The president of Fort Hays State University, Edward Hammond, the longest-serving college leader in the Kansas regents system, announced Wednesday that he is retiring next year.
Hammond, 69, will leave the presidency he has held since 1987 on June 30, 2014, the end of the current fiscal year. He said he and his wife, Mary, plan to remain residents of Hays.
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The Kansas regents plan a national search to replace Hammond. He said he will help with the transition and may stay at the university in a position other than president.
“Dr. Ed Hammond has been an innovator in higher education,” regent Fred Logan of Leawood said Wednesday.
He praised Hammond for being a leader among Kansas public institutions in expanding online education and for having “forged relationships with higher education institutions in China before anyone even dreamed that could be possible.”
Hammond said his 27 years as president of Fort Hays State have been “the most challenging and rewarding work” of his 48-year career as an educator.
“It is a tremendous privilege and one that continually energizes me,” Hammond said.
The departing president said he took pride in making Fort Hays State “more vibrant, more accessible and more global.”
Hammond turns 70 in May.
“I’m in great health,” he said. “The university is in a good place. It is just the right time. My goal now is to set up the next president to be so successful they forget all about Ed Hammond.”
In the first year Hammond arrived at Fort Hays State, he led the creation of the Western Kansas Education Compact to strengthen collaborations among Fort Hays State and two-year community colleges in western Kansas.
Many key campus buildings were modernized during Hammond’s tenure. He also recently led the construction of a new training facility on campus and the Center for Networked Learning.
And Hammond promoted the installation of a new electrical distribution system and the construction of two wind turbines that transformed the university’s energy consumption, with projected savings now approaching $1 million annually.
Fort Hays State this year saw the smallest percentage increase in tuition of the six universities governed by the regents.
Hammond has said his decision to launch bachelor’s degree programs in China helped the school keep tuition low. With thousands of Chinese students paying Fort Hays State out-of-state tuition, Fort Hays State is banking more than $1.5 million a year. That revenue is used to keep costs down for Kansas students.
The Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science was started during Hammond’s tenure to give high school juniors access to college-level courses on the Fort Hays State campus. Those students graduate high school with an associate degree.
While fall enrollment at Kansas public universities decreased slightly, student population at Fort Hays State rose to a record 13,441. Hammond said at the time he expected to see enrollment hit 20,000 by the year 2020.
This year, the school became first public university in Kansas or Missouri to launch a massive open online course. MOOCs, which are free and open to anyone with Internet access, are seen broadly as a game-changing strategy for higher education.