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Gay B Hadley

Gay Hadley, age 90, passed away peacefully on May 18, 2020, amidst the thoughts and prayers of people who loved her: family, friends, and staff and fellow residents at Westminster Thurber.  She was preceded in death by her mother and her brother. She is survived by her daughter Kit (Cynthia Fay, dec.) of Saint Paul, MN, her daughter Susan (Bradley Sowash) of Columbus, OH, her son Scott of Burlington, VT, and her daughter Lynne (Michael Millard) of Tunbridge, VT, six grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and loving nieces and nephews.  A graduate of Western College for Women, she raised four children before enrolling at Ohio State University, earning her doctorate in education in 1982. She then joined the staff at the University and served until her retirement in 1995. At her retirement she was an associate vice president for human resources.  Gay developed the first orientation program at OSU for re-entering women students. She created the BRIDGE program in Continuing Education to provide support for University staff pursuing course work, which became a national model. She was one of the founders in 1986 of the Critical Difference for Women program, which continues to provide grants and scholarships for women seeking advanced education and enhanced professional lives at Ohio State.  She co-chaired with Dr. John Herrick the first campus campaign, for which she received the Reese Medal in 1992, Ohio State’s highest honor recognizing exceptional service in private philanthropy. She received the 1998 Distinguished Service Award for exceptional service to the university. She was a leader throughout her life. Prior to her years at Ohio State, she served as President of the Junior League, she was active in the Urban Education Coalition’s campaign to desegregate the Columbus Public Schools, and she co-founded Options for Adults, a career counseling service. Gay was a lifelong learner and writer. Upon retirement, she took many courses at OSU, participated in reading and writing groups, and wrote several books of poetry and sketches of fellow Westminster Thurber residents. She worked throughout the decades to promote equity for women, people of color and people on the margins of society. She had a strong moral compass, an active curiosity about the world, and a deep devotion to her family and friends.  In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Critical Difference for Women Fund at the Ohio State University or to Doctors Without Borders. More information is available at Please visit to leave an online condolence.

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  • Deb Ballam says:

    Gay was such a gift to the world. She inspired and changes the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands, of women at Ohio State. She will live on forever in all of them.

  • Melodee Kornacker says:

    May Gay’s memory be for a blessing. I just read the OSU oral history interview with her in 2013 , tried to copy the link here but you can Google her and it will come up.

  • Penny Ellis says:

    Gay was an inspiration to me as a colleague at Ohio State. For many years after retirement we saw each other to celebrate our friendship and birthdays. Once I said to her, I know your birthday is early March but I have trouble remembering the day. She smiled and replied just think “Gay Hadley marches fourth”. And indeed she did! March on Gay!

  • Sue Mayer says:

    I will always remember Gay and her sense of humor even in
    the darkest of times – It was an honor to work with her on the Ohio State University’s Critica Difference for Women program and United Way Campaigns – her door was always
    open and she always made you feel at home. She will be
    missed. My thoughts and prayers go to her family during this difficult time.

  • Lisa Rooney says:

    Gay and my mother, Anne Castle, started Options Career Center together. I remember them together so well and how much I enjoyed being with Gay.She brought light and joy into my life for the few years that our paths crossed. Gay and my mother were such wise women and gave so much to the people surrounding them.

    My thoughts and prayers are with Gay’s family. I know how much she will be missed.

  • Sue (Barnes) Wilson says:

    My friendship with Gay began as Upper Arlington neighbors in the 1960s when my son Joel Barnes & Scott were teenaged pals who gleefully challenged the parental rules! Gay encouraged my return to grad school with her sage advice I have always treasured. My husband, Bill Judy,, joins me in sending condolence wishes to Gay’s family. Sue Wilson

  • Brian Trotiet says:

    I got to know Gay and the rest of the Hadley family when I moved to Columbus in 6th grade because her daughter Susan was in my class. Susan later would became my first girlfriend. I will never forget how caring, intelligent, welcoming, and outgoing Gay was. For several years while Susan and I we’re dating, Gay was like my second mother and to this day I smile whenever I think of those times. My deepest condolences to the entire Hadley family and especially to Susan.

    Brian Trotier

  • Rev. Hanci Newberry says:

    I knew Gay Hadley during her time as a parishioner at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. I always appreciated her words of encouragement and thoughtful perspectives. She was a person of many accomplishments, even more than I was aware of. Gay was truly a person who made a difference in the world.

  • tovie dewey says:

    Being a friend of Susan and spending time at the Hadley home was always fun. I loved this woman who became such an inspiration to me over the years. I watched her from afar and learned to believe that women are powerful, capable, and age resistant. She accomplished so much in her life and raised 4 of the most amazing people I’ve known. I know she will be missed by many, but her quiet fire lives on in her children and granddaughters!

  • Sharon Sachs says:

    I thank God for the life and influence of Gay Hadley and for the blessing our connection brought to my own life, the Columbus community, and to the many women and men who received career counseling through OPTIONS, the organization Gay co-founded. As one of the “original thirteen” career consultants selected by Gay and her business partner my opportunity to establish a career in a city to which I recently moved was launched. I want Gay’s friends and family to celebrate not only Gay’s direct experiences which were many and impressive but also the career counseling, human resource and non-profit management work that was accomplished in her community through others whom she trained. She was a pioneer in adult education and those of us who got to work closely with Gay benefited greatly from her leadership and commitment.

  • Jan Dailey (Defenbaugh) says:

    To all the Hadley children and families:
    My deepest condolences on Gay’s passing. She was a huge part of my life growing up. I loved going to play at the Hadley house. Family dinners were especially fun and memorable. She was a phenominal mother and career woman. The world was a better place for having Gay in it.
    Love to you all!

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