Dr. Richard Bay, 68, decided to reinvent himself and move to Saint Louis, Missouri, but not before helping the Radford community one last time.
This past week, Bay donated over 500 children’s books to McHarg Elementary, ranging from activities books to books on robotics and multicultural books. Bay has been a professor at Radford University for 15 years, teaching art and helping his students get involved in the Radford community.
For the past five years, Bay was involved in a community outreach program that was created from a grant through RU’s scholar citizen initiative. All of the projects were based on books and readings and will continue in the future, so Bay knew that this donation would make a large impact. He has also been directly involved with the elementary school students by bringing in guest authors and doing talks on art from various cultures.
Bay decided to retire this spring after his son was in an accident in Chicago. However, he felt that his work wasn’t yet done and he wanted to continue in his passion.
“I think maybe I was getting too comfortable, and when things like this happen in life, it’s a realization that there is still more out there for you to do,” Bay said. “Part of the realization was what can I do to help this school.”
Bay will begin working at Westview Middle School in Saint Louis this year, teaching art in one of the most impoverished inner city schools in the area. His educational background allows him to incorporate different subjects into his class and helps students to learn in all areas through art. Bay has five degrees, varying in subjects from food and nutrition, biochemistry, and painting and drawing.
“Here’s the thing, you can’t separate art and life,” Bay said. “I really believe that I can teach every subject through art. That’s what kids need today—the integration that knowledge base of art and sciences.”
While he stands today as a academically decorated man, Bay’s early education didn’t start out similarly. As a child in Brookly, New Yrok, Bay was homeschooled for two years due to illness. He struggled to have the same education as most kids, and was labeled in the 1950’s as being “educationally retarded.”
All of that started to change, though, with the help of a man named Bruce Metzker who became his tutor. Because of the influence of this teacher, Bay was able to eventually enter fifth grade.
Teaching is Bay’s passion, and he hopes to help people in the way that Metzker did for him. His experience showed him that not all students learn the same and that it is important to understand exactly how a student comprehends the world around them.
“Every child knows something differently by the way they’re brought up, by who’s around them, by what they hear,” Bay said. “That’s contextual learning. You can’t just say two and two is four. You’ve got know why a kids knows it’s four. And if a kid says its 22, 11, or 0, there may be a reason. It’s very easy to just say they’re wrong, but a better teacher asks why.”
Recently, though, Bay has been met with surprise at his desire to continue his work. Bay is an artist at heart, though, from working on paintings to creating his own Christmas cards. With his passion for teaching, it is clear that this work is an art form to him as well.
“It’s the spirit you bring. I’m just a big kid and I’m still having fun teaching kids. What keeps you young is when you really enjoy what you do I know in my heart that I can change lives and that’s the most important thing.”
His relationship with teachers and McHarg Principle, Mike Brown, is close and many members of the educational community in Radford respect Bay. He has dedicated his time and efforts to the youth of the area, and while his presence will be missed, Brown said, he will continue to have an impact.
“With this donation of books, it will allow us to reach even more children,” Brown said. “To put a book in their hand, and to know it came from Dr. Bay, makes it even more special.”