One might think becoming a student at the school where your father works could get a little awkward, but for Kaitlynn and James Hayes, seeing their father Derrick in the halls is just a normal part of their university experience.
After graduating from Cape Breton University himself, Derrick Hayes worked at a chartered accounting firm and says his first step toward academia was a bit of an accident. “Even though I enjoyed tutoring my classmates as I went through school, I hadn’t seriously considered becoming a professor,” says Derrick. “But when a former department chair ran into me at a softball game and told me CBU was in need of a course instructor, I took the opportunity and fell in love with teaching.”
Derrick enjoyed the interaction with students so much that he decided to pursue a new goal and is now an Associate Professor of Accounting as well as the Department Chair for the Shannon School of Business. Derrick is admired and loved by many of his students and peers, who say his open-door policy makes them feel like one big CBU family. A few of those CBU-family members just happen to be his own children!
Kaitlynn is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science, Nursing, while James is enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Community Studies program. Derrick says not much has changed since his children enrolled at CBU, except for the occasional lunch date in the cafeteria where he picks up the tab (Kaitlynn’s favourite part). “Having them both at CBU only enhances the close relationship I have with my children,” says Derrick. “If they or their friends have questions or need a hand, I’m always close by to help.”
While Kaitlynn and James were growing up, Derrick often talked about how proud he was to be a CBU Alumnus, but never pressured his children to follow in his footsteps. For Kaitlynn, the decision was made after hearing about the highly ranked Nursing program and clinical experience offered at CBU. “My Dad wanted to make sure that I chose a program I was excited for so he gave me tons of great information,” says Kaitlynn. “I’ve always known I wanted to come to CBU, and I’m so thankful that I have the opportunity to be in such an amazing program.”
Kaitlynn says one thing her father helped her with was learning about the Jennifer Keeping Accessibility Centre. “As a student with a learning disability, I was unsure how the exam-writing experience would work for me at the university level,” says Kaitlynn. “My father introduced me to the Centre and from that moment on it has been a great experience with them. The staff is so sweet and caring and I’m so thankful for them.”
For Derrick, seeing Kaitlynn and James in the hallways brings him great pride. But the cherry on top are the kind words other professors share about his children. “As a parent, when people tell me how great my kids are as students and how they behave toward others, that makes me swell with pride,” says Derrick.
To sum up his feelings, Derrick says it all comes down to one word: PROUD. “As parents, we provided guidance and support in anything our kids wanted to do with their lives. But ultimately, they carved their own paths,” he says. “Kaitlynn’s ability to overcome the odds and succeed at a high level of academic achievement speaks to her commitment and desire to learn, and James has proven his ability to work through problems and maintain a volunteer presence, always giving back to his community.”
Kaitlynn says she and her father have always been close, and that being on campus together has been a bonding experience for them. This Father’s Day, Kaitlynn wants to send a special message to her father. “Thank you for always telling me that I can do anything I put my mind to,” she says. “Thank you for the continuous love and support; I don’t know what I would do without you!”
Happy Father’s Day to Derrick and all of the amazing fathers and father figures in the CBU community. Enjoy your special day!