Jess Hay, Longtime UT Dallas Supporter and Former Regent, Dies at 84

Jess Hay

Jess Hay served as a UT System regent from 1977 to 1989.

Jess Hay, a great advocate for higher education and a longtime, key supporter of UT Dallas has passed away. He was 84.

“Jess’ public service and vocal support of higher education in the state of Texas is well-known, and the legacy of his advocacy will continue to be felt for years to come,” University President Dr. David E. Daniel said. “He was deeply enthusiastic about and proud of UT Dallas’ progress toward becoming a premier research university, and his ability to rally other supporters to our cause was unmatched. He was a friend to so many in the UT Dallas community, and we will miss him greatly.”

Hay was a strong supporter of the University on the front lines and behind the scenes. Hay, along with Peter O’Donnell and Louis Beecherl Jr., was instrumental in securing $6 million in startup monies in the late 1980s from the Texas Legislature to enable UT Dallas to begin granting four-year undergraduate degrees, in addition to its long-established doctoral and master’s programs.  

More recently, as honorary co-chair of UT Dallas’ first comprehensive fundraising campaign, Realize the Vision, he helped garner support for the effort that raised more than $273 million to benefit the University. 

Jess Hay

A longtime friend of UT Dallas, Hay served as honorary co-chair of the recently completed Realize the Vision campaign.

He also worked to help individual students. When longtime family friend Keith Lankford Taylor BS’93 lost his battle with lung cancer, Hay established a fellowship in Taylor’s name. The endowed fellowship supports graduate students in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.

Hay, a former UT System regent and chairman from 1985 to 1987, offered warm words of support for UT Dallas, students and faculty, and the University’s research enterprise during a volunteer summit.

“The University's accomplished faculty is producing an increasing volume of first-rate, nationally acclaimed research that has triggered significant increases in private and federal funding for UTD's rapidly expanding endeavors,” he said. “This basic research inevitably will produce related applied research and significant innovation, which together will enhance our prospects for economic and social enrichment in the future.”

Hay was the retired chairman and CEO of Lomas Financial Corp., a diversified financial services company. He served as chairman of the board for several major corporations, including Trinity Industries, HCB Enterprises Inc., a private investment firm, and former chairman of the Texas Foundation for Higher Education. He served as director emeritus of Viad Corp. 

He earned his bachelor of business administration degree from Southern Methodist University in 1953 and a law degree from the SMU School of Law in 1955, graduating magna cum laude. Hay was associated with the law firm Locke, Purnell, Boren, Laney & Neely from 1955 to 1965, becoming a partner of the firm in 1961.

He was appointed to the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System by Gov. Dolph Briscoe in 1977, and reappointed by Gov. Mark White in April 1983. In 1991, he received the Santa Rita Award, the highest honor given by the University of Texas System.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].