Every year I like to look back and create a David Letterman-style “top 10 list”. The list, roughly in chronological order, is by no means exhaustive – there are good stories and good news every day at Fort Hays State University. However, it does provide a way to look back and tell about some of the many blessings we have enjoyed in 2021. So, in keeping with tradition, here is my top 10 list for 2021.
March brought the exciting news that starting in the fall of 2021, thanks to the generosity of the Schmidt Foundation, five students would receive full scholarships at FHSU. The Schmidt Foundation scholarship includes 30 hours of tuition and fees for fall and spring courses, books, accommodation, and board over a four-year period. Each year, five students will be selected. So, in the fall of 2024, we will have 20 Schmidt Foundation scholars on campus.
Speaking of outstanding students, we were wowed by the accomplishments of Brynn Wooten, a sophomore from Westminster, Colorado, who was named the 2021 Barry Goldwater Fellow in May. This nationally competitive scholarship will fully fund her final two years of undergraduate study. Brynn’s passion for science, especially paleobiology, began at a young age as a visitor to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History. During her college research process, she learned of the Sternberg Museum’s affiliation with the state of Fort Hays and immediately decided that she wanted to become a tiger. Brynn is the first FHSU student to receive this prestigious award.
The return to the opening ceremonies in person was certainly a highlight of 2021. The thrill of seeing the students walk through the opening stage again was fantastic. Hats off to the planning committee for carefully balancing honoring our students and their families with best health and safety practices.
In June, the Kansas Board of Regents approved our new 2022 regional tuition fees for on-campus students. The State of Fort Hays has doubled its commitment to providing quality accessible education by making the bold decision to redefine the meaning of regional tuition fees on campus. We are now offering the equivalent of state tuition fees to students in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, from Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. I look forward to welcoming more home students to Hays, America!
Over the summer, we celebrated the accomplishments of two student-athletes: basketball star Whitney Randall received the MIAA Student-Athlete of the Year Award for Winter, and pole vaulter Ryan Stanley won the MIAA Men’s Spring Student-Athlete Award. the award of the year after winning the NCAA Division II National Championship in the pole vault. Extraordinary achievements for the two student-athletes. Proud tiger!
The full return to face-to-face classes and a myriad of student activities, from soccer to theater, was a spectacular highlight in fall 2021.
In August, we dedicated the Schmidt Foundation Center for Art and Design. I especially enjoyed listening to the personal stories of Bob and Pat Schmidt, who lived almost 69 years of married life together before the deaths of Pat in 2015 and Bob in 2017. The couple were known for their love of FHSU and its philanthropic support. With a generous donation of $ 2.5 million, the Schmidt Foundation continued Bob and Pat’s legacy and love for education, the arts and the state of Fort Hays by giving a building their name – A building that the couple would have been in love with.
Speaking of extraordinary generosity, September concluded our Journey campaign. The Journey campaign launched Homecoming 2016 with the goal of raising $ 100 million to support FHSU and its students over a five-year period. These years have passed and not only has this ambitious goal been achieved, it has been surpassed. The Journey campaign raised a total of $ 112,769,457!
In October, the university held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Fischli-Wills Center for Student Success. Similar to the Center for Art and Design, this celebration paid tribute to two extraordinary personalities, the late Richard Fischli and Dolores Wills-Fischli. Richard and Dolores began their journey with the state of Fort Hays as two rural Kansas children pursuing a college education. Both received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from FHSU in the 1950s, then moved to Southern California. After retiring from their teaching career, the Fischlis returned home to Logan, Kansas. Today, this impressive new facility has become a reality thanks to a $ 5 million donation from the Fischlis estate. While the generous couple are no longer with us, their legacy of influential students will live on in Fort Hays State.
In view of our goal of improving lives, our Criminal Justice Department Chair Dr. Tamara Lynn – in partnership with University Police Chief Ed Howell – has set up a De-escalation Center. With invaluable help from US Senator Jerry Moran, the FHSU began our Thanksgiving break by celebrating a $ 1.25 million federal grant for the training center. The Fort Hays State Regional Training Center will train police in de-escalating potentially dangerous situations using a psychological approach. The training provided by FHSU places the university at the forefront of this vital law enforcement training initiative.
And while I mentioned 10 things, like that extra cookie in a dozen bakers, I have to add how excited I am, that at the time of writing our men’s and women’s basketball teams were undefeated and our women were ranked No. 1. 1 in the NCAA Division II Coaching Survey. Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of what will appear in my top 10 list for 2022.
I end 2021 and begin 2022 by expressing my deepest gratitude to our faculty and staff for their resilience and innovation, never losing sight of our enduring commitment to caring for our students. Simply put, our faculty and staff rose to the challenge in 2021 and continued to provide robust support services and exceptional teaching and learning experiences in a thoughtful, impactful and personal way. I also thank our students for trusting Fort Hays State University and working together to create an environment of respect and kindness.
Happy New Year to you and yours – and to the FHSU!