Fort Hays Traditions – Concerts

I was asked to speak at an event sponsored by the student alumni group, Tigers4Ever, last evening at the Robbins Center. The panel discussion was on the traditions of Fort Hays State, and one tradition that was talked about was the concerts. After Gross Memorial Coliseum was opened in 1973, the Memorial Union Activities Board sponsored a number of concerts which featured big name rock stars and country stars, as well as comedians.

Mac Davis was featured in the opening concert on October 18, 1973, and Henry Mancini followed two days later. Comedians Bob Hope and Lily Tomlin were here in 1974 and 1976, respectively. David Brenner appeared as the opening act to Barry Manilow on October 18, 1975. The top five concerts in attendance were as follows:

  1. John Cougar (October 16, 1982) – 7200 – this was the only sell-out of all the concerts and was during the time his album “American Fool” with hit singles “Hurts So Good” and “Jack and Diane” were at the top of the charts.
  2. J. Geils Band (April 17, 1982) – 7070 – this was just after their “Freeze Frame” album with the single “Centerfold” had gone to the top of the charts in early 1982.
  3. Pat Benatar (November 13, 1982) – 6990 – in August 1981, her video for “You Better Run” was the second clip ever aired by MTV.
  4. Chicago (March 7, 1975) – 6989 – they came here right before their 8th album, “Chicago VIII” was released on March 24.
  5. Alabama (April 6, 1986) – 6558 – this was the first of two concerts they did here in the coliseum, and Alabama had released their first “Greatest Hits” album in January. The second time they were here was two years later on April 15, 1988 with an attendance of only 2800.


The last concerts from 1991-1996 featured all country artists including Sawyer Brown who were here three different times with opening acts Chris LeDoux, Diamond Rio, and Toby Keith. Clay Walker was the last concert played in the Gross Memorial Coliseum on April 13, 1996. The Memorial Union has hung the concert posters along the hallway next to Mondos and the Cody Commons in their basement. The complete list of the concerts is available in the University Archives.


John Cougar pulled FHSU student Mary Beth Bechard onto the stage with him – from the 1983 Reveille



Welcome (Back) Our New Library Director

August 11, 2014 marks a new beginning for Forsyth Library with Mrs. Deborah Ludwig becoming our new director. Her title is Dean of Forsyth Library and she will report to the Provost, as well as serve on the President’s Cabinet. The library staff is very pleased to have her here, and we are looking forward to working with her.

While this may be a new position for Deb, she has a familiarity with Forsyth Library and FHSU because of her job here in 1988-1990. She was hired as a Catalog Librarian for a grant-funded project to finish up the implementation for NOTIS. Locally, the system was called TOPCAT, and it was the first automated online catalog system in the library. When she left FHSU, she went to work at the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library where they were implementing a similar automation project. A few years later, she worked at Johnson County Community College, and then went to the University of Kansas where she worked for over 12 years. The following is from a news release from KU Libraries dated Friday, July 18: Lorraine J. Haricombe, dean of KU Libraries – “During her tenure, Deb exhibited strong leadership and vision, launching the Center for Digital Scholarship and blazing a trail that ensured our strong position in this area today. She was instrumental in establishing the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities, an ever-evolving partnership with KU’s Hall Center for the Humanities and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.” The last year Deb was at KU, she was the Assistant Dean of Innovation & Strategy.

Libraries are evolving to include more physical study spaces and provide opportunities to create virtual spaces. As Dean of Forsyth Library, Deb is wanting to explore what we can do to help students and faculty be successful throughout their time here at FHSU. She wants the library to be a space that is inviting and makes you want to stay awhile as you use its facilities for research and study.

When asked what kind of changes she has seen here at FHSU since 1990, Deb stated that the expansion of the Virtual College was one of the biggest changes. Another change is obviously the technology that FHSU has instituted through the years within the classrooms, meeting spaces, and the library.

The job of Catalog Librarian at FHSU was Deb’s first job after receiving her Master’s Degree in Library Science. She says that she feels like she has come back home and that her career has come full circle. Welcome back, Mrs. Ludwig!




May 5, 1864



Today marks the 150th anniversary of the death of General Alexander Hays at the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia during the Civil War. Alexander Hays, a Union General, died on May 5, 1864. Fort Hays was named after General Hays, and the city of Hays and the university took their names from Fort Hays.

Fort Fletcher, located 14 miles southeast of the present city of Hays, had been established in October 1865. After being abandoned on May 5, 1866, Fort Fletcher was reactivated on October 17. A month later, its name was changed to Fort Hays by General Winifield Scott Hancock to honor his classmate at West Point.

The military headquarters wanted to move Fort Hays to be closer to the railroad that had reached Ellis County by 1867. Before they made the decision to do so, a flood hit the post on June 7 and killed seven soldiers and two civilians in the process of destroying the fort grounds. On June 23, 1867, Fort Hays was occupied at its new location about one mile south of the railroad near the now extinct town site of Rome. Just north of Rome, there were three sections of land that had been purchased by the Big Creek Land Company from the railroad. That land was registered on July 23, 1867 at Ellsworth County; at the same time, the Big Creek Land Company made an agreement with the railroad to provide a station and a depot in the new town called Hays City. 


Oliva, Leo C. “Fort Hays: Keeping Peace on the Plains”. Topeka, KS: Kansas State Historical Society, 1996.

Mahood, Wayne. “Alexander “Fighting Elleck” Hays: The Life of a Civil War General, From West Point to the Wilderness”. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005.

“At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.


Genealogy – Prologue

Prologue magazine is a quarterly publication of the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA).  Along with the many historical events covered in the publication, there is a monthly feature called Genealogy Notes in every issue.  Genealogy Notes was published for the first time in the summer of 1989 and has covered many topics over the years.

I have listed some sample article titles from recent Genealogy Notes below.

v.45: no. 3/4 2013 – Ancestors from the West Indies: A Historical and Genealogical Overview of Afro-Caribbean Immigration, 1900-1930s

v.45: no. 2 2013- “We’re still alive today” A captured Japanese Diary from the Pacific Theater

v.43: no. 3 2011 – Leaving the Army During Mr. Madison’s War: Certificates of Discharge for the War of 1812

v. 42: no. 2 2010 – 68,937 and Counting: Searching Inmate Case Files from the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Some articles may be read online or the print issues are available in the Government Documents Department at Forsyth Library. There is also at least a partial online index to the online Genealogy Notes available.