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Published: Friday, 6/8/2007

National Weather Service chief credits his St. Francis education

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
John Hayes today, left, and in a photo from St. Francis de Sales High School, where he graduated in 1966, right. John Hayes today, left, and in a photo from St. Francis de Sales High School, where he graduated in 1966, right.
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The strict education and lessons in work ethic that John "Jack" Hayes received growing up in the Toledo area helped prepare him for a career that has led to his appointment as director of the National Weather Service, effective Sept. 2.

Mr. Hayes, 59, who now lives in France as the director of the world weather watch department of the World Meteorological Organization, grew up in Maumee and graduated from St. Francis de Sales High School in 1966. In his new job, he will be based in the Washington area.

He received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Bowling Green State University in 1970.

"It was a combination of elementary, high school, and Bowling Green that gave me the foundation I needed," he said in a telephone interview yesterday from France.

"Fundamentally when I look back at my roots in my career, there was an ethic I got from the nuns at St. Joseph [Catholic School in Maumee] and the priests at St. Francis that told me always strive to be the best you can be," Mr. Hayes said.

Some people poke good-natured fun at Catholic education, Mr. Hayes said, but he wouldn't be where he is today without it. He put forth the extra effort to have that type of education experience, working as a janitor and groundskeeper at St. Francis during the summers to pay his tuition.

The Rev. Ronald Olszewski, president of St. Francis, said he was impressed to hear of Mr. Hayes' success. "We're always delighted to have our graduates do well. To receive this high honor, it's a great tribute to our school, too," he said. "We surely appreciate the fact that he said our school had a positive effect on who he is today."

One of Mr. Hayes' favorite high school stories - one he jokes bores his wife, Sharon, to tears because she has heard it so often - concerns the rivalry between St. Francis and Central Catholic High School.

It was November, 1965. The Knights hadn't beaten the Irish since 1958. And there was a big football game Sunday afternoon between the schools at the University of Toledo.

"That year I was part of the spirit committee and the priest that was head of it decided we would have a funeral procession from St. Francis," he said.

So the students wore black arm bands with their ties and coats, and a casket painted in Central Catholic's colors, scarlet and gray, was pulled in on a cart to the UT campus, he said.

"As soon as the procession came in - it was almost every student that came - it was like a hush came over the stadium," said Mr. Hayes, adding with a laugh. "And we won that day, too."

Mr. Hayes met his wife while at BGSU, a place he said they loved because of the close-knit community. Sharon Hayes received a degree in elementary education in 1971.

They have three children: Laurel, Jennifer, and Marc.

"The best thing to hear as a president is that your graduates are doing well in their lives," BGSU President Sidney Ribeau said. "It's a real testament to the kind of education that Bowling Green has been providing for years for students throughout the region. We're preparing students to be citizens of the world."

There is no specific event that led him to a career in meteorology, Mr. Hayes said.

He had always been interested in math and science and while at BGSU he got an opportunity with the U.S. Air Force and went in that direction.

At BGSU, he was a member of the Arnold Air Society for cadets.

"I didn't expect I would be anything more than a ship forecaster in the Air Force," Mr. Hayes said, adding that he anticipated serving four years.

But 28 years later, Mr. Hayes left the Air Force, having been promoted to the rank of colonel and commander of the Air Force Weather Agency. During his time with the military, he earned master's and doctoral degrees in meteorology from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

Mr. Hayes said he and his wife have enjoyed the international experience provided by his work with WMO, which is based in Geneva. At the same time, he's honored to again be a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the weather service.

"I'm so excited and thrilled at this opportunity and the challenges that come with it," Mr. Hayes said. "I never thought in my wildest dreams I would lead the weather service."

He joined the weather service in 2000 and served as director of the Office of Science and Technology, deputy assistant administrator for NOAA's Ocean Service, and deputy assistant administrator for NOAA Research.

He was with the weather service until February, 2006, when he took the position with WMO, something he said his colleagues supported.

Mr. Hayes also had experience in the private sector from 1998 to 2000, when he served as the general manager of Automated Weather Interactive Processing System, which helped build information technology for weather forecasts and warnings.

Gen. Jack Kelly, who was the head of the weather service from 1998 through 2003, said Mr. Hayes had all the attributes the department was looking for in a director.

He said Mr. Hayes is a competent manager, proficient in science, knows the international scene, and has experience with many aspects of NOAA.

"We put a good person in charge of the weather service and [the public] can rest easy," Mr. Kelly said. "He'll make it better than it is today."

Mr. Hayes said the highlights of his career have been expressions of gratitude from people who have experienced severe weather. When they say thank you for the weather service's warnings because they helped save lives, he gets shivers.

"The services the weather service provides for the nation is the safety and well being of the national public," Mr. Hayes said. "We have the kind of weather, the worst in the world, that needs an ever-vigilant weather service.

"I can promise that I will do my best to invest in the promising science and technology to advance that warning."

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com or

419-724-6134.



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