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Career Communicator


“My clearest memory is of Joe Giesen,” Peggy Hayes ’79 remembered. “When I earned an A from him, it felt like five As from someone else. His high standards and expectations taught us that we could deepen our skills. He nurtured my love of writing.”

Hayes has spent her professional life following that passion in a career that has taken her from Duluth to New York City to Washington, D.C., and now to her home in Boston. A journey that has been all about mastering the written word.

“I always wanted to be in New York City,” Hayes recalled. “I was really in love with the idea of it that I absorbed from books and film.” That meant attending college at Vassar, where she wrote and edited the college newspaper, “and never considered changing my major from English!” she emphasized. Her desire to be near the city was challenged when she accepted her first job, not in New York, but in Washington, D.C., working for Minnesota’s Senator David Durenberger.

The job with Senator Durenberger had many components, but writing was the key element. “It was such a big part, all day and every day. I wrote thousands of letters,” Hayes said. Washington was exciting, and it was fun to be a part of a community of young and passionate people. But after three years it was time to move back to New York to take her craft to the next level. It was also good to be back close to water, as anyone who has grown up in Duluth can understand!

Back in New York, living in the West Village, Hayes accepted a position with Burson-Marsteller. Her time in public relations and communications helped her refine key elements in the writing process, elements that would be common to all the different places she would work. “From my time at Marshall, I learned that there are two important avenues to good writing. One is the ability to synthesize and understand ideas. The other is to express those ideas, particularly in a way that is persuasive.” Hayes leaned heavily on those skills as she focused on health policy, first in New York and then in Boston as the Director or Health Science Public Relations at Tufts University. Now, as the Director of Communications at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies, she uses those same tools to provide strategic direction to the College’s communications.

“Writing is like a muscle, and at Cathedral/Marshall we learned to exercise it,” she said. Hayes wrote and edited the school newspaper and was a part of the Beacon Yearbook staff. “We had the ability to try things out. In class, we wrote frequently, and while I might not agree now with all

the content, it gave us a chance to think through and defend ideas. It taught me the power of a well-argued idea.” For her final project as a senior, Hayes remembers writing a long paper, “three to four times” longer than any other. She chose Virginia Woolfe as her subject and had to learn about both scope and focus. She described it as “a real growth experience.”


Hayes was also part of the student group that helped plan assemblies, a new idea at the time but one that is still in practice at Marshall. They were charged with coming up with programs that could hold the interest of—and surprise and intrigue—the student body, which is no easy task now or back then. “I know we learned as much from the things that didn’t work as those that did,” she said.

Cathedral was also a big part of making the transition from childhood to adulthood. After finishing at Holy Rosary, it was natural for Peggy to follow her sisters and become a Hilltopper. But in addition to the academics, it was other, little things, that helped Toppers begin to feel like “mini-adults.” “At first it was as simple as moving from classroom to classroom which we didn’t do in

younger grades. Later as seniors, it included the privilege of having our own private space, the glassed-in senior lounge with decorations inspired by Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, which seemed very adult to us,” she remembered.

There was academic rigor and a choice of classes. And there were teachers who both pushed and encouraged. Important, too, were the “hands-on opportunities,” that gave students a chance to put into practice the ideas learned in classes. “Drama was important, but my favorite activity was Model UN, earning a trip in the old Cathedral van to New York to observe the real UN in action. After the UN trip, I spoke to the Duluth Rotary luncheon, making my adventure interesting to a group of local business leaders.”

Today, Hayes is still a writer, and still in love with the written word, and “when I don’t have a book going at the moment, I don’t know exactly how to feel.” Her time at Cathedral/ Marshall was an important part of her journey. “Cathedral gave us a hint of what was to come.”

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