Story by Kyle Desrosiers & Photos Courtesy of JP Hayworth

Photo of JP Hayworth

John-Paul “JP” Hayworth, a 2001 Baylor graduate, is working with a large network of Baylor alumni and students to push for adequate resources and support for LGBTQ students at Baylor. 

Justice and inclusion are values central to his profession as executive director of the D.C. State Board of Education, where Hayworth works to build an accessible educational system in the District of Columbia. Adjacent to this commitment to educational justice is Hayworth’s recent engagement as a Baylor University alum seeking to make the university more inclusive for students of diverse backgrounds. 

Hayworth was recently inducted into the Baylor Line Foundation Hall of Fame for his professional accomplishments. These include his public service with the State Board of Education and as president of the National Council of State Board of Education Executives. Hayworth has also been an invited speaker at conferences and forums across the nation, including the recent 2018 Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (B.I.C.) Alumni Homecoming Lecture entitled “The Role of Failure as Part of the Examined Life.” 

Hayworth, an alum of the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (B.I.C.), cites the holistic education the Core affords as foundational to his vocational development.

“B.I.C. was an amazing program,” Hayworth said. “It provided a way for students to be involved in setting their own curriculum, which was especially unheard of in that time.”

In 2001, Hayworth received a B.A. from Baylor in history and international studies. As an undergraduate, he sang with the Men’s Glee Club, an organization which is now called the Baylor Men’s Chorus. Additionally, Hayworth was a section editor for the Roundup, Baylor’s yearbook.

“It was fun being a yearbook editor. At that time, before social media, everyone still wanted a good write up in the yearbook and I got to go to all the functions without having to be a member,” Hayworth said.

According to Hayworth, his years at Baylor left a lasting impact.

“The education I got at Baylor was really good, but the best part of Baylor is the people, students and faculty,” Hayworth said. “Most professors really care for their students.”

According to Hayworth, many close friendships were forged in the community of the Interdisciplinary Core or among the men of the old Brooks Residential Hall, and have lasted into adulthood.

“The people on my floor became friends because of the shared experience,” Hayworth said. “We had a group of people that stuck with each other all throughout college and beyond.”

Hayworth also cites certain professors, such as Lenore Wright and Anne-Marie Schultz, as influential mentors who helped him cultivate character while at Baylor. When asked about Hayworth, Lenore Wright said that she remembers him for his leadership, conversationalism, and wisdom beyond his years. 

“I matured spiritually and intellectually while a Baylor graduate student under the guidance of outstanding professors in philosophy,” Wright said. “I have seen incredible former students like JP undergo a 

similar maturation process, transforming themselves into other-centered thinkers and doers by the time they graduate.”

Experiences at Baylor shaped Hayworth into a person who was interested in the world and loved learning. However, he has one regret: being too afraid to come out to many of his friends and pushing them away without giving them a chance to be trusted, Hayworth said.

“I shut myself off from people who I never talked with about my sexuality about but assumed they would treat me badly,” Hayworth said. “I really regret that.”

After graduation, Hayworth attended the University of Connecticut, where he received an M.A. in international studies with a focus on Europe in 2003. Since 2003, Hayworth has lived in Washington, D.C. serving in a variety of policy-oriented public service occupations.

Hayworth began his work in policy as an undergraduate congressional intern in 1999. After graduate school, he began his first full-time position as a junior researcher for a lobbying firm. He originally hoped to pursue foreign service, but had difficulty finding a way in without connections. Though it was not his original plan, Hayworth stayed with the lobbying firm for four years and built a strong client base. He was successful in this time but said he felt convicted that it was time for a change.

“I felt like I didn’t give enough back,” Hayworth said. “Working for people who had spent their entire career as staffers for the Senate Appropriations Committee was interesting, but I wanted to use that training to do some good.”

In 2008, Hayworth joined the Washington, D.C. mayoral office as a staffer in local domestic politics. But after a short tenure, the administration decided to make staff changes and many employees, including Hayworth, lost jobs.

“It was 2009 and the recession hit,” Hayworth said. “I sent three or four hundred resumes in that time and it wasn’t working out.”

Hayworth remembers that time as a period in which he could cultivate humility and practice patience at the circumstances. A friend of his was working for the House Transportation Committee, and found Hayworth an unpaid position. 

“I was in the door so I could potentially find something new. I was 31 and reporting to someone who had just graduated from college,” Hayworth said, laughing at the memory. “But she left four weeks after I joined so they ended up hiring me for her position.”

In the 2010 election, the Chair of the Transportation Committee, Jim Oberstar (Dem., Minnesota), who had been a House member for three decades, lost by 4000 votes.

When elected officials lose, so does their staff. Hayworth became unemployed again. He soon began working for the D.C. mayoral administration of Mayor Gray, working on federal affairs, housing, and economic development. Then, Mayor Gray lost reelection in 2014. His staff all needed to find new jobs.

“I felt like I had bad luck,” Hayworth said. “Every elected politician I ever worked for lost their next reelection.”

