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Professor closes Brockport career with Achievement Award

by Shelby Toth - Executive Editor
Thu, Feb 21st 2019 02:25 pm

On the homestretch of an over 40-year career that began with a couple of scotches, Professor James Haynes has no shortage of achievements to be proud of. Most recently, Haynes was the recipient of the Professional Achievement Award from the New York Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, an award that he explained is given out yearly to recognize work done in the fisheries profession within the state.

“It was a great honor for my colleagues in the fishery profession around the state to recognize my contributions…” Haynes said. “I guess the word had gotten around that I’m retiring this year, and now was the time.”

Set to finish his run as a faculty of Brockport in December with 42 years under his belt, Haynes has contributed time into multiple areas of focus within the college, not only to better himself, but others around him.

“I think the things I’m proudest of is what I was able to help students, thousands of students, learn along the way and watch them, especially the master’s students, get jobs in their profession and be productive members of the profession, and do good things,” Haynes said.

Born in Oregon, Haynes completed his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. He noted that when he was applying for jobs, he did not have many of the benefits enjoyed by college graduates looking to join the workforce today have. Haynes sent out about 100 letters, all written on a typewriter, for different job advertisements he found in scientific journals.

After defending his dissertation in Minnesota, the secretary of the department gave him a message to call a man named Ted Starr at The College at Brockport.

“I didn’t know who it was, I did not remember writing a letter, and there was no description of the job,” Haynes said. “So I called blind, not knowing exactly what this conversation was going to be about.”

During the phone call, Starr explained who he was and invited Haynes to go and interview for the job.

“I told him the dumbest thing I’d ever said in my life, which was ‘well I just interviewed at the Oakridge National Laboratory a few weeks ago, and I think they’re going to offer me a job, so I shouldn’t waste your money to fly,’” Haynes said. “…Basically, what he said was ‘young man, you should come and take a look at what we have to offer before you make that decision.’”

On the plane ride after a successful interview at Brockport, that ended in a job offer for Haynes, he contemplated his options over a few adult beverages.

“So flying back on the airplane from the interview and drinking a couple of scotches I thought ‘well, what’s best for me?’” Haynes said. “Starting out at a university then moving to a national research laboratory, or starting out at a national research lab then moving to a university? And I thought it’s better to go be at the university.”

He recognizes Starr as being a huge influence on his coming to the college, as well as citing him as an inspiration.

“Ted Starr deserves credit for what has been a wonderful career at Brockport, in fisheries and in New York State,” Haynes said. “While I’ve applied for other jobs -- I haven’t in years but I did apply for several other jobs -- the grass was never greener on the other side. It was always better here, no matter what was going on. I’ve been very lucky.”

As the lone fishery professor when he first arrived, Haynes has branched out and taken advantage of many opportunities within The College at Brockport. He worked as the interim provost for two years, as his ideas for change within the college were supported by the president, who made him provost. He also has worked on the college’s joint Planning and Budget Committee for many years.

“As you know, the state, SUNY and the college are in a constant state of financial distress,” Haynes said. “I think I played an important role, and actually led that committee for a few years, in trying to alleviate those problems as best we could.”

One achievement noted by Haynes’ colleague, Christopher Norment, is his work creating the Environmental Science major at Brockport. Haynes, along with another colleague, Joe Makarewicz, were instrumental in building the major.

“We began as a department of three faculty and perhaps 40 undergraduate students in 2002, and their guidance and vision helped us grow into a dynamic and successful department with eight faculty members, about 135 undergraduate majors and 25 graduate students,” Norment wrote.

During his time here in New York, Haynes has also done research in areas including the St. Lawrence river, the Hudson river and the Niagara river, as well as in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Through these research projects, Haynes was able to solve actual problems effecting the communities he was doing work in, and the information gathered was used to “make management recommendations” as well as “make decisions that helped to clean up pollution in various areas that helped to protect fish populations.”

Looking back on a career of many successes, Haynes can’t see much negative in his time with the college, even boasting about the school itself.

“Brockport has been a wonderful place to live and to work, and it’s a wonderful place for students to get a great education,” Haynes said.

After 41 years of impressive work and dedication to his research and his students, Haynes is rounding out his career by finishing one active grant he still has, as well completing manuscripts from previous projects, a job he believes he’ll take with him into retirement. This doesn’t bother him, though, as he notes it will be “something to do.” After a career with as many opportunities and experiences as Haynes’, it’s safe to say boredom is not something the professor is used to.

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