-Leah Letson, Contributing Writer
On a typical day at Mississippi College, a student may find many treasures on campus, one of which is Bryan Hayes, associate professor of marketing in the school of business. He can run a 5k in 18 minutes and 20 seconds, enjoys flying radio-controlled airplanes, submerses himself into his music, and has three different degrees from three different colleges.
Hayes considers himself a Mississippi boy, having lived in Hazelhurst, Jackson, and primarily Hattiesburg, as a child. He obtained a degree in business with an emphasis in marketing from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1982, a general MBA with an emphasis in marketing at Mississippi College, and a doctorate in marketing with a minor in economics from Mississippi State University.
After attending three different colleges, what is it that brought Hayes back to MC? Family. “I come from an MC family. My father and mother both graduated from here, I have a degree from here, my brother attended here before graduating from Southern, and I have many relatives that also went here,” Hayes said. But it doesn’t stop there. Hayes was collecting research at MC for his dissertation while in the MSU doctoral program in the fall of 1998 when he was informed of a tenure track faculty position opening at MC in the fall of 2000. Initially, his response was negative because he already had a job at a marketing firm in the Jackson area. After more encouragement, he made the decision to teach a marketing research course as an adjunct professor in the spring of 1999. “While I wouldn’t say that first teaching experience was wonderful, it did get me thinking along the lines of, well, if I was ever going to start teaching, I’d never have a better opportunity than this to do it because I loved MC and I really felt that The Lord had a hand in bringing me in that direction,” he said. After much prayer and consideration, he took the job and began as a full time professor in the fall of 2000 and has been here ever since, teaching classes such as Marketing Principles, Consumer Behavior, Marketing Research, Market Administration (a graduate course), and Marketing Management.
Besides being a vital part of many committees on campus, as well as sponsoring the MC Bass Fishing Team for three years running, Hayes’ real love is music. His father, a music minister, gave him his first baritone ukulele when he was twelve, and throughout his youth he was a member of the church choir and ensemble, as well as the school choir. He began playing gigs in his own band when he was just a junior in high school. When asked what got him interested in music in the first place, Hayes said, “I don’t consciously remember, it’s just always been a part of my life.”
After 18 years playing the guitar for three bands at different times, Professor Hayes is currently a four-year member of Crooked Creek String Band. The bluegrass band features three-part harmonies to accompany a guitar, Dobro, banjo, mandolin, and bass collaborated musical group. “We rehearse on the weekends and play no more than two gigs a month. We don’t spend an inordinate amount of time with it… but maybe we will after we all retire,” he laughed.
Why bluegrass? “I never knew a thing about bluegrass music until a couple of months before I started playing in the band 18 years ago,” he explained. He grew up listening to rock and pop, such as The Beatles and Led Zepplin, saying, “The only bluegrass music I knew was the theme of the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ and the theme from the movie ‘Deliverance.’” During Thanksgiving of 1997, he went to a gathering at a friend’s house where a bluegrass band was performing. He instantly became fascinated by the sound and fell in love, saying now that his favorite bluegrass bands are Blue Highway, The Lonesome River Band, Balsam Range, and the Stanley Brothers. “Even if you don’t like bluegrass music, you can always appreciate it,” Hayes stated.
The most rewarding part about playing guitar in Crooked Creek String Band is a simple one that has a lot of meaning to Hayes. He said, “I like the feeling and the sound when a song finally comes together, and when everybody is firing on all cylinders. It doesn’t even really matter if it happens in a performance or a rehearsal, it’s just when it happens, it’s just a great feeling.”
The passion and success he has for his band goes hand-in-hand with the passion and success he has with his students. His idea is to give students as many real world experiences as he can, because that is what is going to take them far in life upon graduating from Mississippi College. Xue Zhi Lin, a junior finance major from Madison, said, “Professor Hayes broadened my view of marketing. It’s a very important factor to the business world, and after taking his marketing class, I understand the different methods applying to business which will increase my chance of success.”
In addition to his passion for bluegrass music and inspirational teaching, Hayes and his wife Joey also have a love for their dog, Choco. He shared, “I bring him to class with me sometimes. I call him my therapy dog.” One of Hayes’s former Principles of Marketing students, junior accounting major Pete Thomason from Birmingham, validates this statement. “The fondest memory I have from his class was when he brought his poodle to our classroom on the day of the final exam.”
Mississippi College has gained an enormous amount from Hayes’s time and devotion to this University, and it’s safe to say the feeling is mutual because he said, “I truly feel like it’s God’s will that I’m here at MC because I’ve been so content and fulfilled since I’ve been here on day one.”