A 2004 New York Times piece listed the university’s Greek class, a requirement for many Bible majors, as one of the hardest courses offered by colleges nationwide. Although Elementary Greek Readings I and II were known for difficult coursework, the classes were also known for a loving teacher, Jan Hailey.
“I really don’t think they’re afraid of me, I think they’re afraid of the subject,” Hailey said in the Times. “I’m a grandmother; how tough can you be?”
The former teacher died on Nov. 2 in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, at the age of 69. Her husband, Dr. Mel Hailey, who teaches as a professor of political science. Funeral services took place Monday.
One of her students, Grant Mankin, said Hailey’s teaching still impacts him today although he doesn’t work in ministry anymore. He still uses a Greek Bible sometimes because Hailey taught him the value of the Greek language. As a student, he said he appreciated Hailey making the class worthwhile despite spending 20-25 hours a week studying the difficult material.
“She helped you learn even if it didn’t show on your grades,” Mankin said. “I feel like I learned more than my grade reflected that I did.”
Hailey was born in Sweetwater and moved to Abilene when she was a child, according to ACU Today. She became the valedictorian at Abilene Christian High School in 1966 and wrote part of the school song which students still sing today. She came to the university to study education and married Mel before she graduated in 1970. After teaching English for a few years, she returned to the university as a research assistant in the College of Biblical Studies.
She later earned a master in Greek in 1995 and a master of divinity in 2003. She taught Greek and other Bible classes for many years, served on the founding board of Abilene Habitat for Humanity and volunteered for the Noah Project, Meals on Wheels and the Emmaus Community.
“Jan was always very, very sweet,” Mankin said, “and you wanted someone like Jan teaching you something like Greek.”
Hailey retired from the university in 2008 after working in the College of Biblical Studies for 20 years.
Hailey is survived by her husband, Dr. Mel Hailey, and by her two children and their families: Jennifer and Joel Nichols, and their children, Benjamin and Natalie Nichols; and Robert and Jill Hailey and their children Joseph Zrinyi, and Ryder, Caitlin and Caroline Hailey; and her sister, Vicki Ruth Shepard.
Lyrics to the Abilene Christian School song: