By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN
FHSU University Relations and Marketing
Growing up in a baseball family in Hays, Hayden Hutchison mastered a multitude of pitches at an early age.
From the time he started playing organized baseball, Hutchison usually was penciled into the cleanup spot in his team’s lineup. By the time he graduated from Hays High School in 2013, Hutchison was being recruited by colleges as a top-notch infielder and had set school records in hitting and pitching.
But nothing could have prepared him for the curveball that derailed his athletic career and forced him to readjust his plans.
Baseball for Hutchison now consists of watching his younger brother play for HHS and catching some Major League games on TV.
A potential MVP for any team he was a part of, that all changed for Hutchison when a broken hand, recurring knee injuries and a stress fracture at Neosho Community College in Chanute sidelined him indefinitely.
A talented athlete whose passion added another dimension to his arsenal, Hutchison now has found a new passion – entrepreneurship. Following that series of injuries, Hutchison returned to his hometown and Fort Hays State University.
Similar to the way he tackles any challenge, Hutchison dove head-first into his major of business administration and soon became involved in the Center for Entrepreneurship.
Scheduled to graduate in May 2019 with his bachelor’s degree, Hutchison’s newest venture is helping charter a CEO chapter on campus. CEO, the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, happens to be the acronym on Hutchison’s radar these days.
While he is interested in pursuing logistics positions, Hutchison said he would like to own his own business someday – be the CEO of his own company.
“I would love to do that, but I’m not at that level right now,” he said. “I want to spend five to 10 years in a career and get some experience to understand the business process. That way I can obtain the skills to maybe branch off and start my company.”
It’s a sharp contrast to his goals when he graduated from high school in 2013.
“My main attention was on sports, and I was going to breeze by with some easy major,” he said. “I knew at some point I wasn’t going to keep playing baseball, so I knew I should get a degree. That time just came faster than I was expecting.”
Coincidentally, Fort Hays State was an option for Hutchison all along, as he was being recruited as a student-athlete to play for the Tiger baseball team where his dad, Matt, had excelled in the early 1990s.
But the younger Hutchison’s mind was set on playing at a Division I school. So he took the path of playing for a nationally known community college program, hoping to be seen by some D-I recruiters.
Hutchison will tell you now that the university in his own backyard has more to offer him as a student than he could have ever imagined.
“As I began spending more time on academics once I got to Fort Hays State, I realized the return of time investment,” he said. “I had never really cared about that, was just interested in athletics. Now, by being involved as much as I have been, the return has been extraordinary in my opinion.”
“I credit Fort Hays State for offering these opportunities,” Hutchison continued. “Once you take advantage of them, FHSU continues to support you through them.”
Hutchison it’s ironic that he probably never would have realized those opportunities if it hadn’t been for his injuries.
“I didn’t really have another plan. Hays is home to me, and I had done three semesters of school already,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why not finish my degree in my hometown at an affordable university?’ ”
Hutchison said he soon learned affordable was just one of the many positive features that make FHSU a postsecondary gem. He also learned how to put the competitive nature that is part of his DNA to good use on a different playing field.
Hutchison hit a home run, so to speak, when he applied for the $5,000 Robbins Ambassador Scholarship sponsored by the W.R. and Yvonne Robbins College of Business and Entrepreneurship. Only two students received the award, and he was one of them.
He also was chosen as one of 20 to 25 who participate each year as a VIP Ambassador, a prestigious group of student leaders chosen to represent FHSU at official campus events.
It was at one of the ambassador events when Dr. David Snow, director of FHSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship, told Hutchison about CEO, a national organization for entrepreneurial-minded students.
“I was excited about getting something like that going,” Hutchison said. “Entrepreneurship is in our college title, and of all the things we have for students here at Fort Hays State, we don’t have a student-led organization for entrepreneurship. I thought we needed that.”
Snow said he was impressed with Hutchison’s organizational and leadership skills even before he met him. When Hutchison learned that Snow was named the new director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, he emailed Snow at his former university in Pikeville, Ky.
“He was thinking of creating a student group from scratch,” said Snow, who suggested to Hutchison that connecting with an established organization with bylaws and procedures already in place would be easier than to launch a new chapter.
So Hutchison soon became the one leading the charge for establishing a CEO chapter at Fort Hays State. In two months time, the new CEO now has between 15 and 20 active members, several who are preparing for the CEO Global Conference and Pitch Competition Nov. 1-3 in Kansas City, Mo., as well as the Kansas Start-Up Challenge in November on the FHSU campus.
Hutchison had to put his project on hold for a couple of weeks in September after being selected a finalist for the 2018 Homecoming royalty. After being chosen as a representative for the VIP Student Ambassadors for Homecoming king, Hutchinson and other nominees went through an extensive process including an application and interview with the royalty selection committee to even reach the finalist list.
It was one more item added to Hutchison’s growing list of things to get done during the first semester of his senior year. But he said he thought it was worth the effort.
“I think we need to take advantage of all that FHSU has to offer,” Hutchison said. “The resources and opportunities have really turned my entire educational experience around.”
Hutchison said he is excited about building the CEO for the future.
“Hayden has not made himself the focus of CEO,” Snow wrote in a letter nominating Hutchison for Outstanding CEO Chapter Leader Award which will be announced at the global conference. “Rather, he is working to build an entrepreneurial organization on the FSHU campus that will prosper and impact this community long after his departure.”
Nonetheless, Hutchison is dead-set on making CEO’s first year at Fort Hays State a memorable one, too. He has been busy helping organize fundraising events for the FHSU chapter.
Fort Hays State’s CEO has already had a nationally acclaimed speaker in Matt Moody, founder of SalinaPost.com and HaysPost.com and current president of Bellwethr. At the CEO’s last meeting, Hutchison urged fellow members to take in two upcoming presentations.
Daymond John from Shark Tank, a reality show where budding entrepreneurs introduce their ideas, is part of the FHSU Presidential Series this year. He will talk at FHSU on Nov. 7, and he is giving CEO members an hour-long question-and-answer session beforehand. The next day, Peter Werth, founder and CEO of ChemWerth Inc., will speak at the Entrepreneur Direct speaker series at the Robbins Center. Werth is an FHSU graduate for whom the Peter Werth College of Science, Technology and Mathematics is named.
“It’s going to be busy this year, but I’m looking forward to everything,” Hutchison said. “All these opportunities at Fort Hays State have definitely laid some bricks for my career in the long run. I know it’s not the pinnacle, but it’s definitely another building block, one more step moving forward.”