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Hammond has 2 reasons to celebrate




It's not easy to surprise Edward Hammond.

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It's not easy to surprise Edward Hammond.

So chalk one up for his wife, Mary, and his secretary, Karen Allen.

Hammond, in his last few weeks as Fort Hays State University president, was surprised with a Friday afternoon party in the quad on campus.

The reason for the party was two-fold. He is retiring from the presidency this summer after 27 years, and his 70th birthday is today.

"I'm not usually at a loss for words," Hammond said afterward. "But I was mumbling and jumbling up there (at the podium). To think of all the work that people put into that, for me.

"Definitely surprised," he added. "I got kind of emotional there."

That was understandable after the whirlwind day. His replacement in the presidency, Mirta Martin, was announced and introduced at a Kansas Board of Regents meeting in the Memorial Union that morning.

Following a reception for Martin, she and Hammond hosted the Half Century Club luncheon at Sternberg Museum of Natural History, and Hammond was planning to have Martin and her husband, John, over to his house for dinner Friday night. That was vetoed, by several women.

"(Martin) said that wouldn't work because she had to get back (to her home in Virginia)," Hammond said. "I didn't realize I was throwing wrenches in all these plans."

Hammond was on his office phone at mid-afternoon Friday when one of his vice presidents insisted he hurry because they were going to be late for a meeting.

Once he reached the lobby of Sheridan Hall, he knew something was up. Dozens of people were gathered outside.

Hammond was all smiles as he walked out the door.

The fun just had begun.

A black-and-gold painted antique fire truck pulled up to the curb, full of Hammond's children and grandchildren, his two brothers' families and other close friends.

"I thought, 'Whoa, how did they do this?' " Hammond said.

The firetruck is owned by Stephen Tebo from Boulder, Colo., a longtime friend of Hammond's who collects antique cars and specialty vehicles.

Tebo leads a parade down Pearl Street in Boulder the Friday night before Saturday home football games for the University of Colorado, which just happens to have the same black and gold school colors.

"I have been there (in Boulder) at a parade with him, and I told him once he should bring the truck to Hays sometime," said Hammond, laughing. "I meant for homecoming or something, then Mary and he cooked this up."

After a trip around campus on the firetruck, Tebo pulled into the circle drive of the Memorial Union, where faculty -- past and present -- friends, alumni and the Fort Hays band had gathered for cake and lemonade in the quad.

"After the weather we've had the past few days, this is such a blessing, isn't it," FHSU Director of Financial Assistance Craig Karlin said in reference to blustery, cool weather several days earlier in the week.

Kent Steward, director of University Relations, welcomed the crowd before giving the mic to Hammond.

"I'm going to go way out on a limb," he began, "and say, 'This university is the only one in the United States, and probably in the world, that announced a new president in the morning and had a retirement party and a birthday party (for the outgoing president) in the afternoon.' "