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Deans and administrators from each college suggested one of their faculty members who deserves special “kudos” during Faculty Appreciation Week.

Gene HayesA professor in the Department of Exercise, Sports and Leisure Studies since 1984, Gene Hayes founded Camp Koinonia, a successful camp for kids and young adults with disabilities, visited all 50 states and dived in waters around the world for 20 years.

While his students say they appreciate the example he sets, Hayes said it is his students that energize him the most.

“I consider Dr. Hayes my mentor and I am forever grateful of him for showing me a path that includes passion for helping others, working hard for something I believe in and feeling great about what I am doing with my life,” said second-year graduate student Dale Ernst, who has spent four years working with “Doc” Hayes. “Over the years Doc has changed tens of thousands of people’s lives, including mine. Doc has an incredible passion for helping others. He is easily approachable, friendly and, most of all, genuine.”

Nafiseh Arman is a graduate assistant and the Camp Koinonia director for 2010.

“It means a lot to see how much trust he has in us as he allows us the privilege of heading up and staffing his programs and camps,” Arman said. “He is an amazing teacher and mentor, and I am so thankful that I found my way into the program and am able to work and learn from Dr. Hayes.”

Hayes started the camp when he was at Virginia Tech and has been running it for 33 years. He brought Camp Koinonia to UT in 1986, and it’s been popular with students and campers ever since.

Gene Hayes“It’s for surrounding counties and schools near UT,” Hayes said. “We select kids with multiple kinds of disabilities, ages 7 to 21. It’s for kids that don’t have a chance to go other camps.”

Camp Koinonia is also used for research. Students look at attitudes toward persons with disabilities, lifestyle planning techniques and outdoor activities for those with disabilities.

Hayes also serves the community beyond his work at UT. He and his dog, Lanai, frequent nursing homes, classrooms and rehab centers. He has received numerous scholarships and grants, but he still does it all for the students.

“I really appreciate and enjoy the students and quality of them,” Hayes said. “The compassion they have for working with diverse groups and kids with disabilities is incredible. The students keep my interest piqued.”

In honor of Faculty Appreciation Week, Tennessee Today is featuring stories and videos based on comments about great faculty members submitted by students, alumni and others.

You can send a shout out to your favorite faculty member or read what others have written.

Also this week, area merchants will offer a variety of discounts for UT faculty.