Department Hosts First Jim Hayes Symposium

Participants at the inaugural Jim Hayes Symposium
Participants at the inaugural Jim Hayes Symposium, in October 2014. | Photo: Alan Halfhill (B.S., Journalism, 1977)

by Will Peischel

Nearly 130 Cal Poly alumni, students, faculty and friends congregated in Chumash Auditorium on Oct. 10 for the first Jim Hayes Symposium, a forum for Advancing Integrity in Journalism and Communication.

The Journalism Department’s tribute to the beloved Cal Poly professor featured an impressive array of media professionals who discussed courage, truth and enduring values — characteristics that defined Hayes for all who knew him.

Pictures from the 2014 Jim Hayes Symposium.
Photos: Alan Halfhill 
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Hayes’ career as a professor, writing coach and journalist spanned more than 60 years. Between 1969 and 1992, he taught and mentored several generations of Cal Poly students, first in the Journalism Department and then as director of the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication. Students who were lucky enough to know Hayes personally benefitted from his continued friendship and mentorship.

A man who eschewed the spotlight, Hayes tolerated the creation of the We Love Jim Hayes Facebook page in 2009. And it was through this forum that his many admirers learned of the cancer that would take his life.

Hayes died in June 2014, but not before giving his blessing to the symposium that bears his name.

It was during a meeting of the Journalism Department Advisory Board in October 2013 that the concept of a public event to honor this pivotal figure in the department’s history surfaced. Once the theme was determined, a committee was formed to plan the event.

Susan Houghton (B.S., Journalism, 1982), Mark Looker (B.S., Journalism, 1976), Ellen Pensky (B.S., Journalism, 1975), Kevin Riggs (B.S., Journalism, 1978) and Frances Squire (B.S., Journalism, 1973) met monthly via conference call for nearly a year with Department Chair Mary Glick to build the program.

The daylong event featured keynote speaker Karen Miller Pensiero, Wall Street Journal editor for Newsroom Standards; Peter King, (Journalism, 1973-77), University of California public affairs director; Patrick Lin, Cal Poly philosophy professor; Robert Logan, former Cal Poly journalism professor now on staff at the U.S. National Library of Medicine; Judy Muller, broadcast journalist and USC professor; and David Kerley (B.S., Journalism, 1979), ABC News correspondent.

“I came to journalism kind of late, in my junior year, and I’d heard a lot about Hayes,” Kerley told the audience in Chumash Auditorium. “I was afraid. Seriously, this guy’s reputation was tough.”

Hayes’ lovable gruffness endeared him to legions of journalism alumni, many of whom were on hand for the event. Daughter Dayle Hayes spoke to the crowd about her father’s insistence on using just the right word to convey an idea. Later that evening at the Thanks a Thousand tribute to Hayes, son Josh Hayes recalled his father’s “gift of gab” and his love of all things Irish.

The symposium also yielded the opportunity to highlight the Jim Hayes Scholarship, established in 1993 and awarded annually to an outstanding student in news-editorial or agricultural journalism.

A new Journalism Endowment was created in conjunction with the symposium. In addition to fostering excellence in the Journalism Department, the new endowment will help ensure that the symposium will be supported in future years.

“The family is just so honored,” said Hayes’ son Patrick. “My father’s legacy is all about honesty and integrity.”

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