Robert Hawkes, Retired History Professor, Succumbs to Cancer

Posted: March 5, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Robert Hawkes Jr.
Robert Hawkes Jr. in 1971, shortly after he joined Mason.

Robert T. Hawkes Jr., a professor of history at Mason for 37 years who retired in 2006, succumbed to cancer the evening of March 3. This scholar, who came to Mason in 1969, was much beloved by his many students and colleagues.

Funeral services are set for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 8, at Crenshaw United Methodist Church, 200 Church Street, Blackstone, VA 23824.

Known for a dry wit and deliberate style of speaking, Hawkes was the university’s first expert on its namesake. Throughout his many years as a teacher – and at times, university administrator – Hawkes lectured on George Mason and his contributions to both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States.

Speaking for the university, university President Alan Merten expressed sadness at Hawkes’ passing.

“Sally (Merten) and I deeply respected and thoroughly enjoyed Bob Hawkes. His knowledge of George Mason the man, and his devotion to George Mason University will be among my prized memories of Bob. We all feel the loss and will cherish what he did for us,” said Merten.

Upon his retirement, Mason’s History and Art History Department established The Robert T. Hawkes Endowed Professorship. This endowment was established to emphasize excellence in teaching as well as devotion to fostering relationships with students.

At the time the endowment was announced, Jack Censer, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, noted that Hawkes’ greatest wish was that the department continue its reputation of being close-knit and student-friendly.

“Bob’s students often described him as one of their most influential teachers,” said Censer. “We wanted to pay tribute to that.”

In 1996, Mason’s Alumni Association named him Faculty Member of the Year.

Several of Hawkes’ former students remembered Hawkes’ classroom contributions.

“One of my influential professors was Bob Hawkes,” said Stephen Karbelk, BA History ’92, cofounder of the Department of History and Art History alumni chapter.

Rob Paxton, BA History ’79, said Hawkes “instilled a love of learning, and it’s helped me tremendously in life.”

In addition to being a tenured member of the History and Art History Department, Hawkes served as dean of Mason’s school of continuing and alternative learning for many years. Prior to coming to Mason, Hawkes served as assistant director of the University of Virginia’s center for continuing education as well as a history instructor in that program.

He earned his doctorate in history from the University of Virginia in 1975; his graduate degree also at UVA in 1967; and his undergraduate degree at Randolph-Macon College in 1964.

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