The state of Kansas is losing the services, vision and talent of an outstanding university president with Ed Hammond’s announcement he will retire as president of Fort Hays State University.
Hammond will be stepping down from the school’s presidency at the end of the upcoming spring semester after a highly successful 27-year record of sound, visionary leadership. No one is indispensable, but he will be tough to replace.
Geographically, Fort Hays State University is in the less-populated western part of the state, in a way, out of the public’s eye. This didn’t stop Hammond from being committed to building the school into a stronger, larger institution with innovative academic programs. Often, he was a bur under the saddle of Kansas State and Kansas University leaders with his promotional efforts on behalf of Fort Hays State, his ability to hold tuition costs down compared to other Kansas Board of Regents universities, his efforts to have Fort Hays State looked upon as the “university of western Kansas,” his success in making Fort Hays State the first to introduce numerous academic programs and other achievements.
He is an excellent communicator and has charisma and charm. He is a good salesman and has developed enthusiasm and excitement among his faculty as well as alumni and friends.
Fort Hays State University has improved its academic program, its enrollment and its position within the state, year after year under Hammond’s leadership.
Each year, Hammond, along with several of his senior administrators, tour the state, visiting media representatives in numerous towns along with alumni of the school offering updates on Fort Hays State activities and plans for the future and showing how the university compares with other Regents universities in many categories.
The state’s system of higher education needs more Ed Hammonds. Those who will be serving on the search committee to select Hammond’s replacement face a tough and extremely important challenge. Too often, in recent years, those serving on screening and selection committees to fill important positions at our universities have failed to do a thorough job in searching, screening and aiming for the best.
There is no justification to settle for second best when selecting the individual to follow Hammond and take over the responsibility of leading Fort Hays state to even higher levels of academic excellence and maintaining its role as a major asset for the state.