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Nancy Campbell Hays

Biography

Nancy was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on May 26, 1923. An uncle taught her photography when she was twelve, and her father helped her build a darkroom in the family home. She began undergraduate studies in architecture at the University of Michigan. Her parents hoped she would complete her studies there, but she headed instead to the School of Modern Photography in New York City. 

In 1948, at the age of 25, she was sent by the American Friends Service Committee on a year-long assignment to postwar Europe and the Middle East as a volunteer photographer. During the 1950s, Nancy established herself as a professional photographer using Campbell Hays as her professional name. She worked through the Monkmeyer Press Photo Service in New York City until the agency closed in 2001. Many of her photographs were used to illustrate school textbooks and the Weekly Reader, distributed to schools across the country. 

Nancy moved to Chicago in 1958 and found her life-long home in the Hyde Park-Kenwood community. She did advertising layout and photography for the Hyde Park Co-op and undertook weekly assignments for the Hyde Park Herald, including extensive coverage of children and post-urban renewal Hyde Park. Every year for almost four decades she supported and photographed the 57th Street Art Fair, the Hyde Park Garden Fair, the July 4th on 53rd parade and picnic along with countless school and community events. 

Beginning in the 1960s, Nancy became deeply involved in saving trees and safeguarding the lakefront and parks. She joined the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference as a member of the Parks Committee and, in 1965, helped form the Daniel Burnham Committee to protest the city's plans to put a freeway and feeder route through Jackson Park. Her name is associated with all the subsequent struggles to preserve and protect Jackson Park and Burnham Park: the dismantling of the Nike bases, the protection of Wooded Island, the preservation of the 63rd Street Bathing Pavilion, the rehabilitation of the lagoons, and the preservation of the limestone revetment at Promontory Point. She was instrumental in founding Friends of the Parks in 1975 and served on its board for three decades. She was one of the founders of the Jackson Park Advisory Council in 1983 and served in some capacity with the council, including president, until her death. 

Nancy has been recognized for her achievements numerous times including by the Chicago Audubon Society in 1997 and the South East Chicago Commission in 2002.  In 2014 the Chicago Park District named the bridge at the north end of Wooded Island leading to the Osaka Garden in her honor.

She bequeathed the entire body of her photographic work-prints, slides, and negatives that span fifty years-and related documentation to the archives of the Hyde Park Historical Society. The collection is stored at the Special Collections Research Center of the University of Chicago's Regenstein Library.