PULLMAN, Wash. – As a young boy growing up on a farm and orchard in the Clarkston Heights, Delbert Hayes (’57) developed a strong work ethic and an aptitude for business. By age 11, he was managing the family’s tax returns. As he matured, he was known for being decisive, strong-willed, passionate, loyal and generous—key traits that prepared him to be successful in his accounting studies at Washington State University and in his career as Nike’s executive vice president.

He passed away in 2018, but his passion for accounting and acts of generosity continue with a $3 million donation establishing the Delbert J. Hayes Scholarship in Accounting in the WSU Carson College of Business. It will support graduates of Clarkston High School who are enrolled at WSU as full-time, degree-seeking accounting students with at least a 3.0 GPA. Applicants for spring 2020 should apply by Sunday, Feb. 16.

“Our ability to award an annual scholarship that will fund a student’s entire undergraduate education is transformational for us as a college and for students who may not otherwise be able to pursue a degree,” said Chip Hunter, Carson College of Business dean. “At the scholarship’s full capacity, we will be able to support four accounting majors who graduated from Clarkston High School.”

“The idea behind the scholarship was that it could be a tool to significantly help students from the Clarkston community, which was Del’s home town and a place that was special to him,” said Sandra Hayes, Del’s wife.

From left, Marla Meyer, Moss Adams accounting career advisor, Sydney Sewell, Susan Gill, accounting department chair, and Chip Hunter, dean, celebrate Sewell’s recognition.
Sydney Sewell says the scholarship will enable her to graduate without debt next year and take her CPA exam. From left, Marla Meyer, Moss Adams accounting career advisor, Chip Hunter, dean, and Sydney Sewell celebrate Sewell’s recognition.

Sydney Sewell, a junior pursuing a double major in accounting and management information systems and a minor in Spanish, is the college’s first recipient. Deeply thankful for the Hayes’s generosity, she is the first in her family to attend college and says the scholarship will enable her to graduate without debt next year and take her CPA exam.

“To say I’m honored doesn’t do justice to this incredible opportunity,” said Sewell. “My family and I see my degree as an investment in my future. Some full-ride scholarship recipients might assume that once the financial pressure is off, it’s okay to take it easy. But I’m determined to work even harder toward my goal of becoming a public accountant and make the Carson College and the Hayes family proud that they chose me.”

About Delbert Hayes

Hayes’s career success was as much a result of hard work as of his intellect. His real passion was the challenge of building a business, and the beneficiary of his efforts ultimately became the world’s greatest shoe company.

He looked at accounting “the way a poet looks at clouds; the way a geologist looks at rocks,” said his friend and long-time business colleague Phil Knight, who describes Hayes in his book “Shoe Dog.”

Hayes was Knight’s boss at one time when the two worked as accountants at Price Waterhouse. Knight brought Hayes on board with the idea to start Blue Ribbon Sports, the company that would eventually become Nike.

“Day after day I watched Hayes do something I never thought possible: he made accounting an art,” said Knight.

Sydney Sewell with her parents Clint and Nancy Sewell, who reside in Clarkston.
Sydney Sewell with her parents Clint and Nancy Sewell, who reside in Clarkston.

Hayes served as Nike’s executive vice president from 1980 until his retirement in 1995. He continued to serve on Nike’s Board of Directors until 2005.

According to his family, Hayes believed deeply that people succeed when they take responsibility for themselves. Hayes’s widow, Sandra, created the endowed scholarship to honor her husband’s conviction that acts of generosity can be game changers for the recipients, and that the payoff will continue in the future.

It is the family’s hope that recipients of this scholarship take advantage of a great education in order to someday find their passion and ‘pay it forward’ to the next generation.

For more information about the scholarship process, contact Michelle Chapman, assistant director of student engagement and scholarships, at mchapman1@wsu.edu or 509-335-3473.

Media contacts:

  • Micah Howard, assistant director of development, WSU Carson College of Business, 509-335-7853, micah.howard@wsu.edu
  • Sue McMurray, assistant director of communications, WSU Carson College of Business, 509-335-7578, sue.mcmurray@wsu.edu