Because seating in GMC quickly reaches capacity, 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. Rebecca Leudders will interpret for the hearing-impaired in GMC, and she will 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, and to dozens of other communities in western and north central Kansas on the Nex-Tech cable system.
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 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 http://www.fhsu.edu/.
To order a recording of Commencement, send a check payable to the university in the amount of $15 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) 628-5964.
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 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, the lot west of Malloy Hall, the lot east of Tomanek 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.
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.