In 2015, Hayworth joined the State Board of Education as Executive Director, a position he still holds today. Hayworth is responsible for managing and overseeing all operations of the State Board. These range from administrative duties in human resources to policy research for the development of state educational standards. Hayworth said that he looks to his former boss at the mayor’s office for inspiration on how to lead.

“Janene, my boss at the Gray administration used to say, ‘everything good that happens I want my staff to take the praise for, and everything bad that happens I will take the fall for,” Hayworth said. “She was a hard boss and held us accountable, but God forbid anyone from outside came for us.”

Hayworth aspires to emulate this leadership style. He said he ensures that staff knows they will receive praise for their success and be free to make mistakes to learn and broaden skills.

As a young professional, Hayworth had faced many twists and turns in his career. There were many periods of uncertainty. However, as an executive for a State Board of Education, Hayworth now leads decision-making that can improve equity and accessibility for students from across the district.

These twists, turns, and even disappointments were the theme of Hayworth’s B.I.C. Homecoming address, “The Role of Failure as Part of the Examined Life.” 

Ultimately, he said, failure is vitally important in the development of one’s character and vocation. This development began during his years as a Baylor Bear.

The decades of Hayworth’s alum life have been spent engaged in community organizations. He has been particularly active in several LGBTQ organizations in Washington, D.C. Hayworth is an active part of the Gay Men’s Chorus in D.C., where he continues to pursue his love for making music. During his early years in Washington, D.C., Hayworth joined a group of gay and lesbian professional lobbyists to found Q Street, a LGBTQ lobbyists association.

“Whatever kind of lobbying you were doing, it was a group of gay folks who got together for happy hour to meet and be connections for each other. There were a bunch of folks working in the gay rights movements, and folks who didn’t,” Hayworth said. “We all came together, and it is now one of the most powerful lobbying groups in D.C.”

Hayworth returned to Q Street for its tenth anniversary in 2013 to be recognized as a founder.

“So much has changed for gay people in the world of politics,” Hayworth said. “At the time it was especially needed for the gays to stick together because quite frankly we could still lose our jobs. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in early October 2019 on that very question. ”

Hayworth did not choose LGBTQ advocacy as the focal point of his career, but said his identity and desire to advocate for people at the margins has been a central motivation as he seeks a career in public service.

In addition to his success as a professional public servant, Hayworth is involved in the efforts to make Baylor a more inclusive place for diverse students. He self-describes his style as “behind-the-scenes” advocacy. Hayworth is part of a large network of LGBTQ and ally Baylor alumni who are pushing for administrative change at Baylor with respect to policies regarding queer students.

“I have been involved with letter writing and campaign work to change policies at Baylor so the university can fulfill its mission of being a truly loving Christian institution that supports students from marginalized groups,” Hayworth said.

Recently, Hayworth and other notable alumni, such as D.C. attorney Skye Perryman, supported students in the creation of a petition signed by more than 3,000 Baylor faculty, students, and alumni that called for increased resources, support, and policies in place to protect LGBTQ students at Baylor University. These efforts stand alongside other student efforts which included a letter sent to the NCAA asking for examination of Baylor’s Title IX compliance in light of what its authors cite as Baylor’s lack of support and for its LGBTQ students.

Skye Peryman, 2003 Baylor alum was a close friend of Hayworth’s at Baylor. She said the two became even closer as alumni. Both Perryman and Hayworth are both recipients of the Distinguished Young Alumni award, which recognizes outstanding community service, achievement, and distinction among Baylor alumni. Perryman said that she admires Hayworth’s commitment to serving others and bravery, especially as they have joined efforts in advocacy for inclusion at Baylor.

“The education JP and I both received from Baylor taught us to think critically and examine biases,” Perryman said. “It is precisely that education that has led us to question and examine policies at the university with respect to LGBTQ inclusion. We join voices with a 

majority of Baylor students and faculty, who believe that all students should be treated with dignity and respect.”

Hayworth said he was sexually assaulted while an undergraduate at Baylor, and because he was gay, which was both against the Baylor student code of conduct and not well-received within Baptist cultural expectations of the time, he was afraid to report the incident to administrators.

“This is one of the reasons I am pushing for Baylor to recognize its LGBT students as a benefit, rather than a problem,” Hayworth said. “I don’t want anyone else to go through the same experience of feeling alone and isolated as I did.”

According to Hayworth, Baylor is designed to be a different place than other institutions, such as Texas A&M or the University of Texas. He said the university’s mission is to have the love of God and Christ at its heart. Hayworth said he believes that Baylor has the ability to embody to be a shining example of Christian love.

“As a gay alumnus, I feel an obligation to push my school to ensure that it is a place of learning, growth, and love for all students, whoever that is,” Hayworth said. “We are Christians. Exclusion of people who are minorities or religious minorities or LGBTQ is not who we are.”

John-Paul Hayworth, proud Baylor alum, embodies the legacy of Baylor University. This legacy is the formation of people who serve the world humbly, engage their intellects, and strive to sow healing everyday. 

Hayworth’s story shows the twists, turns, and imperfections of life. It also inspires current Baylor students with the power that dedicated, brave individuals have to sow change in a community they love.