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Attorney pledges $1.5 million to UMW classics department

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Maine lawyer Rick J. Hayes Jr. never attended the University of Mary Washington and doesn’t hold a degree in classics, but he has pledged $1.5 million for scholarships to the school’s program.

Hayes, 62, a former Fredericksburg resident, knows graduates of UMW and said he has been impressed with how the school goes above and beyond to help its students, and the quality of education there.

“It’s beyond platitudes,” he said. “They really do care about their students. It’s the people there and the culture I want to support.”

The classics department, in particular, has his support for its value in teaching students how to think critically.

Hayes got an undergraduate degree in business at American University, and he said he wishes he had the foresight then to understand the long-term benefits of learning about great thinkers such as Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. He thinks higher education has become too specialized.

“We live in a society that wants instant return on investment,” he said. “They get degrees to make money right out of college.

“That’s great until five years down the road you realize you didn’t stretch your mind when you had the chance. Then it’s too late.”

The announcement of the pledge comes just after the university released its resource reallocation report, in which it details which programs should be invested in for growth and which could be cut. Classics was near the bottom of the list, as a program that could lose funding.

Hayes has recently begun taking various classes in classics in the area where he lives near Camden, Maine.

“The great thing about a classics major is that they can think and problem-solve,” he said. “I’d hire a classics major every time.”

Hayes called UMW “one of the most incredible liberal arts colleges in the country.” He said that after meeting the faculty in the department of classics, philosophy and religion, he was amazed at their skill level and how they taught undergraduates directly.

Hayes isn’t a stranger to the Fredericksburg area. He lived here for 13 years and for 10 years in Warrenton before moving to Maine.

“Rick recognizes the incredible importance of classics and the core humanities for being not only well-rounded but also well-prepared for the world of work and career,” said UMW philosophy professor and department chair Craig Vasey. “He mentored a [Mary Washington] student back in the ’80s, and he appreciated the value that student got from his studies in classics and philosophy, so he’s decided to make this contribution as a way to thank the institution.”

Faculty members met with Hayes in June and Vasey said his enthusiasm about the program was inspiring.

“Of course we are thrilled by this estate gift,” he said. “[It] validates the mission and values of what we do.”

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976