April 14, 2015
DALLAS (SMU) – Former SMU Board of Trustees member and SMU alumnus Jess Thomas Hay died April 13. He was 84. He earned a B.B.A. in 1953 and J.D. in 1955 from SMU.
“Jess Hay served on SMU’s Board of Trustees during critical years of the University’s growth,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His support of law scholarships ensured that future students would be prepared for careers in the professions and civic leadership. He was a role model for combining success in business, public service, and support of education and health resources. The recipient of a bachelor’s and a law degree from SMU, he personified the achievement and dedication recognized by our Distinguished Alumni Award, which he received in 1977.”
Hay served on SMU’s board from 1973-1990, on SMU’s board of governors from 1973-1985 and on the Dedman School of Law executive board from 1989-1990. Hay’s SMU support also included establishment of the Betty Jo Hay Endowed President’s Scholarships, named in honor of his late wife, who received her Bachelor of Arts degree from SMU in 1952. She died in 2005.
Hay also funded the Dennis Barger Memorial Scholarship in the Dedman School of Law. The scholarship was established in memory of a fallen soldier who planned to attend SMU’s law school after military service in Vietnam. Other Hay gifts have supported the SMU fund and the Tate Lecture Series.
Hay received SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1977.
Hay was a director of Trinity Industries, Inc. and Hilltop Holdings, Inc., and previously served as a director of Exxon Mobil from 1982-2001, SBC Communications (now AT&T) from 1985-2004, and MoneyGram International, Inc. from 2004-2010. Hay retired as chairman and CEO of Lomas Financial Corporation in 1994.
“Jess Hay was one of the most outstanding individuals that I have ever known. I have the utmost respect for him personally and professionally,” said friend and colleague Gerald J. Ford, a member of SMU’s Board of Trustees. “Texas, the country and world will be lesser without him.”
A renowned dynamic Democratic Party political fundraiser, from 1977-78 Hay served as finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Hay raised millions for such Democrats as Walter Mondale, former President Jimmy Carter, former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock and former President Bill Clinton. He organized a dinner that raised $1 million for Al Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign.
Hay was chairman of the Texas Foundation for Higher Education, a position he held since 1987. In 1990 he and his wife were honored by the organization with the Cecil and Ida Green Award. He served on the University of Texas board of regents from 1977-1989, including a term as board chair from 1985-1987. In 1991 he received the Santa Rita Award, the highest honor given by the University of Texas system.
Hay is a former member of the Democratic National Committee, Dallas Citizens Council, Dallas Assembly, and Greater Dallas Planning Council. He has served on the boards of the Texas Research League, North Texas Food Bank, Child Care Partnership Dallas, and Dallas County Historical Foundation. Hay and his wife founded the Texas Mental Health Foundation and the Betty Jo Hay Distinguished Chair of Mental Health at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
He was appointed by Congress to the World War II Memorial Advisory Board.
At SMU, Hay was a member of Barristers, Blue Key and Cycen Fjodr.
In lieu of flowers and for any desiring to do so, memorial gifts may be made to The University of Texas System, Jess Hay Endowment for Chancellor's Graduate Student Research Fellowships, c/o Office of External Relations, 210 West 6th Street, Suite 1.200, Austin, Texas 78701, or to Southern Methodist University, Betty Jo and Jess Hay Endowed President's Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 750281, Dallas, Texas 75275-0281.