Homecoming festivities over the weekend at Fort Hays State University included the dedication of a new technology center.
According to the school, the new state-of-the-art Center for Applied Technology building is home to industrial technology, technology and engineering teacher education, as well as the art studio of sculpture, blacksmithing and foundry.
The 58,000-square-foot, two story facility was completed in August, in time for the fall 2017 semester.
The exterior incorporates the traditional limestone of other campus buildings along with classic industrial elements. Inside are classrooms, seminar rooms, offices and numerous laboratories ranging from woodworking and metalworking to plastics, robotics and computer-aided design, as well as studios for sculpture, blacksmithing and metal foundry.
Jose Vital, a fifth-year senior from Garden City, was pleased about the timing, considering he is on schedule to graduate in May.
“It’s a cool thing to wake up in the morning, walk to school and see this amazing infrastructure,” Vital said. “As a student here, it makes you feel proud.
“You ask yourself where the creativity is, where do ideas become a reality?” Vital began as he addressed the crowd. “Look behind me, ladies and gentlemen – in the Center of Applied Technology and Sculpture.”
Dr. Andy Tompkins, interim president of FHSU, was pleased with the attendance.
“It seems appropriate to me that we are dedicating this beautiful facility on homecoming weekend so that it can become a source of pride and a beacon of hope for our students and alumni,” he said, “that the future of Fort Hays State University continues to be forward thinking and world ready.”
Vital called the building a dream-come-true for a lot of people, especially Kim Stewart, chair of the Department of Applied Technology.
Stewart, an FHSU alum who graduated from the technology studies program and has taught at his alma mater for 20-plus years, was visiting one day about five years ago with Dr. Fred Ruda, then chair of the department.
“Fort Hays State was starting to renovate the campus and construct buildings,” Stewart said. “One morning I asked Fred if applied technology would ever have an opportunity to build a new facility. Fred turned to me and said, ‘It’s up to us.’ ”
Ruda went on to tell Stewart that if they updated their program of study, added more programs of study and curriculum and recruited more students, FHSU would have a new technology center.
Tragically, Ruda died in a vehicle accident in 2012. But Stewart vowed to carry on his boss’ legacy. Stewart ultimately succeeded Ruda as department chair and continued working toward their ultimate goal.
Construction began in 2016 on the new CAT building, and Stewart watched its progress daily as he drove by the construction project on his way to work.
One of the improvements of which the department is proudest is its growth in the past five years – from 105 majors in 2012 to 181 today.
Stewart used the phrase, “It’s up to us,” frequently throughout his talk Friday as he thanked faculty, staff and administration, building engineers, students and community members.
He got a little choked up when he announced to the crowd that the atrium would be named the “Fred Ruda Gateway to Technology Education.”
Stewart paused momentarily and continued on, just as Ruda would have wanted.
“ ‘It’s up to us’ is really about the people spending time with us today, to celebrate the future for the students in applied technology and sculpture and dedicating this awesome building,” he said.
Karrie Simpson Voth, chair of the Department of Art and Design, said her department and applied technology are “a perfect match.”
“Of all the art and design media, sculpture is the broadest in terms of scale, materials and processes,” she said. “The new facility is providing the opportunity for students to make much larger works, as well as for outside organizations through commissions. We look forward to watching the success of the program and its students flourish.”
A special tribute was also given to Davis Hall, home of the applied technology department for 65 years. Master of Ceremonies Jon Armstrong, director of development for the FHSU Foundation, told the crowd to look across the street at Davis, currently undergoing demolition.
“Stare at the building and think of that special room, office or even special conversation you may have had in Davis,” Armstrong began. “I want you all to remember that the past sets us up for, and allows us to embrace, the future. Now as you turn and look forward, you are embracing and celebrating the future of our new Center for Applied Technology.”
Among those present at the dedication were administrators of the Hays campus of North Central Kansas Technical College. NCK Tech has a partnership with Fort Hays State that allows students at the technical college to take classes such as welding on the FHSU campus.
Tompkins applauded the integration of Fort Hays State’s applied technology programs with the sculpture program and the space provided to further its partnership with NCK Tech.
“It’s a real benefit to our students and to our faculty as they collaborate on how best to meet the needs of our students and business and industry,” Tompkins said, stressing that the CAT building will fulfill many requirements for its students – now and in the future.
“The Kansas Board of Regents has focused our higher education system on achieving results that benefit our students, business and industry and the future of our state,” Tompkins said. “This Center for Applied Technology has been designed to meet that vision.”
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