COE alumna Kay Hayes, husband give back to College of Ed, Purdue

Proud Boilermakers Kay (EDU’72) and Jack (CHE’70, MS NE’76) Hayes regularly make the trip from their home in Maryland to West Lafayette to attend Purdue men’s basketball and football games. Over the years, the couple has made financial gifts to the John Purdue Club and various athletics programs. They also have generously supported the College of Education, the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering, the School of Nuclear Engineering, and Purdue Musical Organizations.

Kay and Jack Hayes standing in front of Purdue Campus wearing Purdue t-shirts.

Jack and Kay both enrolled at Purdue as first-generation college students. While he grew up on a dairy farm in Kankakee, Illinois, she hails from Wanatah, Indiana. “As a child, I used to visit my aunts and uncles in Michigan City,” Jack says. “Sometimes we’d go to the lake there and pass through Wanatah. Little did I know my future wife was playing with dolls just a street over.”

The two quickly made the transition from living in smaller towns to thriving at a state university. “You had to learn how to navigate everything as new students, and you had to work hard to get through the core academic requirements,” Kay says. “But we knew we were at Purdue for a reason.”

Jack fondly recalls many campus traditions he experienced beyond the classroom. “My first semester, we had to wear a tie every night for dinner in Harrison Hall,” he says. “We also had to wear a sport coat or suit coat on Wednesdays as well as at Sunday dinner.”

The two met during Jack’s junior year, when Kay was a freshman. “I had breakfast one day with some friends who knew Jack, and we sat down at his table,” she says. The two began dating a year later.

Many of the couple’s memories center around the Purdue Memorial Union, a vibrant hub of campus activity. “The Union brought students together,” Jack says. “We would try to find a seat on one of the leather couches to take a break in between classes.” The two also enjoyed live performances by Bob Hope and legendary musical acts like Simon and Garfunkel, the Association, the Temptations, and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

Jack’s distinguished career in engineering included working in the nuclear industry with more than 40 years with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), an agency tasked with promoting public health and safety related to nuclear energy. Now retired from the NRC, he continues to run a tax business he launched in 1983.

Kay taught elementary school for 30 years and served another 12 as an assistant principal. “I miss the energy of young children and how they keep you moving,” she says. “Once you get into the classroom, regardless of what has happened in your personal life, your students consume you. All of a sudden, you have 25 little people who need you.”

On the home front, the couple raised three children of their own who all graduated from the Naval Academy— Jacquelyn, Jonathan, and Stephanie. Jack and Kay also have four grandchildren, and they appreciate the freedom that retirement affords to visit both their family and their alma mater.

“When we started coming back to campus in 2017, we would eat in Fred and Mary Ford Dining Court because we wanted to observe the students in their daily life,” Jack says. “College has changed a lot from when we first came to Purdue. There are so many more academic and social opportunities available now.”

As the couple supports Purdue, the personal relationships they’ve formed with campus representatives have made their philanthropic pursuits even more rewarding. “We want to give back, and having that personal connection with people at the university makes it real to us,” Kay says. “We also enjoy coming to campus for events with Chemical and Nuclear Engineering and Education. Our family supports us in this 100%, and we even celebrated our 50th anniversary at Purdue two years ago.”

Source: Purdue for Life Foundation President’s Council Pulsepoint (Spring 2024)