Rob Hays doesn’t consider himself a “real” alumnus of Santa Croce since he only studied philosophy there for one year. But his enthusiasm for the educational and spiritual formation he received there has not lessened, even after spending the next twelve years in the world of business and finance. How that all transpired and how it has impacted his life is the story of this donor profile.
As a cradle Catholic growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Rob experienced a typical Catholic upbringing. One significant influence was that Rob’s father had converted to Catholicism and as a successful businessman, never forgot his primary commitments to faith and family. When Rob traveled east to attend Princeton University, he expected to follow in his father’s business footsteps.
At Princeton, Rob’s Catholic faith was challenged. While many college students lose their faith under pressure, Rob was energized to learn more about his Catholic faith. Immediately after graduation, Rob went to work on Wall Street for a global investment bank, spending 80 and 90 hour work weeks in mergers and acquisitions. It only took one year to realize that this was not a healthy lifestyle and it caused Rob to begin to question his personal vocation in life.
His Catholic friends suggested that he enroll at Santa Croce to discern God’s calling. It was here that he abandoned himself to take whatever path God showed him. In Rob’s case, he discovered that God was calling him to the married life.
While in Rome, his friendship with a younger Princeton student, Alicia, blossomed through their regular correspondence. A few years later, they were married and started a family in Dallas, Texas. Today, Rob and Alicia find ways to pass on the beautiful teachings of the Church, not only to their five children, but to friends and business associates.
Seven years ago, Rob started the Business Ethics Forum in Dallas for senior level business leaders which meets four times a year to spend time discussing how Catholic social teaching can apply to specific business case studies. More than 150 different business leaders in the Dallas area have benefited from these meetings, learning Catholic concepts such as the common good, human dignity, and subsidiarity. People are amazed to learn that basic Catholic philosophical and theological principles contain practical answers to everyday business practices.
Rob and Alicia also host a bimonthly event called The Cottonwood Lecture Series in their home. After food and wine, about 40 to 80 people listen to quality speakers on topics such as Developing Virtues in Families, The Importance of Formation, and The Future of the Priesthood. So far, about half the speakers have been faculty members from Santa Croce.
When asked why Santa Croce is so high on his list of places to support financially, here is Rob’s answer: “To me it is very important to know that the education is objectively well done – both the professors and the material are wonderful. But in addition to that, and even more important to me, is the university’s deep understanding that everyone has a God-given mission. It’s virtually impossible to leave Santa Croce without having an intimate relationship with our Lord. But also, students know that they’re being sent out on a mission – whether it’s to a parish, to the academy, or the business world – to be a light and to change lives in that place. That spirit of personal mission is everywhere at Santa Croce. When you study at Santa Croce you know that your formation does not end there ... that is just the beginning!”
The spirit of personal mission is what Santa Croce has given to Rob Hays and countless other students. And that is why he encourages others to help provide sponsorships for needystudentsaroundtheworld.”