One of Emporia State’s largest and most loyal family of alums will be honored on Saturday, Sept. 17 during halftime of the Hornets’ game against Missouri Western in Welch Stadium.
Descendants of the late Keith and Lillian Mayes will receive the 2022 Hornet Heritage Family Award, sponsored annually by the ESU Alumni Association to recognize a multi-generational family of Hornet alumni and former students.
The event is part of the annual Family Day celebration.
“We all grew up very cognizant that hard work was expected, and education was a priority,” said Emporia attorney Deb Huth (BS 1988), one of the Mayes’ 12 children and spokeswoman for the group. “… Education was always very important to my parents. You did not slouch in school.”
Unfortunately, circumstances had caused their father, Keith Mayes, to leave school after the eighth grade. Meanwhile, their mother Lillian Mayes, had completed her senior year in high school and her freshman year of college at Ursuline Academy in Paola in the same year, graduating with valedictorian honors.
“My dad’s story is kind of a different one,” Huth said. “He wanted his kids to have the opportunities that he never had.”
After their wedding, Keith and Lillian operated a trucking company. Keith, with “the gift of gab,” was the front man for the business, and Lillian handled the office chores, Huth said. Together, they also farmed their 160 acres of land and reared the children.
Hard work was a given in a family that size.
Huth recalled children and parents working together to butcher 300 chickens every summer, milk two dairy cows twice a day, cut and bale hay to feed the dairy cows and beef cattle, plant and tend a huge garden and then can the hundreds of quarts of vegetables the garden produced.
“The goal seemed to be 300 of everything,” Huth said. “And Mom would fry six chickens every Sunday.”
By the time Deb Mayes entered Emporia State University in 1984, she was well-seasoned in working hard and studying hard.
She played volleyball as a freshman, before suffering a foot injury her sophomore year. She found time to squeeze in dates with Bill Huth (BSB 1988), while simultaneously taking 18 to 22 hours of coursework each semester, maintaining her scholarships and working at the William Allen White Library throughout her time at ESU. Upon the completion of her degree, she graduated summa cum laude with a 3.96 GPA.
Bill had played basketball for ESU and worked at UPS during his time at Emporia State. He and Deb married before graduation and settled into a bungalow on Garfield Street in Emporia. After being accepted into law school at Washburn University, Deb Huth commuted to Topeka. Then-professor Randall Anderson set her up with a job in the office of the late Emporia attorney Don Krueger, who made her a partner when she graduated with Dean’s Honors in May 1991.
“I hadn’t even passed the bar,” she said. “I got sworn in Oct. 4, 1991.”
Bill Huth used his education to become the current loan director at Emporia State Federal Credit Union. His parents and sister also graduated from Emporia State University.
The Huths’ son, Ryan, who played baseball for the Hornets, graduated with four degrees (two BSEs, two BSs, 2018). He teaches world history at Copper Canyon High School in Glendale, Arizona. His wife, Reba (BS 2017), whom he met at ESU, directs human resources at the largest culinary catering service in the southwestern part of the United States. They range from preparing 11,000 meals a day in the Phoenix area, to operating trucks that serve firefighters on fire lines and even cater larger events such as golf tournaments.
Other Mayes siblings and children have also impressively used their ESU degrees.
Joan Mayes Reichardt (BSE 1992, MAT 1997) and husband Steven Reichardt (BSE 1985, MS 1991) are both teaching in the Augusta school system, in addition to being high school coaches. Steven’s parents and sister also graduated from Emporia State.
The Reichardts’ daughter, Bailey Steinkamp (BSB 2019), works at Wichita State University, and her husband, Kyler Steinkamp (BSB 2019), is a computer specialist in Wichita.
Mayes sibling Mary Helmer Wirth (BS 1989) was Emporia Main Street director for many years and is currently the president and state coordinator for Main Street Alabama. She and the late Tim Helmer (BIS 2007) have two sons, Jacob and Adam. Jacob (BA 2012) works at Emporia Middle School, while Adam (BSE 2015) works in the Lyon County District Court Clerk’s office.
Sister Pat Mayes Masters’ husband, the late Anthony Masters, received his BSB in 1982 and worked as a computer specialist.
Brother Robert (Bob) Mayes (BSE 1979, MS 1981) received a doctorate from Kansas State University. He is the lead program director for the National Science Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia, and director for the Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM education at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia.
Bob and Lori Mayes’ son, Nicholas (BSB 2015), played basketball for four years at ESU and is now employed as a chemist for Pfizer in McPherson, Kansas.
Sister Elaine (BSE 1981) attended ESU along with her husband, Larry Alexander (BSE 1982, MS 2006). Both were teachers their entire careers, now are retired and have moved to Arkansas.
Brother Harold Keith Mayes Jr.’s two children both graduated from ESU. Son Scott received a BA in 2003 and works for an assisted living company. Daughter Sara Mayes Coltrane (BME 2003) teaches at the Emporia Christian School. Sara’s husband Ben Coltrane, (BSE 2000) works at 12th Avenue Baptist after starting a school in the Philippines, of which he remains the director.
For Deb Huth, the diversity of the Mayes family’s careers illustrates the truth in an advertisement the university used years ago.
“It was like, ‘Start here, go anywhere,’ and I thought that was very appropriate,” Huth said, “because I did feel like my education there provided me the base to do anything. I draw upon the education I received from Emporia State every day.”
The more-intimate setting, both on the Emporia State campus and in the classrooms, also allowed better communication and professors’ mentoring of students. Huth mentioned there were a number of former professors and staff she would not hesitate to call on even today.
“The relationships you build with these people are incredible,” Huth said.
The Huths remain drawn to the university for programs, athletic competitions and relaxation.
“We still walk around the campus,” Huth said. “We’ll take my granddaughter down in her stroller. We’ll walk about the campus, go down by the pond.”
Emporia State University has proven itself a good fit for a family.
“It’s big enough,” Huth said; “it’s small enough.”