Fort Hays State University graduates crossed the stage Friday and Saturday mornings at Gross Memorial Coliseum to cheers from family and friends, but nursing students shared a more personal recognition ceremony Friday afternoon.

At the recognition program in Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center, 24 graduates receiving their bachelors of science in nursing were joined onstage by people of their choosing to place the department’s nursing pin on them.

The pin, in the shape of a shield, contains images of FHSU history and medicine, including the blockhouse of the U.S. fort where the university got its start, the cupola and colonnade that once graced Picken Hall, and the caduceus of medicine and the Florence Nightingale lamp.

As each graduate’s name was called, those joining them onstage were also introduced to the crowd by department chair Jenny Manry.

Lorren Williams chose to have her boyfriend, Ricky Huse, and her grandfather, Bob McCann, of Overbrook, join her. She called her grandfather her role model.

She and Huse have been together for six years, including four years in Hays while Williams pursued her degree. He worked in insurance sales during that time. She also coached middle school basketball and high school softball and was a manager at Thirsty’s Brew Pub and Grill, 2704 Vine.

“He’s seen the ups and downs, the tears, the anger, the disappointment,” she said of Huse. “He’s just been my rock throughout all nursing school, and to have him and my grandpa up there together with me is just something I’ll remember forever.”

“It’s awesome,” Huse said of the experience. “I saw the hard work that she put in.”

Williams will soon start a job at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

Manry, in her opening remarks, said the FHSU nursing department is much like a family itself. Introducing the faculty, she acknowledged the close relationships they develop with the students.

“We have several of the graduates up here on the stage, they would not have made it this far without teachers, advisors and sometimes just friends,” she said.

Manry said students tell her “I didn’t only have a teacher, I have a friend that I can talk to and to just help get through this semester with.”

She also praised the students for getting through a “big semester” that included a $1 million remodel of more than half of Stroup Hall.

“These students were champions. They spent part of their schooling over at Hays Medical Center on the third floor, learning how to do all their clinicals there. I have to say, I never heard one complaint,” she said.

In addition, the department had visits from a national accreditation board and the state board of nursing this semester, she said. For both visits, Manry sought feedback from the students.

“Every time they left, they said you have the best students we have ever met. They are professional, and they are at Fort Hays because they feel that you honestly have the best program in the state,” Manry said.