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Final presidential candidate visits FHSU

4/10/2014

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

He walked up and down the aisles, visiting with people and shaking their hands, on a mission to greet each and every person in the room.

Then, Tom Jackson Jr. captivated the audience with several stories at a Thursday afternoon reception.

Jackson, 54, is the fifth and final candidate for the Fort Hays State University presidency to visit the campus and the city of Hays. He is hoping to follow in the footsteps of longtime FHSU president Edward Hammond, who announced during the fall semester he will retire this summer.

Jackson, wearing a Fort Hays black-and-gold striped tie, appeared to delight in telling stories, then stayed afterward at the Robbins Center in an effort to personally say hello to everyone in the room.

He brought up how the University of Louisville is known for another Tom Jackson, the ESPN analyst who played linebacker for the Cardinal football team in the early 1970s, then went on to star for the Denver Broncos.

And another Tom Jackson worked at Fort Hays for 30 years, the last six as dean of graduate studies and research and vice provost of academic affairs, before leaving Hays in 2006.

In yet another coincidence, the Tom Jackson visiting Hays the past two days currently holds the same office, vice president for student affairs, as did Hammond before coming to Fort Hays as president in 1987.

"A good rule of thumb is, wherever there's a Tom Jackson and an Ed Hammond, I tend to follow," Jackson said with a smile.

Jackson — whose dad was born and raised in Kansas City, Kan., is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force — served for several years in the military himself, including the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas State Guard.

A native of Seattle, Jackson earned his bachelor’s degree from Southwest State University in Marshall, Minn.; his master’s from Shippenburg University in Pennsylvania; and his doctorate from the University of La Verne in California.

He is married with two children, a 16-year-old son, TJ, and a 12-year-old daughter, Chandi. Because it is the first week following spring break, Jackson said he and his wife, Mona Kumar Jackson, decided she should stay home with the children while he made his trip to Hays.

"Should we be so fortunate to come to Fort Hays, she will be very involved with the community," he said of his wife. "That is something she does very well and she thrives on doing it; hopefully you will have a chance to meet her at some point in the future."

Jackson didn't talk much about himself, but his philosophy came out loud and clear in his stories.

"In education, we do things with the best intentions, hoping you become something greater than you are, and that's what I believe in as educator," he said. "We as college educators don't have any idea what our students will become, so we teach them, we nurture them, we grow them.

"For me, as the president of Fort Hays, I think it is important that we cultivate that type of citizenry," he continued, "because society asks great things of us, and usually asks a college graduate."

After handing over the microphone to Denis Miller, chair of the presidential search committee, Jackson chose to spend the rest of his time at the reception mingling with the crowd.

"I want you to get to know me and get to know each other," he said.

Jackson will answer questions at a Friday morning press conference, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in the Dreiling Lobby of Sheridan Hall.

Following his visit, the search committee will meet to decide which candidates to forward to the Kansas Board of Regents for interviews. The board anticipates naming the new president sometime during the week of April 28.

The next president, only the ninth in the 112-year history of Fort Hays, will take over July 1.