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By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Frank Davis described Mariam Cannon Hayes as an incredibly well-read person who could talk with authority about almost anything ó art, music, real estate, investments, sports.
She will be remembered for her caring, sensitive side, Davis said Monday, but he also will think of Hayes’ acumen for business, her incisive mind and her willingness to make decisions and move on.
“She was a force to be reckoned with,” said Davis, executive director of The Cannon Foundation Inc., for which she served as president for more than two decades.
Hayes, one of the state’s more noted philanthropists and the last surviving child of Kannapolis textile giant Charles A. Cannon, died Saturday evening at her Blowing Rock home.
She was 91 and also had a home in Concord.
Hayes was mother of U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C.
Her philanthropic endeavors focused on things such as affordable health care, schools and churches.
Her personal passions were music education and performance and, in later years, Appalachian State University football and University of North Carolina at Charlotte basketball.
As president of the non-profit Cannon Foundation Inc. from 1982 to 2004, Hayes had two commitments:
She held the foundation to the highest ethical standards, following the letter and spirit of the law, Davis said.
And she was dedicated, he said, to awarding grants that made a real difference in people’s lives, whether it was bringing N.C. Symphony performances to children in the mountains or supporting free medical clinics all across the state.
She focused on people who were hurting the most, Davis said.
Hayes remained a foundation board member until her death, never missing a meeting. Her father established the foundation in 1943.
Kannapolis Mayor Bob Misenheimer noted Hayes’ personal service as a volunteer at CMC-Northeast (formerly Cabarrus Memorial Hospital, then NorthEast Regional), which benefited greatly from her family’s financial support.
“In the earlier days, she manned the switchboard and did whatever needed to be done,” said Misenheimer, also a hospital volunteer. “She was very free with her time.”
Kannapolis City Councilman Richard Anderson last spoke with Hayes at the new Core Lab being built in Kannapolis by David Murdock. A biotech research campus is springing up on the grounds where Cannon Mills once flourished and Charles Cannon once ruled.
“She’ll be remembered for continuing her father’s legacy of being a philanthropist,” Anderson said. “She was a very active lady in terms of being involved in the community, not just our community but around the state.”
Appalachian State University’s Mariam Cannon Hayes School of Music provides undergraduate and graduate degrees in music education, camps and other programs.
She also helped to create the Mariam and Robert Hayes Performing Arts Center in Blowing Rock.
Hayes was heavily involved throughout her life with an orphanage in Banner Elk.
Her husband, Robert, died in 1998.
She was one of four children of the late Charles and Ruth Cannon. The other children, all deceased, were William C., Charles Jr. and Mary Ruth.
Through the Cannon Foundation and Cannon Charitable Trusts, Hayes and her Cannon family name were linked to numerous other colleges and universities in North Carolina, including Salisbury’s Catawba College.
She helped to fund technological advancements, curriculum reforms, student programs and building renovations and expansions at Catawba.
The Cannon Student Center and Cannon Academic Computer Center are named for Charles Cannon.
Hayes received an honorary doctor of humanitarian service degree from Catawba College in 1987 and the college’s Adrian L. Shuford Jr. Award for Distinguished Service in 1992.
The Shuford Award is the highest honor the college bestows.
In 1995, the college also honored Hayes at its annual Service of Praise and Thanksgiving service.
Robert and Mariam Hayes presented a record, multi-million-dollar gift to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1993 to complete construction of the $26 million student activities center named for James H. Barnhardt.
Barnhardt, who had died earlier that year, was the Hayeses’ brother-in-law.
Over her lifetime, Hayes served as a trustee of Queens University, Davidson College, Appalachian State and Blowing Rock Hospital.
She belonged to the board of the N.C. Museum of History and the board of advisors of UNC-Charlotte and Charles A. Cannon Jr. Memorial Hospital.
The Charlotte Association of Fundraising Professionals named her 2004 Philanthropist of the Year.
Born in Concord, she graduated from Mount Vernon Seminary and attended Queens University, before doing graduate work at the University of Oklahoma. Besides Catawba College, she had honorary doctorates from Campbell University and Wingate University.
In a different time and place, Davis said Monday, Hayes would have been “an incredibly successful corporate executive.” She had a keen mind for figures in particular, and she seldom let emotion override logic, he said.
“You could not get anything past her,” Davis added.
Davis said Hayes’ leadership and counsel will be missed on what is now the eight-member board of The Cannon Foundation Inc. But the foundation’s corporate structure will allow it to continue on its path, he added.
Hayes regularly attended UNC-Charlotte basketball games, traveling to their conference and playoff contests.
In the recent successful years of Appalachian State University football, which have included two national championships, college officials considered Hayes a good luck charm of sorts. Davis said she “moved heaven and earth” to make every one of those playoff games, including the first national championship.
A memorial service for Hayes will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church of Concord. The family will be receiving friends at her home today.
Robin Hayes was her only child. She also had two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
nnnContact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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