Wayne D. Hales, 1929-2010

The Colorful Economist


Bobby Davis ’82






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Longtime professor of economics and former associate dean of the Crummer School of Business Wayne Hales died on March 16, 2010 at age 81.

Wayne taught “The Dismal Science,” but his life was anything but dismal. He was born in Oklahoma City on the eve of the Great Depression, February 4, 1929. His mother was a bookkeeper and seamstress who followed jobs to Montana, Oregon, Texas, and back to Oklahoma during those difficult years. Wayne enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1946 and, as a member of the 71st Signal Corps, was part of the occupation force in postwar Japan. There, he became smitten by art and architecture and learned to appreciate the melding of cultures when he saw the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and the Imperial Palace in Beijing.

After the war, Wayne went to work for an oil and gas exploration company in Texas, where he met his future wife, Joy Wofford, “with whom he exchanged a flurry of letters—his always beginning with ‘My Dearest Joy,’ wrote his son, Steven, in a memorial dedication to his father. “This association with the Democratic Wofford clan began a conversion from naïve conservative to caring liberal which would inform the rest of his life,” Steven noted with amusement.

Wayne’s understanding of economics was not originally academic, rather practical and diverse. The couple went to live in Oklahoma City, where Wayne engaged in varied employment in the early 1950s—television cameraman, lighting director, and union organizer. The latter activities got him banished to Alabama for two years by the parent company. He and Joy later opened a toy store, Hales Toyland, which expanded into a second store. They closed the stores in 1964 and Wayne went into the family construction business with his dad for a time before deciding he wanted to pursue higher education. In 1965, Wayne entered Oklahoma State University, where he earned his BA magna cum laude in two-and-a-half years. He continued his education there, receiving his MS in economics in 1971 and, two years later, completing his PhD while simultaneously teaching at Rollins.

“It was at Rollins, in a career spanning almost 40 years, that my dad was the happiest he had ever been,” Steven recalled. “Dad was at his best in the classroom, with a quick wit and teaching style that made his classes memorable. He and my mother made a life that revolved around friends and the College. The elements of happiness, friends, and a job he loved intersected in a wonderful way.”

Wayne was a man of diverse interests and talents whose love of life remained undimmed even in his later years. He loved unique cars and was a crack mechanic. He and Joy opened an antique store in the early ‘90s. “Once again, they were collaborators in retail, partners in the pursuit of beauty and, best of all, a bargain,” commented Steven.

It was a crushing blow when Joy died in 2009, but Wayne rallied. As Steven noted, “In his final year, Dad traveled to San Diego, Oklahoma City, Washington, DC, South Carolina, and Philadelphia, and he was planning a trip to Europe. He was going to sell his his Cobra and buy a Lotus. We worked out daily and played golf every Tuesday. And he kept to a vigorous social schedule. ‘Growing old is not for wimps,’ he once said.”

Wayne will be remembered fondly by the Rollins community for the colorful way in which he lived his career and his life.