Reflecting on a good ride

By Rachelle Psznick ’98

Tom Hayes started teaching at John Carroll at age 25, about the same age as his students. Even though he gets older, the age of his students stays the same.

“It forces you to understand what the students are into,” he says. “I feel extremely fortunate to have a job that I have loved from the beginning. It’s fun, and I find the students incredibly interesting.”

Hayes has been a full-time faculty member at John Carroll since 1969. He graduated from St. John’s University in Minnesota in 1966 with a B.A. in English and received his M.A. in English from JCU in 1968. He taught English and business communications during his early years at Carroll and now specializes in 18th-century, restoration, and American literature.

Hayes grew up in Minneapolis, and a prospective teaching job brought him to Cleveland.

“Cleveland was hiring inner-city teachers, and I came here wanting to do that,” he says. “I decided that wasn’t for me and went to graduate school.”


He has seen a lot change throughout years.

“When I first started, more than half of the students were the first of their generation to go to college,” he says. “There’s not so much of that anymore. I’m teaching many students whose parents went here as well.”

He also acknowledges there aren’t as many Jesuits as there used to be.

Hayes enjoys teaching Charles Dickens the most, with Jonathan Swift a close second. If students take the time to read Dickens, they often enjoy the author as much as Hayes does.

“It’s gratifying and rewarding to run into former students,” he says, adding he recently ran into a student he taught 25 years ago. “For the first five years, I remembered all of my students, but now it’s more difficult.”

Hayes, who often rides his bike to work in the summer, has lived in Auburn, Ohio, for the past 20 years and loves the area. He’s an avid collector of bikes, several of which date to the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. He collects many from swap meets and stores them in his garage. Until recently, he and his brother took annual bicycle adventure trips. One of his most memorable ones was pedaling across South Dakota. Hayes and his brother stopped in the town of Scenic, which is located on the edge of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. They ended up staying overnight, talking well into the night with Native Americans from the reservation. That experience, as many of his freshmen students might recall, inspired him to teach a book called “On the Rez” by Ian Frazier, which details the history and current state of Pine Ridge. Each semester, he also gives a spiel about bicycles that includes the beauty of handmade bikes — how they’re one of the perfect unions of form and function, how much fun they are to ride, and how practical they are.

With three daughters and four grandkids in the Cleveland area, Hayes often serves as a weekend babysitter.

“Being a grandpa is as cool as it gets, and it’s one experience that lives up to the hype,” he says.

When asked if he plans to retire anytime soon, he smiles and says: “The only time I think about that is when I’m grading papers.” JCU

This article originally appeared in the Magis newsletter.

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