HAYS, KS -- Leaving Fort Hays State University is an idea that Dr. Pat Mahon, registrar and associate vice president for student affairs, has pretty much gotten used to. When it comes down to it though, she gets a little choked up thinking about leaving behind the place and people that have been a part of her life for 12 years.
"You can't second guess it, you just go with it. Onward and upward," Mahon said.
Family of every kind came into consideration when Mahon decided to look for a new job. Though she considered her extended family, her husband and her Fort Hays State University family, the ultimate reasoning focused on her parents in north central Wyoming.
"On June 5, 1999, my mother had a stroke. I have always been close to my parents even though there was the distance because we could travel together and go see each other, but I knew there would be a time when the distance would seem like a lot. It really hit that day and at that time I decided if I could find a professional position closer to my parents, I would go," Mahon said, "It's really driven by personal and professional reasons."
She found what she was looking for eight hours and a state and a half north of Hays at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, S.D. She will take over as vice president for student affairs and dean of students at the end of August.
"I was very lucky (to find the job) because my parents live in a very sparsely populated area where there are really a limited amount of higher education institutions within driving distance."
Mahon said the decision, though difficult, was made easier with her husband's help. Her husband is Tom Mahon, associate director of athletics and former women's basketball coach.
"Tom has really been wonderful through this process. I think it is a really interesting scenario with couples who have dual careers. For the relationship to survive, one of the people has to be more flexible than the other is and Tom definitely fits that," Mahon said.
"That's how we moved here (to Hays). I moved for the position, then he finished out a contract where he was working and did all of the things that a trailing spouse has to do to make adjustments. At the time he said, 'Pat, we'll do this one more time and that's it.' So I guess this is my time. He is very sensitive to the family issues and has just been extremely supportive of it."
Pat started at FHSU in 1988 when she took over as director of admissions. She kept that position until she filled in as interim registrar in 1995. In the spring of 1996 she was named associate vice president for student affairs and registrar.
Friday, Aug. 18, marks Mahon's official last day at FHSU, "which gets us through enrollment," she said. "I have thoroughly enjoyed all my experiences at Fort Hays. I would be very happy to continue here because of the challenges. There are some really exciting things going on in the university that the registrar and associate vice president for student affairs gets involved with."
During her tenure, the biggest changes she has seen within the university system involve the Virtual College.
"There are a lot of new initiatives on the table and the registrar is heavily involved with the processing of registration. Delivery of education through the Virtual College is definitely the biggest change." Among the many things Mahon said she will miss are the students, work associates, the campus, friends and the city of Hays, not to mention a few things that were very close to the Mahons as a couple.
"We'll miss the fact that we both had positions here that we felt had purpose and that were very rewarding and satisfying. It's hard to leave an institution that has challenges and growth and has made us both feel so welcome. And of course we're really going to miss the Lady Tigers (basketball team)."
On a more symbolic note, Mahon said she will miss signing diplomas. "To me, that's what education is really all about. It's that struggle to obtain a goal and reaching it."
Regardless of what she will miss, Mahon said she believes this decision is best for her personally and professionally.
"In my heart I know that I'm doing the right thing. It's just really hard to leave here."
Dr. Diane Pfeifer will serve as interim registrar replacing Mahon. Pfeifer, an FHSU alumnus, has served the past year as dean of students at Truman State University in Kirksivlle, MO. She received her B.A. degree in sociology in 1988 and M.S. degree in counseling in 1990 from FHSU.
From 1989-1991, Pfeifer worked under Mahon in the FHSU Admissions Office where Mahon
was head of admissions and Pfeifer was an admissions counselor. Pfeifer was the assistant
director of admissions from 1991-1992.
Pfeifer then went to the University of Northern Colorado and served as a graduate assistant in the Career Services Office and the Registrar's Office while earning her doctoral degree in counseling which she received in 1995. She then became the director of financial aid at Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens, TN, a position she held for a year. She then served as the dean of students for three years.
Mahon said she believes Pfeifer will be a good fit for the job. "She has had some valuable experiences and will bring that into this job. She has always been a Tiger Black and Gold person."