Pittsburg State University's Army ROTC program swept Homecoming this year not only in theme - "Gorilla Strong," a nod to PSU's military personnel and veterans - but in Homecoming royalty selections, as well.
At the Oct 12 Convocation ceremony at Carnie Smith Stadium, seniors Hal Rivard of Wamego, Kan., and Callie Wheeler of Olathe, Kan., were named the 2011 Homecoming King and Queen. Both are psychology majors, military science minors, and 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.
"I'm so excited," said Wheeler, visibly shaking as she accepted her crown and posed for photos immediately after the announcement. "I am really, really honored."
When Wheeler and Rivard were announced as the winners, the crowd gathered at the ceremony erupted in cheers. For the first time this year, PSU students voted for King and Queen electronically rather than casting paper ballots at the 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.
It was a successful process, she said, and one that gave students a 12-hour window to vote as opposed to the old way, which required attendance at the one-hour convocation ceremony.
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 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.
"I'm just shocked, I really didn't see this coming," said Rivard. "It's an awesome feeling to be recognized by your peers. It shows what they think of you, and that's a really nice feeling."