Fifty years after he started teaching full-time at Texas Wesleyan, Dr. Bill Hailey was given one of the university’s highest honors.

Hailey, 81, was named Alumnus of the Year last November at the 2015 Alumni Medal Dinner.

“I told the audience at the awards dinner that we were celebrating our 125th anniversary and the scary thing is I have been there half that time,” Hailey said. “Some very kind people said it’s about time, if you hang around long enough they have to do something.”

Hailey was chosen because of his contributions to the university as a student, employee and alumnus, DeAwna Wood, director of alumni relations, wrote in an e-mail.

“His years of dedication and service merit the honor,” Wood wrote.

Hailey said he started at Wesleyan in 1953 as a student, graduated in 1957 with an undergrad degree in social sciences, and began working at the university the next year in the admissions office.

“My adult life has been Texas Wesleyan,” he said. “Between my junior and senior years I worked as an admissions councilor, as an outside salesman, recruiting students. My admissions job included a room on campus and my first married apartment was on campus.”

Hailey said he ran the admissions office for three years, He was the only full-time employee there, and his assignment was to recruit enough resident students to fill two newly-built dormitories.

He left his job and started graduate school at Texas Christian University. In 1961, he took a job teaching fifth grade at Glencrest Elementary School in Fort Worth because he needed to be working.

 At the time, his wife, Barbara Ivy Hailey, taught high school mathematics in Fort Worth and Arlington.

“We learned my wife was going to have a baby so I had to get a job.” Hailey said. “She was a teacher and I went to school. In those days once you knew you were pregnant you had to resign.”

Hailey returned to Wesleyan, graduating in 1965 with a master’s in education. That same year he was hired as a member of the education faculty.

 “The first semester I had five classes to teach and was expected to be working on my doctorate, so I was going to North Texas,” Hailey said. “At the first faculty meeting the dean of the college said he was going to pay me $300 to teach a freshman orientation class.”

Hailey studied educational psychology at the University of North Texas; he received his doctorate degree in 1968. He became Wesleyan’s dean of education in 1972.

Hailey became provost in 1979 after being chair of the faculty council for several years. He stayed in this position for 11 years, and was interim president for nine months in 1989 and 1990.

“I remember that we joked that the main thing I did was to sign the contract to tear down Ann Waggoner Hall.” Hailey said. “It was a shame to see it go, but it was in terrible disrepair, then there was the fire that almost destroyed it.” 

Hailey was provost for 11 years and served as interim president for nine months from 1989 to 1990. In 1995 he stepped down, but stayed on as a part-time professor for 14 years.

Barbara Hailey died of cancer in 1999 and Hailey met his current wife, Linda Lee Hailey, a former director of alumni relations at TCU, in 2005. They were married in April 2010.

Gina Phillips, director of development, said the letters Hailey sends out to alumni asking for donations to the university earn the most money.

“He is active on the alumni board he is a ram for life,” Phillips said.  

Hailey continues to speak highly of Wesleyan and higher education in general.