His familiar white hair, prim suits equipped with matching tie and pocket square and friendly demeanor have graced Fort Hays State University for 25 years, and tomorrow, campus will honor President Edward H. Hammond’s milestone anniversary with a celebration fit for a king.
From 1-3 p.m. tomorrow in the Quad, Hammond, along with the Fort Hays community, will be celebrating his silver anniversary, decked out with anniversary cake, student organization banners and three life-sized cutouts of the president for photo-ops.
There will also be a Hammond look-a-like contest, with the winner receiving lunch with the president as well as a matching tie and pocket square.
The Fort Hays Singers will also be gracing the campus with the Fort Hays Alma Mater and Happy Anniversary selection.
A man with a busy schedule, Hammond has left the planning in the hands of the faculty and students on campus.
“I don’t know anything about it. They’re doing this without my involvement, so I’m not sure I know much about it, but it’s quite an honor, and I appreciate it,” Hammond said.
During his career at Fort Hays, Hammond has been involved with several projects on campus, from the Chinese partnerships to creating a technology-savvy campus, but Hammond said one of his biggest achievements is expanding the population of the students.
“I think the biggest achievement is the growth of the campus and the quality, the facilities and students being served. Those are the things that I look back on with pride,” Hammond said. “We’ve been able to grow our faculty substantially, which is excellent. We’ve been able to renovate and add additional facilities, which has positioned us for success, especially in the sciences. … I think just growing the number of students on campus has positioned us and the university to be recognized for the important role it has played for the state of Kansas.”
Along with the expansion of population to the campus as one of his shining achievements, Hammond added that it has been one of the hardest to achieve because of declining high school graduate rates in Western Kansas.
“Over the last 25 years, we’re graduating almost 50 percent less high school graduates in the western half of the state than we did before. So I would say that that has been an important part of its legacy. And a significant component of that is the virtual college,” Hammond said. “There’s a lot of people in the western part of the state that can’t just pick up and move to Hays for their education.”
As with all walks of life, Hammond admitted to having regrets. His biggest dealt with the expansion of our campus, not in numbers but in architecture.
“A number of years back, we were looking to expand our campus housing, and we chose not to do it because there were some people coming in that wanted to invest in some housing across the railroad tracks,” Hammond said. “If I had to do it all over again, I think I would have gone ahead with our plan to expand our resident facilities. We’re getting them now, but we would have been way ahead if we would have gone ahead at that point.”
When Hammond was asked to sum up his career in two words, the president had two in mind that reflected both his legacy and the legacy of those on campus who have supported him over the years.
“Lucky and blessed,” Hammond said. “I think I’m lucky to be at Fort Hays State University, and I’m blessed to have worked with such wonderful faculty and staff over that period of time.”