Rushton Hays (1938–2018) was not a Caltech alumnus; he graduated from Mississippi State University in 1955 and held senior management positions at a number of luxury resorts in California. As far as anyone knows, he never set foot on Caltech’s campus. His longtime friends Lloyd Bennett and Bob Summers knew nothing about Hays’s association with the Institute. Neither did anyone at Caltech—until his bequest of more than $3 million to create the Rushton William Hays Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Bennett, who was Hays’s accountant for 35 years, describes his friend as a world traveler, wine aficionado, art collector, and patron of museums and the symphony. “Rushton was old school: a good man with a tough hide and a huge heart underneath,” Bennett adds.
Summers, who met Hays through Bennett, paints the picture of a Southern gentleman who lived well, worked hard, and, above all, had a heart for people. “There are stories of him helping workers at the resorts he managed buy cars and go to community college,” Summers says. “He loved education. He thought that was an important way to improve people’s lives.”
Although Hays worked in the hospitality industry, “Rushton had a bit of passion for engineering,” Summers notes. “And somewhere along the line, he focused on arguably one of the greatest engineering schools in the country. He really wanted to help kids who need scholarships attend Caltech.”
Summers, who served as Hays’s financial adviser for 26 years, observes that giving away money is not easy. “Rushton struggled with questions I think everybody who has a little bit of money struggles with: Where do I want my money to go? How am I going to make that happen?”
In the end, Summers says: “Rushton ended up with far more money than he probably thought he would die with. I love the fact that his scholarship fund will help so many scholars at Caltech. I think Rushton would be happy about that.”
Scholarship support is a high priority for Break Through: The Caltech Campaign. Currently, more than half of the Institute’s undergraduates receive financial aid, made possible in large part by generous alumni and friends. Thanks to his extraordinary gift, generations of outstanding Caltech students will have a true friend in Rushton Hays.