Fort Hays State honors 9 retiring faculty members

HAYS, KS -- Friends and colleagues said farewell last week to nine members of the Fort Hays State University faculty who are retiring in the current academic year. Altogether, the nine retirees represent more than 15 decades of service to the university.

A wine and cheese Faculty Retirement Reception took place at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, April 26, in the Black and Gold Ballroom of the Memorial Union.

"We think of our students, staff, alumni and faculty as family, so whenever members of the faculty retire, we have a mixed reaction," Dr. Larry Gould, FHSU provost, said. "We feel a sense of loss because we'll miss them, but we also wish them well as they embark on an exciting new chapter in their lives.

The annual reception gives the university a chance to show our thanks to the retiring faculty for their many years of service."

Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, usually speaks at the retirement reception but was unable to attend this year because he was in Topeka observing legislative deliberations over the budget for Kansas Board of Regents institutions.

Gould introduced Robert Brown, Dr. Ruth "Sue" Firestone, Kathleen Kuchar and Dr. Nancy Vogel, who each spoke briefly about their years of service at FHSU. Five other retirees -- Dr. Don Fuertges, Dr. Charles Leftwich, Dr. Dale McKemey, Bob Smith and Dr. Judith Vogt -- were unable to attend the reception.

The nine retirees:
Robert Brown began his teaching career with Fort Hays State University in September 1963 as an assistant professor of music. In 1975 he was promoted to associate professor of music, specializing in teaching woodwind instruments including flute, saxophone, oboe and bassoon and also teaching general education classes in music. "I became interested in teaching music because it was fun for me and I enjoyed playing instruments," said Brown. Besides teaching, he has played a major role in the FHSU High Plains Band Camp held every summer on campus. For the past 11 years Brown has been the director of the camp and will continue to help after retirement. In retirement, he plans to stay in Hays and will continue to work in the music field by directing three high school music festivals and spend time catching up on household projects.

Dr. Sue Firestone became associated with Fort Hays State University in August 1986 as a professor and chair of the Department of Foreign Languages. Previously, she was chair of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of Missouri Columbia while her husband, Robert, taught German at the University of Colorado, Boulder. They commuted between the two cities. "One thing I enjoy most about FHSU would have to be the people that I have met and worked with," said Firestone. Firestone was named the President's Distinguished Scholar for the 2000-2001 academic year. "Being named the President's Distinguished Scholar was one of my finest moments. It was just over the top," she said. She plans to remain in Hays, finish research commitments, visit her two grown children and possibly study theatre.

Dr. Don Fuertges joined the ranks of the Fort Hays State University faculty in 1979 as chair of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and as a professor of physical education. In March 1997, he was awarded the prestigious Joy of Effort award from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. The award is given annually to individuals who contribute significantly to the values and ideals of physical education and sport, often in a non-public manner. Fuertges spends his spare time in his hobbies of golfing, fishing and hunting. In retirement, he and his wife, Penne, will be moving to Mountain Home, AR.

Returning to Fort Hays State University after being a graduate student in 1965-66 was an easy choice to make for Kathleen Kuchar. "I liked the professionalism and dedication that the Art Department teachers possessed, so it was easy for me to come back to FHSU to teach," she said. "My love of teaching and art goes back to childhood. I don't recall ever not wanting to be a teacher/artist. FHSU, what a great place to live and work! The school has been very supportive of my research and teaching endeavors and I am grateful to have been a part of this community." She also has exhibited her art widely, including 10 one- and two-person shows; 17 invitational and group shows; and more than 45 juried exhibitions. She plans to retire in Hays and participate in many of the activities offered by the university and the Hays community.

After working in city schools, completing a doctorate in education at Harvard University and becoming the first African-American appointed to the central administration team of the Boston Public Schools, Fort Hays State University was the next task to tackle for Dr. Charles Leftwich. "I liked FHSU because of the size," he said. "It is large enough to have the resources you need but small enough to have the opportunity to get to know the students and faculty." Leftwich, who earned a doctorate in education from Harvard University in 1976, became a substitute teacher in Philadelphia after serving in the infantry in the Korean War. "My interest in education is due to the high regard I hold for teachers and how they contribute to their students," he said. During retirement, Leftwich is teaching a class at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, taking care of his wife as she works full time and playing some games of chance. "I send my best to the FHSU community and Hays," he said.

Dale McKemey joined the Fort Hays State University faculty in 1990 as an associate professor of business administration. He was born in Beloit and grew up in Downs. Before teaching at FHSU, McKemey was in the United States Armed Forces and was employed as an assistant professor of management and department chair from 1975-1979 at the Air Force Institute of Technology. His hobbies include traveling, playing bridge, reading, hunting and fishing. In retirement, he and his wife, Jane, will be living in Arkansas closer to their children.

After coaching for 33 years at Wray High School in Wray, CO, Bob Smith came to Fort Hays State University with a record of 337-73-9 and began a career with the FHSU wrestling program. Besides coaching, Smith spent 33 years in education teaching industrial arts, social studies, physical education and driver education at Wray High School. He also was principal of Wray Elementary School from 1966-1977. As head wrestling coach at FHSU for eight years, Smith continued his success and developed the team into a national power. The team placed several times in the NCAA II Championships under Coach Smith and earned national rankings as one of the nation's top academic squads four straight years. In 1997 Smith was named RMAC Coach of the Year. "I didn't expect to have a career for almost 40 years," he said. "All I knew when I began was that I loved wrestling, and I wanted to coach and teach." In retirement, Smith plans to "relax, enjoy and look at the mountains every day." He and his wife, Marilyn, returned to live in Colorado upon retirement.

Fort Hays State University wasn't quite the same university when Nancy Vogel came to Hays. In 1971, FHSU had one dean and no vice presidents. She began her career as an assistant professor of English. After two years Vogel resigned to work on her doctorate at the University of Kansas. After receiving her doctorate, Vogel chose to return to FHSU. "I came back to FHSU because there was an opening in English, and I stayed because I like the freedom and friendliness of the west, the opportunities for creativity and the sense of community," she said. Vogel became interested in teaching English by winning her third-grade spelling bee. In 1995 Vogel was named the President's Distinguished Scholar. "My goals for retirement include to re-career and grow, to keep connected with family and friends and to write, perhaps not academically," said Vogel.

Dr. Judith Vogt, a native of Hutchinson, joined the Fort Hays State University faculty in the fall of 1975 as an assistant professor of biology. "FHSU appealed to me because I grew up in Kansas, so the location and the size of the university attracted me," she said. Before coming to FHSU, Vogt served with the Peace Corps as a volunteer in Togo, West Africa, as a medical technician at Colorado State Hospital, and as a sales representative for Pfizer Diagnostics in Los Angeles. "What I enjoyed most about FHSU would have to be the students," she said. She plans to retire in Michigan, but is temporarily living in Victoria, Canada, developing a computer-assisted instruction course in immunology that she is planning to teach through the FHSU Virtual College in the fall semester of 2001.

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