Wright State’s College of Liberal Arts is saddened by the loss of Karen W. Hayes, who passed away July 9 at home in Fairborn. Hayes was a lecturer in the Department of English Language and Literatures, where she taught first- and second-year composition, ESL composition and Great Books: Literature, as well as honors and service learning courses.
A popular, innovative and highly effective teacher of writing, Hayes was an active member of the department, generous with her time and expertise. She routinely mentored graduate teaching assistants and had been tapped to develop a mentoring program for the department’s adjunct composition faculty in the coming year. Dedicated to student success from admission to graduation, she served on the university’s Common Text Committee, helping select the book that would form the common reading experience of all first-year students as well as on its Commencement Committee, the faculty body charged with identifying candidates for honorary degrees and shaping students’ final ceremonial experience of Wright State.
A consummate professional, she thought deeply about the teacher’s obligation to shape technique to the needs and capabilities of the student, rather than to expect the student to adapt to the teacher.
“Karen was a real asset to the department, but more importantly, she was a thoughtful, caring, gentle person whose constant self-examination of her teaching led her to insights that we all benefited from,” said Richard Bullock, professor of English and director of writing programs for the English department.
“Her office was across from mine and I had the privilege of hearing her work with students,” recalled senior lecturer Sarah McGinley. “She was unfailingly kind, gracious and patient while being firm and insightful. I learned so much about being a teacher and a human from her.”
Colleagues noted that Hayes’ commitment to peace and to her faith was deep and informed her daily interactions with others; never confrontational and always supportive, she remained involved in the life of the department while hospitalized.
An active member of United Methodist Church, she was closely involved in church communities across western Ohio, mentoring fellow congregants, teaching Sunday School classes, directing choirs and serving as a lay minister, as well as serving the community at large as Girl Scout troop leader, Odyssey of the Mind and Destination Imagination coach, high school writing tutor and Upward Bound instructor.
Hayes earned her B.A. in English and Journalism and her M.A. in English: Composition and Rhetoric at Miami University. She also completed a graduate TESOL certificate at Wright State. After serving as faculty at Clark State and Wittenberg University, she joined the faculty at Wright State as instructor of writing in 2007 and was promoted to the rank of lecturer in 2011.
Over the course of her career she published scholarship on the work of C.S. Lewis as well as on pedagogy for diversity. Hayes was a member of Phi Kappa Phi, Ohio TESOL and the National Council of Teachers of English.
Hayes is survived by her husband Steve Hayes of Fairborn, her daughters Carrigan Jo and Katherine Jeanne and her son Robert Thomas as well as by her father and two sisters, among her immediate family.