In the first half our our interview with Dean Hayes, she talks about growing up in South Louisiana, overcoming racial barriers, and how she ended up at UL.

Tell us about your background.

I'm from New Iberia, the younger of fraternal twins by 5 minutes. We're the oldest in the family, we have two brothers.

My mother was born in 1933, we were born in 1954. My grandmother was a domestic, my father was a laborer with the Southern Pacific railroad, which was a good job. My mother taught Home Economics. She came to UL after we were born, but she only lasted a semester, she couldn't stand the racism, primarily from one history professor.

That always surprised me, my parents were raised in the Jim Crow South, and they were fighters. For instance, at the doctor's office, the waiting room was divided for whites and blacks. My mother sat on the white side, and the doctors seemed to support her.

Occasionally we could go to the Essanee Theatre, and we didn't understand why we always sat at the top. But we went only 5 times. Once when my little brother was 3 or 4, he was pulled out of line by a white woman for standing in the wrong line. My parents insulated us. When they couldn't avoid it, they ignored it.

My father only had third grade education. Like a lot of people of his generation, he learned to read, write and do arithmetic. So he could read, but he didn't have the fluency.

But he had an intense desire to learn, he just didn't get the chance. When I was young, I read the newspaper for him. Years later when I graduated from Xavier, I asked him why he didn't take an adult literacy. That embarrassed. him. He was a Deacon, and when he had to read in his church, he would practice like he was studying for a test.

My parents and my grandparents were very frugal people, they saved for education. They worked and saved to pay for our educations. And they didn't allow you to work. My parents didn't want us working, they just wanted us to go to college and study. "The job is to go to school, and your momma's and my job is to send you to school."

People would ask my paternal grandparents, Clarence & Clara, "Why don't you put those kids to work in the field?" But all their grandchildren got college degrees including a Harvard Law School graduate, with one exception who got an associate degree from a vo-tech.

How did you end up at UL?

I was in debate at New Iberia High, and Cliff Aucoin was coach. [The late Cliff Aucoin later became a UL faculty member, and after that, New Iberia Mayor.] I was supposed to come here for debate, but the other NISH team members discouraged me. One of the debaters told me-- against Cliff's instructions-- the Coach here wanted me until he found out I was black. He claimed, "It's not me, it's my debaters." It turned out that the debaters were the ones who wanted me. Cliff cursed him out.

So I went to Xavier. My parents paid my room and board. Knowing today the sacrifice they made, I wouldn't have let them. My sister and brother went to Southern.

Students who graduated from Xavier didn't go to in-state schools other than LSU Medical School... most of us went out of state. I was supposed to go to LSU Med, but finances and timing sent me to UL to work on my Master's and Teacher's Certification.

So when you got here, what was the racial climate like?

At first, I was hurt and angry because of what had happened with the debate team. But I loved it, the people were very kind to me. My advisor at Xavier, Dr. Joe Melcher, had contacted people here. Some of them were waiting for me to enroll, and they welcomed me.

I had to work while while I was here teaching. I was a school-based speech therapist, the last year I was the supervisor. Dr. Paine offered me an instructor's position in communicative disorders, provided I agreed to start my PhD. But that's actually what I wanted, the PhD, not the instructorship.

At that time, Richard Cusimano was Dean of Liberal Arts, and took me under his wing, and mentored me.

In the second half of the interview, Dean Hayes talks about her love for UL and Acadiana, and her goals for the College of General Studies.