History of Fort Hays State University


Eight presidents have guided Fort Hays State University through the trials and tribulations. Even though they all had various aspirations, they all had only one goal in mind - to make FHSU a beacon of education for the plains of western Kansas.


William S. Picken

William S. Picken's official title was principal, even though he is usually referred to as the university's first president. He also took on many other responsibilities including those of registrar, dean and field agent, financial officer, and he taught full time. According to many, the school survived primarily through the efforts of Principal Picken because he worked hard for the school and aggressively sought to obtain legislative support. The class schedule was for four terms of 10 weeks each during the 1902-1903 school year with a total of 121 students being enrolled throughout the year.

William A. Lewis

William A. Lewis became the first administrator to be recognized with the title of president. He played a key role in expanding the school in both academics and size. Along with initiating new traditions and loyalties, he believed that education is an attitude rather than a series of specific facts taught. He also saw that when music and drama, athletics, and the curriculum were combined, students who participated in them were learning leadership. Lewis believed that in order for western Kansas to survive, there must be leaders in the small towns.

Clarence E. Rarick
(1933 - 1941)

Clarence E. Rarick led the university through the Great Depression, extended drought, crop failures, and dust storms, while continuing the tradition of expansion. During his presidency the first dormitories developed and the instructors were consolidated into four groups - the biological sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Rarick helped provide students with job opportunities. Rarick stated, "Institutions, after all, are only mirrors in which are reflected the ideals, the ambitions, the hopes, the successes, and even failures of its leaders."

Lyman D. Wooster
(1941 - 1949)

Lyman D. Wooster served FHSU for 32 years before becoming the university's fourth president. During his administration, WWII caused the college much loss, including several faculty members along with the increases and decreases in enrollment. Enrollment for the fall of 1941 broke 1,000, despite the draft. However, student housing was improved, more classes were offered, including short, weekend classes and workshops for teachers and returning soldiers as well as military training programs. Plans also were developed for several additional buildings.

Morton C. Cunningham
(1949 - 1969)

Morton C. Cunningham was the first president to have an inauguration ceremony since Lewis' 36 years before. He became known as the builder president as a result of the building and remodeling period following the war. The numerous buildings constructed during his presidency included the president's home and several other buildings received additions. Cunningham also focused on enhancing the curriculum and adding new programs such as nursing and radio broadcasting.

John W. Gustad
(1969 - 1975)

John W. Gustad was an accomplished author and editor when he took command of the school. With his guidance, the general education program was created which encouraged students to take classes in areas outside of their academic majors. He established the positions of vice president of academic affairs and deans of colleges. Perhaps his most important legacy is laying the foundation for the college to transition to a university. Gustad once said, "we need to organize ourselves so that we may become stronger thorough successfully meeting our challenges, and capitalize on our opportunities."

Gerald W. Tomanek
(1975 - 1987)

Gerald W. Tomanek's affiliation with FHSU began early — both of his parents attended, he received both his bachelor's and master's degrees from the school, he began his teaching career here in 1947, and he held several prominent positions in the faculty. He helped develop off-campus programs and educational centers at surrounding community colleges. More academic programs were added, including an animal science laboratory. Several buildings were remodeled while others were built. Rather than destroying Sheridan Coliseum, renovation began shortly before his retirement.

Edward H. Hammond
(1987 - 2014)

Edward H. Hammond's administration has been one of growth. His biggest goal is to merge technology with education. Technology has been incorporated into every classroom. On-campus enrollment has increased and a Virtual College has attracted many students who are unable to travel to attend classes. His "Affordable Success" campaign has resulted in more faculty and scholarship awards have increased. He also has led the modernization and renovation of many buildings on campus.

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