Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Associate Professor of Chemistry Thomas R. Hays Named "Bringer of Light" by Texas A&M-Kingsville Group

KINGSVILLE - April 05, 2010

Contact: Jason Marton
jason.marton@tamuk.edu or 361.593.4143

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Dr. Thomas R. Hays, associate professor of chemistry at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, has been named a “Bringer of Light” by the campus group Servants of Las Luminarias.

An anonymous collection of campus community members, the Servants of Las Luminarias select those that they feel are “bringers of the light of the knowledge of goodness to the Texas A&M University-Kingsville campus community.” 

As a spring honoree, Hays received a ceramic “luminaria,” or large ornamental candle holder, a lily and a framed certificate of recognition. The certificate states that Hays had, through word and deed, “selflessly and consistently shone the light of goodness into our midst.”

"Normally when someone breaks into your office, you expect to see something missing. They don't typically leave something for you," said Hays jokingly. "It was too nice to be an April Fool's joke."

He wasn't familiar with the Servants of Las Luminarias and the award prior to receiving it. The more he asked about it among his colleagues, though, the more of an impact it had on him.

"It's a real honor. I am impressed there are a group of people doing this who want no credit for it."

Hays is finishing his 25th and final year as a faculty member at A&M-Kingsville. When the spring semester ends, Hays will have taught his last class and will be officially retired in August.

After earning his doctoral degree, Hays spent a year teaching at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA, filling in for a faculty member on sabbatical. As that position came to an end, he saw a job opening listed in the official publication of the American Chemical Society (ACS) for a chemistry professor at then-Texas A&I University. Hays learned more about the university, applied and has been here ever since.

"I'm glad I came here. The department has been very supportive. I've also had enough good students that went on to do good things, I felt like I was doing something," said Hays.

The luminaria recipient teaches, for the most part, senior level biochemistry. Hays said his goal in teaching is to get his students to learn the concepts he's teaching rather than just memorize them. "Even at the senior level, I'll see a dependence in memorization."

When asked what makes a successful teacher, Hays said part of it is wanting to see your students do well. "But that doesn't necessarily mean grades. It means students learning the material and putting in the effort--and you as a faculty member have to do that as well."

Some of the more satisfying moments Hays noted in his 25 years at A&M-Kingsville are commencements, when he sees the students he's taught graduate. Also, when those students come back to visit and he finds out what they've done since earning their degree.

Even though he's retiring, Hays will still be a presence on campus, as a participant in departmental events, and staying involved in both student chemistry organizations and the local chapter of the ACS, which Hays represents at national conferences. He also said he'll be able to devote some more time to his two favorite hobbies, bird watching and duplicate bridge.


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