Joe Wyatt
Published April 18, 2019

After dismissing a class at Amarillo College – in welding, metallurgy, HVAC or electromechanical systems – Kim Hays might relax with a good book, possibly a tome about organic chemistry or the science of genetics.


There is simply no way to pigeonhole Hays, a master plumber and electrician with a seemingly equal affinity for machines in disrepair and complex sciences.


Not only is Hays a Texas-certified welding inspector, he holds a doctoral degree in agricultural education and frequently tutors students well after hours as they strive to grasp motor-control concepts in technical labs on AC’s East Campus.


“It’s often brought up, having an education and working on junk, but I don’t see the conflict,” says Hays, professor of industrial technology and department chair. “In today’s world, educated people don’t generally go find something greasy to work on, but I like to fix things.


“I find reward in things running, operating, completing a project, making something whole again. I work with students who find the same rewards.”


Hays first experienced Amarillo College as a student himself, when challenges he faced while farming led him to seek scholarly solutions; he completed two degrees at AC and in so doing acquired an unquenchable thirst for higher education.


“My associate degrees from AC – electronics and refrigeration – led me where I am today,” he said. “That’s the foundation for everything I do.”


Hays joined the AC faculty in 1993. He earned bachelor and master’s degrees at West Texas A&M, the latter in engineering technology in 1996. A few years later, he was the recipient of AC’s highest faculty honor, the John F. Mead Faculty Excellence Award.


Then in 2006, Hays became a member of the first class to complete a joint doctoral program through Texas A&M and Texas Tech University.


The dividends from all his academic pursuits have been plentiful and the benefits have gone almost exclusively to a multitude of AC students.


“I’ve been very fortunate to have the education I’ve received, to be exposed to all the areas and at the same time learn the psychology behind learning,” Hays said. “I’m also fortunate to have a pretty broad background.


“I like to think I’m setting up students with options, with a universal education so they will have the ability to apply what they’ve learned in a lot of areas, so they won’t be stuck on a narrow path.


“You’re rewarded when your students do better than you. That’s what you teach for – those that’ll become better than you.”


As department chair, Hays has an overflowing plate that includes oversight of multiple technical programs, facilities, budgets, and internship programs. He incubates new programs, purchases equipment, works extensively with external industry, and serves on advisory committees.


He also teaches a great many classes.


Amarillo College, says Hays, strives to equip students with the skills industry needs, and he often swings by his students’ places of employment to help them diagnose problems there.


“We have a philosophy, that if they (students) don’t put their finger on it, if they don’t run their finger down the wire, if they don’t see it happen, if they don’t turn the screw driver and learn how tight is tight, it’s not gonna happen,” Hays said.


“Fortunately, we’ve got a corps of teachers that are dedicated and proven. I take calls all the time from students. Maybe they’re on the job and have a problem, trying to fix something or make something run, asking questions – that’s what keeps us challenged.


“Not only that, we go out where they work – Borger, Dumas, Dimmitt – go to the job site with them and see what the problem is, see them take hold … see them learn.”


Even though his calendar is full, Hays manages to find time to pursue his fascination of the sciences.


“Right now, I’m reading the history of genetics,” he said. “What does that have to do with what I’m doing as a teacher? You’d be surprised. Organic chemistry is one of my loves, too; I’ve found it very rewarding.


“You need to know the math that goes along with that, and that same math and same science spills into other areas … there is not a conflict with making a living with your hands and having an education – none at all.”