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Jackson hopes to follow Hammond's footsteps again




He said he has been fortunate to follow a legend — twice. Tom Jackson IV hopes a third time is just around the corner.

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He said he has been fortunate to follow a legend — twice. Tom Jackson IV hopes a third time is just around the corner.

Jackson, 54, is a finalist for the presidency at Fort Hays State University, a position that will become vacant this summer when long-time President Edward Hammond steps down after 27 years.

Jackson currently is vice president for student affairs at the University of Louisville (Ky.), the same position held by Hammond when he took over as FHSU president in 1987. He also succeeded a dean of students at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, before working as VP for student affairs at Texas A&M University prior to going to Lousiville in 2007.

"I refer to myself as 'Ed 4.0,' " Jackson told a crowded Dreiling Lobby at Friday's news conference in Sheridan Hall, in reference to being the fourth VP to hold that position at Louisville after Hammond's departure.

"It doesn't mean that I operate like Dr. Hammond, but we share something very common," Jackson added. "He was the very first vice president of student affairs at (Louisville); he set the course for all other vice presidents thereafter, including me."

Now, Jackson hopes to follow another successful run by Hammond, who, among numerous other accomplishments at FHSU, grew enrollment from 5,500 in 1987 to nearly 13,500 this spring, including students abroad in foreign countries at FHSU partner schools.

Jackson is the fifth and final candidate to visit campus and the city of Hays during the past three weeks.

He did his homework on the university and thinks "Fort Hays has some really good things going that play into my strengths as well," including success in global education.

"The international emphasis of Fort Hays is not only an important brand," he said, "but an extremely strategic opportunity for the university."

Jackson was quick to note he realizes it wasn't just the work of one man saying, "I view the presidency as a conductor of an orchestra," and that he can see himself "conducting an amazing talent."

And he acknowledged success is because of the "hard work" of a lot of people.

"You have had an amazing leader," Jackson said of Hammond, "but also the leadership team of this university has been able to do some things that other universities in Kansas have not been able to pull off, especially during economic downturns.

"Don't underestimate that," he continued. "Fort Hays has pulled off a magic scenario to stay vibrant when others are not."

A native of Seattle, Jackson is the first in his family to graduate from college — and credits that accomplishment to a lot of people.

"That's maybe the most important role of the next president, the responsibility, if not the duty," he said, "to see that all Kansans receive an education." 

The search committee is scheduled to meet April 18, then submit its candidate recommendations to the Kansas Board of Regents in Topeka. The board anticipates announcing the new president later this month, with he or she taking office July 1.

The other four candidates are Tisa Mason, current vice president for student affairs at Fort Hays; Mirta Martin, dean of the School of Business at Virginia State University in Petersburg; Gregory Mosier, dean of the business school at the University of Nevada-Reno; and Michael Droge, president of Park University in Parkville, Mo.