SF State News {University Communications}

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Hayes named Alumnus of the Year

May 6, 2010 -- Once described by the Wall Street Journal as an "environmental pitbull," Randy Hayes has dedicated his life to protecting the environment and shedding light on environmentally destructive business practices by some of the world's largest companies.

A photo of Randy Hayes

2010 Alumnus of the Year Randy Hayes.

For his career as a filmmaker and environmentalist, SF State will honor Hayes as its 2010 Alumnus of the Year at the University’s 109th Commencement exercises held Saturday, May 22 in Cox Stadium on campus.

Hayes made a splash while earning his master's degree in Environmental Studies at SF State in 1980. Armed with a 16 millimeter camera, he and two other students produced the documentary "The Four Corners," which examined the social, cultural and environmental effects of energy development in the U.S. Southwest. The film's examination of strip-mining on Native American land moved viewers and won the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award for "Best Student Documentary" in 1983. The movie was critical of national environmental policies and drew the ire of the Reagan Administration.

"I had been traveling to the southwest, living on and off with the Hopi Indians and meeting these 100-year-old inspirational characters who knew what it was like to live sustainably near the Grand Canyon," Hayes said. "For three graduate students, this became a pretty hot project."

The award and few job opportunities in environmental advocacy spurred Hayes to found the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) in 1985. Headquartered in San Francisco, RAN uses high-visibility marketing campaigns to align the policies of multinational corporations with environmental protectionism. Hayes has combined the passion of an environmentalist with the savvy of a Madison Avenue advertising executive, working to change policies at Conoco, Mitsubishi, Home Depot, CITI Group and other companies.

RAN's high-profile activities and events have included large-scale boycotts of companies like Burger King over the source of its meat supply to funding an Ecuadorian Indigenous people's march to secure the title to 2.5 million acres of their ancestral rainforest lands. "People are opening their eyes to the damage we've done to life supports of the planet," Hayes said. "We have to get our foot off the throat of the planet's life support systems. And that's going to have to take major societal shift in thinking."

Since July 2008, Hayes has worked as U.S. Director of the World Future Council, a multinational group based in Germany, which seeks implementation of long-term policies to promote sustainable living and a cleaner environment. "Randy Hayes has been a tireless champion for environmentalism, sustainability and responsible business practices throughout his career," President Robert A. Corrigan said. "His advocacy has ensured that future generations will inherit a cleaner, more just world."

-- Michael Bruntz


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