Deceased May 20, 2023

View alumni profile (log in required)
Read obituary

In Memory

“It’s a fine world, though rich in hardships at times” – Augustus McRae, Lonesome Dove.

Hayden William Anderson appeared at Amherst College in the fall of 1988. He was tall, blond, blue-eyed and boyishly handsome with a lightning-fast wit and a knowing, impish smile. We soon came to know him simply as “H.”

Even after the briefest of introductions, it was apparent to everyone that H was charming, intelligent, funny and possessed a natural, understated Steve McQueen-esque charisma. He quickly became the singularity around which our group of collegiate fellow travelers, known first as the South Amoeba and then later simply as The Fellas, formed. H was frequently seen with one or more of The Fellas, holding a cup of black coffee or a frisbee, a thin collection of notecards in his back pocket, a pen clipped securely to the back of his t-shirt collar, looking ever-so-slightly above it all. 

Hayden was a truly exceptional student, albeit deceptively so. He always carried a notebook to class but rarely took notes. He could be caught reading or writing at random times and in random places around campus but was always willing to go to a party, for a hike, on a 1000-mile road trip, cohost a late-night radio show or spend an evening sipping bourbon and chatting with friends late into the weeknight. By the following day, H was unruffled, the professors receiving his full attention. He made it look easy. He graduated magna cum laude.

Hayden treasured quality rhetoric. Not only did he enjoy telling stories, discussing the Red Sox’s starting lineup and crafting nearly unassailable philosophical arguments, he seemed to have the uncanny ability to know what people were going to say. H loved to watch a story or joke unfold, even if he knew how it would end and whether the teller would stick the landing. The Fellas learned an important lesson early on: argue with Hayden at your own peril. During a conversation, it was easy to see trouble coming when he opened with “Riddle me this…” or ended with “You sure about that?” Hayden was not one to boast, but he once claimed to have never lost an argument with a civilian. In truth, he might have lost an argument or two to Ted Ridgway ’91, but no one knows for sure. His love of reasoned argument led him to major in philosophy, writing his senior thesis on the work of Immanuel Kant. Finding that he wasn’t quite done with philosophy or Kant, Hayden got in his old pickup truck, frisbee and empty notebook in hand, and headed to Notre Dame where he earned his Doctor of Philosophy and the enthusiastic accolades of students and professors alike. 

After graduating from Notre Dame and a brief stint in finance, Hayden chose to enter the challenging world of nonprofit development and administration. This pursuit took him from New Hampshire to Washington State and eventually back to Maine, where he served first as interim executive director of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project and then as the executive director for the Maine Humanities Council, a position he held for the better part of a decade. Everyone who worked with Hayden found him to be an inspirational and natural leader, giving generous attention, sage guidance and measured latitude. H believed in pushing people out of their comfort zones, the dignity of autonomy and the value of learning from mistakes. He once watched with cautious amusement as his roommate attempted to rewire an electrical outlet, knowing full well that the breaker was still on. When the inevitable shock occurred, without any hint of mirth, H said, “Bet that hurt.” 

For all of his clarity of thought and practicality (he believed 32 inches was the perfect size for a television, and he used a binder clip for a wallet), Hayden was not without a measure of whimsy. He loved parades, Rubik’s Cubes, juggling, Easter egg hunts and dressing up for Halloween. He always kept a kite in the car—just in case. 

Hayden met his future wife Meredith in the fall of 2008. She invited him to a pumpkin carving contest. While doing laundry. After her dog bit him. They were married on Halloween weekend 2012 with Fellas in attendance. They had two children, Gus and Lucy, whom Hayden found endlessly inspirational and astounding to watch. Whether reading to them about the life of Albert Einstein, launching model rockets, bobbing in a lake, watching the Portland Sea Dogs play ball, taking Lucy to Friendly’s for ice cream instead of preschool or delivering home-baked pies to the local fire station with Gus, Hayden was a family man through and through. 

Insightful, thoughtful and wise beyond his years, Hayden was always the go-to person for advice on a shockingly wide variety of topics, from motorcycles to dog rearing to window screen installation to pie baking. It was from this latter category that H served up an essential piece of life wisdom: “The best crusts come from ornery dough.” He lived by this philosophy. Never taking an easy or customary approach to life, Hayden faced life’s very toughest challenges with otherworldly equanimity, clarity of thought and grace.

Hayden was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in the spring of 2022. Characteristically, H did it right. He followed treatment plans, avoided internet research, played with his children, included his friends, and prepared his family. Hayden, along with Meredith, Gus, Lucy, and his tireless mother, Betsy, welcomed and entertained countless visitors over the following months, even as his health and stamina waned. Although he was equally open and eloquent about his initial hopes and eventual disappointments, H never lost his cool. A little over a year after his diagnosis, H died peacefully at home at the age of 52, having lived life as a singular man who elevated all those who knew him. Hayden was an extraordinary and loyal husband, father, brother, son, uncle and friend. The world is a lesser place without H, and we all miss him terribly, but we are all the greater for having known him. 

Banks Shepherd ’92