By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Students, faculty and staff at Fort Hays State University were all a part of significant history when they returned to campus this fall, greeted by the first female president in the 112-year history of the school.

They will get a chance to participate in another historical event Friday, at Mirta Martin's presidential inauguration.

The inauguration, which Martin calls "a once-in-a-lifetime generation event," is set for 10 a.m. in FHSU's Gross Memorial Coliseum. Friday is the final day before fall break begins, and she is calling off classes so the entire campus has the chance to participate.

The public is invited as well.

"This is just not about me; this is about the entire campus community, the Hays community," said Martin, who was announced as FHSU's ninth president May 2, succeeding Edward Hammond, who retired from the position after 27 years. "It's been nearly 30 years since there's been an inauguration here. This is exciting."

Everyone attending will receive a commemorative coin as a keepsake of the event, and a reception will immediately follow in Cunningham Hall.

FHSU students in attendance also will get a chance to win a book scholarship for the spring semester.

A grand prize of $1,000 will include a $500 check and a $500 gift card to the University Bookstore, and eight more second-place prizes of $500 each also will be awarded. Students must swipe their TigerCard to be eligible to win.

"They are all part of my family now, and I love having the kids around me," said Martin, who has attended numerous student events since her arrival in Hays in June, ranging from athletic events to national academic competitions. "So naturally, I want them to be able to celebrate this historical event with me."

Martin also is encouraging everyone to wear their Tiger gold.

Members of the Kansas Board of Regents will attend, as well as other dignitaries.

And Martin's far-flung immediate family will come to help celebrate -- her husband and son from Virginia, her daughter from Colorado, her mom from Miami and her dad from Cuba.

Martin is a native of Cuba, spent most of her childhood in Spain and came to America to attend college. She was serving as dean of the Reginald F. Lewis School of Business at Virginia State University in Petersburg when she learned of the FHSU opening.

After Hammond announced his impending retirement date in October 2013, a search committee narrowed the long list of applicants for his replacement to 10 for an off-site interview at Hays Regional Airport.

Martin made the list of five finalists who were brought to campus in the spring. The Regents made the announcement of the university's new president in early May, and Martin began her new job July 1.

Martin took an active role in the Hays community immediately, and when the Regents set the date for her inauguration, she decided she wanted to have a grand celebration with her new family.

"As residents of Hays, Ellis County and our region, you are part of the Fort Hays State family, and I want you to celebrate with me," she said. "You are all part of my family now. This is our inauguration, not just my inauguration. Please accept this personal invitation from me to you. This historic celebration will not be complete without you."