After years on the job away from his home state of Kansas, Steve Gonzalez has come back to Fort Hays State University as the University Bookstore manager.
Gonzalez, who grew up in Garden City, came to FHSU in 1974 to pursue an elementary education degree. After graduating in 1979, he worked in the community for a while before he saw an advertisement for the position of FHSU Bookstore manager.
“I applied for that position, and it happened to be for Follett out of Chicago. I went out to Chicago, got interviewed and got the position,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez remained at FHSU for 14 years until the lease between Follett and FHSU expired and Barnes and Noble won the bid.
“I had already put in 14 years with the company, and I felt it was a good company, so my loyalty was to stay with the company. I didn’t apply for Barnes or talk to Barnes about it,” Gonzalez said.
Instead, he asked Follett what they could do for him.
Follett offered him the choice of jobs in either Texas or Virginia, and Gonzalez chose the East Coast job.
But the bigger school took some time to get used to.
“Virginia was a bigger store just in size alone and then in population of students. I think at the time, Fort Hays might have been six or seven thousand students, and I was going to a university with 20,000 students,” Gonzalez said.
Still, having grown up and lived in Kansas his entire life, Gonzalez felt it was a great opportunity to go.
“I’m glad I went -- I learned a lot,” he said.
He managed the Virginia Commonwealth University bookstore in Va., for eight years. Then its contract came up. Gonzalez once more decided to stay with the company that had done so much for him for the past few years. That choice led him to San Antonio, Texas, to oversee five junior colleges. With so many different schools to look after, Gonzalez spent a day a week at each of them.
“I missed being in the store for day-to-day operations...You didn’t have that feeling of family. I missed that because I was going to five different locations,” Gonzalez said.
Because of this, Gonzalez started looking for another job with Follett. That’s when he saw Fort Hays State was looking to hire. He let himself think about it for a while before deciding to apply.
“The more I thought about it, I just started putting little things together. My first and biggest consideration really was family--you always want to go back to Kansas somewhere,” Gonzalez said.
After deciding to apply, Gonzalez was offered the job and accepted it, and he says above all things, his favorite thing about working at FHSU is the people on campus.
“It’s that kindness--willingness to talk to you. It’s a smaller-knit group of people,” Gonzalez said.
“I’m really glad I’m here. It’s a good school. We’re glad to be back.”
The University Bookstore is located in the Memorial Union on the FHSU campus.