FHSU a rock solid choice for professor's son

Neuhauser Father and Son

By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations

His parents involved him in life choices from the time he was a little boy.

Which elementary school would you like to attend, Ken and Barb Neuhauser asked their only child, Kris. What activities would you like to participate in, they asked the tow-headed youngster as he blossomed at Wilson Elementary School in Hays.

Which colleges would you like to visit was the question of the day as Kris approached graduation from Hays High School in 2010.

A native of Hays, Kris chose Fort Hays State University, where his dad is a professor of geosciences.

That choice made his parents happy. As a dependent of an FHSU employee, Kris would save a lot of money on tuition. And although he chose to live on campus and away from the family home, the Neuhausers would get to see Kris about any time they wanted.

Especially when Kris announced after his sophomore year he had decided what his major was going to be -- geology.

"It was exciting," Ken said. "It was going to be a new thing, and I was honored in the respect that it was a different opportunity to teach him ideals, not just as a father but as his teacher."

Father and son met up in several classes as Kris made his way through the geosciences program, focusing on environmental geology. Frequent meetings in Tomanek Hall will continue for the Neuhausers the next couple of years.

Saturday, Kris will graduate with his bachelor's degree in geosciences, and he has decided to stay on at Fort Hays State and work on his master's degree. He has been accepted for a graduate assistantship in the Department of Geosciences.

First things first, though. The Neuhausers are preparing for a big graduation celebration Saturday that will include relatives from their native Wisconsin and California.

"I'll be a very proud dad," Ken admitted. "I'll be in the second row on the right side and I hope I can sneak out and shake his hand, maybe give him a hug."

Kris said that while he had other majors in the back of his mind, "I already knew about geology, and once I got into it, I liked it more and more."

"He's been immersed in geology because of me," Ken said, "but we let him choose what he wanted to take in college, and where to go to college."

Kris thought about attending Kansas State University, and his first choices for majors were either architecture or graphic design.

"My parents had encouraged me to go wherever I wanted and to (major in) whatever I wanted, " Kris said. "But I've always liked geology, and once I got into more of the classes, the more I liked it."

So much so that he worked in the geosciences office during the summers and plans to start on research for his master's this summer.

"Little by little, he got exposed to a lot of things," Ken said. "He's been able to be involved with hands-on research, writing and the thinking process."

That exposure started at a very young age for Kris, who attended his first field camp in Colorado before he had even celebrated his second birthday. The camp is a six-credit course called Field Studies in Geosciences that Ken has taught in the summers.

Kris joined his father and mother at field camp each and every year thereafter until high school.

One of his first gifts was a rock hammer -- a full-sized one.

"He had his rock hammer and belt and would go up and down the hills and hike with us," Ken said.

Kris was involved in a variety of activities growing up. He played football, basketball and golf, worked on the Hays High Web team and played saxophone in the HHS band.

But field camp was an annual experience Kris always looked forward to and eventually, he grew into his rock hammer, so to speak.

Last year, Kris participated in field camp as a student for the first time, and he said "that gave me a whole different look."

He said he thinks his dad is a good teacher and "he doesn't go easy on me or anything."
On Saturday, though, it will be understandable if Ken Neuhauser is wearing the hat of father rather than professor.

"It's been a journey for Kris," Ken said. "I'll see me in him, crossing that stage. I'm looking forward to it."

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