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Morning Sun
  • PSU: Home, sweet home

  • It was a year of firsts for Pittsburg State University's 2011 homecoming convocation ceremony Wednesday afternoon. The ROTC Gorilla Battalion swept the homecoming royalty selections, and students voted online for the first time.

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  • It was a year of firsts for Pittsburg State University's 2011 homecoming convocation ceremony Wednesday afternoon. The ROTC Gorilla Battalion swept the homecoming royalty selections, and students voted online for the first time.
    Seniors Hal Rivard, of Wamego, Kan., and Callie Wheeler, of Olathe, Kan., were named the 2011 Homecoming King and Queen Wednesday afternoon during convocation at Carnie-Smith Stadium. Rivard and Wheeler are psychology majors, are minoring in military science, and are members of the PSU Army ROTC program. Rivard and Wheeler will both be commissioned as officers in the United States Army when they graduate next May.
    The atmosphere at the ceremony was enthusiastic. Pitt State's Pride of the Plains marching band worked up the audience as students and faculty filed into the stadium, and the Spirit Squad and Pitt State dancers entertained the crowd.
    Last year's royalty, Ivan Hunnicutt and Jessica Berberich addressed the audience before announcing the winners.
    "I want to say congratulations to all of the king and queen candidates," Berberich said. "You should feel honored to have been nominated. I really appreciate the opportunity to support my school in such a positive way."
    Hunnicutt said he hopes the students will continue to be active on campus.
    "I encourage every student to get involved as much as you can on campus and keep making PSU a great place to be," he said.
    When Rivard and Wheeler were announced as king and queen the students erupted in applause.
    "It says a lot for the community in general," Wheeler said. "The theme is a tribute to service members, and I've kind of been joking that it's cool to be recognized for something other than firing the cannon. With everything we put into our campus and community and country, it's great that our students recognize that. We've had one person in ROTC win in the last 10 years, so having two is really cool.
    Wheeler said she's looking forward to representing Pitt State.
    "It's a really good opportunity to be a role model" Wheeler said. "You get to go to events and functions, and you can show kids that you really can come to college and find your way. When you come to this campus and give to it, it's going to give back to you."
    Rivard was equally excited to be king.
    "It's an honor and it's really flattering knowing what the student body thinks of me," Rivard said. "It's kind of surreal. I didn't even know I was nominated until a couple hours before. It shows that in ROTC we can be really active members on campus and be social."
    Students also voted for the first time online, instead of casting their ballots at convocation. Eva Sager, coordinator of campus activities, said the change resulted in a nearly 30 percent increase in votes over last year, with close to 1,000 students going online to vote.
    Page 2 of 2 - Wheeler, whose father has been serving in Afghanistan for the past year, said it is personally a wonderful day to be named queen, because her dad has Wi-Fi access today and can see photos and read about her win. Her father, Col. Howard Wheeler, works for Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the Kansas Adjutant General, who is himself a PSU alumnus.
     Rivard, whose parents are both retired from the U.S. Army, said he and Wheeler have been friends since their freshman year, and that sharing this honor is very special.
    Wheeler and Rivard will preside over Homecoming activities Saturday that begin with a parade at 9 a.m. in downtown Pittsburg. Kickoff for the Homecoming football game against the Lincoln University Blue Tigers is at 2 p.m. That will make for an especially busy day for Rivard, who is also a member of the Gorillas football team.
    Ron Womble contributed to this report.
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