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Hammond reflects on long career at FHSU

10/31/2013

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

He watched his father retire "at the top of his game," and Edward Hammond wanted to the same.

That's why on Wednesday he announced several months ahead of time his intentions to step down from his presidency at Fort Hays State University in June 2014.

"The university is doing very well," said Hammond, who last spring began his 27th year as the eighth FHSU president, the longest tenured top leader in school history. "It's right for the university; it's right for me personally."

Hammond, who will turn 70 in May, has three grown children and seven grandchildren who live in three different states.

"The oldest two (granddaughters) are 12 years old, and I've only seen them dance once and play athletics once," Hammond said. "I want to be able to spend more time with them."

While he plans to travel to see more of his grandchildren's activities, Hammond said that he and his wife, Mary, will "pitch their tent" in Hays.

"We've both always lived in college towns," he said. "And Hays is the best place to be."

Hays definitely grew on Hammond when he brought his young family to Kansas from Louisville, Ky., where he had worked as vice president of student affairs at the University of Louisville for 11 years.

Hammond celebrated his 43rd birthday on the same day FHSU threw a welcoming party on campus on May 4, 1987, and he would go on to do much more celebrating over the next quarter century.

Numerous old buildings on campus have been renovated under his direction, as well as an abundance of new construction.

Under the Hammond administration, Fort Hays long has been able to boast of the lowest tuition rates of the Regents institutions.

Fort Hays has nearly tripled its enrollment, both in the United States and globally, in Hammond's 26-plus years and this fall hit an all-time high of 13,441 students, including 4,767 on campus.

"Fort Hays has great deans, great faculty," Hammond said, "and it's in a perfect position to move forward."

Moving forward became a way of life for Fort Hays under Hammond, said Larry Getty, director of budget and planning who has worked closely with Hammond from Day One.

"The growth, how he's established the university on the worldwide map," Getty said without hesitation when asked to name what he thought was Hammond's number one contribution to Fort Hays.

"He works at a high pace," Getty added, "and he encourages others to do the same."

Hammond probably won't change that pace all that much after moving on to his next chapter of life.

"If I'm an effective leader, I'm only leading 25 percent of the time; then I become a fundraiser and a cheerleader," Hammond said. "I can be a fundraiser and a cheerleader for Fort Hays State University without being president."

But all that's down the line a bit.

Hammond still has eight months to get in his share of leading. And don't expect him to slow any down the stretch, Getty said.

"I've had several bosses retire, and that last year, they are gearing back," Getty said, who added Hammond "is showing no evidence of that."

Getty, 71, said he and Hammond often talk about how lucky they are to like their jobs.

"He and I both say we don't work," said Getty, who works one floor down from Hammond's third-floor office in Sheridan Hall. "We come to work and enjoy getting things done."

Come next spring and summer, Hammond plans to still get things done, but maybe at a slower pace.

"This is a very consuming 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week job," Hammond said of the presidency. "The only way to do this job is 100 percent, or more."

Harry Craig, a member of the Board of Regents during Hammond's early years, well knows the demands that come along with the title of president.

"The one thing we always enjoyed as regents is that (Hammond) was always so innovative and would tell us about new and unusual things Fort Hays was trying," said Craig, former president and CEO of Martin Tractor Co. in Topeka. "He is a very progressive president, and he was way ahead of his time."

Craig and his family sold their business in 2009 and now -- at 74 years old -- he teaches at Washburn University.

Teaching is one goal of Hammond's when he stays on at FHSU as a consultant for a year after he retires.

"We want to still remain young and look through the eyes of younger (students)," Craig said.

"I guess maybe I'm not really retiring," Hammond said Wednesday afternoon, trying to get used to that word after his news went public. "I'm just stepping down from the presidency."