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'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 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
(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
(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.
(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.
(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."
(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.
(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.