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News Release

Recent Fort Hays State University Graduate Sets Up Scholarship in Memory of Grandfather

George Wall

Born and raised in Liberal, Jessica Gokey graduated from Fort Hays State University in 2012. Gokey, raised by a single mother, recalls her grandparents being a big help to her and her brother throughout their childhood.

When Gokey decided to establish a scholarship fund in support of students at Fort Hays State, her grandfather came to mind. In his memory, she named the scholarship fund the Odie Memorial Scholarship, which will be awarded to undergraduate students majoring in justice studies. Students must maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher and preference will be given to students with junior or senior status who are active in community service activities.

"My grandpa, Odie, was my hero. He took care of me and was really more of a friend than anything else," said Gokey.

"My grandpa was a selfless man who didn’t care about money or worldly possessions," she said. "He cared about his family, and we always came first. I honored him with this scholarship because without his support and him pushing me to do my best, I know I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. This scholarship will be a constant reminder of what he did for our family and the type of person I strive to be."

Gokey started out at a community college but transferred to Fort Hays State when she was given the opportunity to be a Tiger cheerleader. Although she didn’t originally choose FHSU based on academic programs, she could not have been happier when she decided to pursue a degree in justice studies. It was there that she was introduced to FHSU instructor Kenton Russell.

"Kenton opened his defensive tactics class to the cheerleaders, and I happened to fall in love with it. His family really became a second family to all of us within the defensive tactics group, and it was amazing to know you had someone who truly cared about you," said Gokey.

From there, Gokey became involved in FHSU’s Criminal Justice Club, under the direction of Dr. Tammy Lynn, assistant professor, and eventually became vice president of the club during her senior year.

"Tammy gave me something to focus on, and she helped me pursue my goals. Still, to this day, I’ll reach out to her when I need professional guidance," said Gokey. "Without these individuals, I don’t know where I would be today. Having instructors in your corner, backing you up, and supporting you -- it’s really a one-of-a-kind thing with Fort Hays State University and the Department of Justice Studies."

Not only did Gokey’s time at FHSU provide her with personal and professional support, but it also opened doors to her career.

"Having a bachelor’s degree from Fort Hays State University has dramatically changed my life and my career path. When I joined the Navy in August of 2012, I was automatically promoted to a higher rank due to my degree," said Gokey.

Currently, she is an investigator with the U.S. Navy.

To learn how you can join Jessica in establishing a scholarship in support of students at Fort Hays State University, please contact our office at 785-628-5620.