Department of Art Alumni
WestConn's Carol Hawkes proves inspirational
Eileen FitzGerald, Staff
Published 11:50 a.m., Thursday,
July 28, 2011
DANBURY -- Recently retired WestConn dean Carol Hawkes is on YouTube. It's kind of an unlikely alliance -- she's 89 after all --but it fits her pioneering life.
While Hawkes is computer savvy, she's resisted a cell phone and was surprised someone posted a video on YouTube of her reminiscing at Barnard College's 2008 reunion.
"I knew I wanted to be a teacher and a famous writer," the octogenarian told the welcoming crowd at her alma mater. "I also envisioned that I would be a world traveler wearing tweeds, flat-heeled shoes and a monocle."
Hawkes still doesn't have a monocle. While she's presented her writings at academic institutions around the country and in Europe, she didn't write a novel as hoped. But she showed off her flat-heeled shoes in an interview at her new office at WestConn recently.
Hawkes retired in June as founding dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts at Western Connecticut State University, but her new assignment is as consultant for the college's re-accreditation committee.
Hawkes' well-regarded academic career began with a doctorate from Columbia University in 1949.
Her first post was as English professor and department chair at Finch College in New York City from 1957 to 1975.
She became vice president of Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., then president of Endicott College in Massachusetts and arrived at WestConn in 1987, as dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, the first of three titles she has held at the university.
Hawkes' independent single life included 25 Atlantic crossings on Cunard ships while her intelligence was rewarded with regular inclusions in the inter-generational, invitation-only Renaissance weekends for the United States' preeminent authorities and emerging leaders.
When a four-seat plane she was in crashed in the fog off the runway at Oneonta's airport while returning her to Hartwick College, her tenacity meant her bruises didn't keep her from meeting the visiting re-accreditation team the next morning.
"They accredited us immediately. I guess they thought if the dean could survive the plane crash they should give it to us,'' she recalled with a laugh. "Wasn't I lucky. For the next six months, I walked on air for making it out of the crash."
WestConn was the best fit for her, finally.
"I wanted to work in a public institution. This is the kind of institution that is now making possible the American dream. The private institutions are charging so much that they're making education out of reach for so many people,'' Hawkes said. "This (WestConn) makes education available to people of ability with limited means. Talent is not limited to people with means."
Hawkes is valued for her work at WestConn.
"What she has brought us is wisdom, experience, and an understanding of what quality in higher education means," WestConn president James Schmotter said. "She's one of the people you look to for thoughtful, wise counsel.''
She's been a model for the staff, Schmotter added. "She's a totally classy person who is a role model for how to behave in any professional setting.''
In 2001, as dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Hawkes hired Abbey Zink as an assistant English professor. Zink is now the school's interim dean.
"She gets right to the heart of an issue and has multiple ways of addressing it," Zink said. "She's had a remarkable career. I told her she's my hero."
Hawkes chaired the task force that recommended the university create the School of Visual and Performing Arts. As its founding dean, she created the identity, structure and operations of the school of art, music and theater arts.
"The arts are fundamental to human beings," Hawkes said. She praised the new dean, professor and musician Dan Goble.
Hawkes is a role model to Linda Vaden-Goad, former WestConn dean, now vice president at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.
"She was getting her doctoral degree and serving as a faculty member when women in those roles were fairly rare and to be president of a college was an extraordinary event," Vaden-Goad said. "She's tenacious. She paces herself. She keeps her cool. She's an extraordinary person. She's very smart, very experienced and very gracious."
Hawkes said doing what she loves keeps her going.
"It's been extremely rewarding to have had the opportunity to be active in colleges and universities that have represented opportunities for many people," she said. "I really believe in education. I really believe it opens doors and I would do anything to make it available."
Contact Eileen FitzGerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 203-731-3333.
About Carol Hawkes Aged 89 Western Connecticut State University Founding Dean, School of Visual and Performing Arts. 2006 - 2011 Associate vice president for Academic Affairs, 2002 -2006 Dean, School of Arts and Sciences, 1987 - 2002 President, Endicott College, Mass., 1980-1986 Vice president, Hartwick College, Oneonta, N.Y., 1975 -1980 Professor of English, department chair, Finch College, N.Y, 1957 -1975 Education: Barnard College, bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, 1943 Columbia University, doctorate, 1949