Monday, June 6, 2011

I wanted to share a few thoughts and memories about Bob. I first met Bob when he was a member of the faculty, then worked with him in his role as an associate dean.  About 13 years ago he became the Dean of Campus Life and I served as his Assistant.     

One of the first years I worked for him, Bob had me put up a sign on our door:  “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” – let the good times roll – as a kick-off to the new year. He was teaching the Greeks and Lysistrata in World Views and would wear a Socrates mask (complete with flowing white beard) to class, and had his students do something called “Parthenon Twister” at the final class.  Good times weren’t limited to the classroom, either.  He loved props and would start every fall Directors’ meeting with a ceremonial sword and Viking helmet, and bring a talking pig that said “more money, more money!” to our budget meetings.  He’d wander around the UC with his megaphone making announcements, “Now hear this, now hear this!”  

Bob regularly met with students to help them with their problems, proposals, or to give academic or career advice;  he had lunches or coffees with faculty to educate them about the Residential Commons; pored over the budget to see where we could cut just a little bit more.  But the endless staff and committee meetings (as reflected on the ubiquitous orange cards sticking out of Bob’s pocket – his low-tech version of a Blackberry), the hours I spent xeroxing articles for his classes, haggles over budgets and the various proposals don’t fully reflect our office or what Bob brought to it.  

While Bob wasn’t always the easiest guy to work for (I don’t think he ever did actually create a document on his computer – once Robert Minato was working on Bob’s computer and said “oh, I think I’ve erased all his documents!” and I told him “Bob didn’t have any documents”), what I’ll remember most about the years working for Bob is the humor he brought to the office and the generosity and care he showed to his students – many of whom considered him their “lifetime advisor.”  Most of us are familiar with his quick wit -- I’m sure people often wondered what was so funny when they heard us laughing in the office.  We’d often have tears running down our faces over some funny story. Our office dealt with some very difficult issues over the years, and sometimes humor is what helped us keep it together.  

But what some people might not know is Bob’s thoughtfulness to friends and colleagues.  He assisted an employee whose family was in dire circumstances, helped with tuition for a bright student from abroad -- I’ve personally been the recipient of his thoughtful generosity when he bought two tickets to bring my daughter and grandson over for a visit from Macedonia for the summer.  He crafted literally hundreds of letters of recommendation to help students continue their education, get a scholarship or land a job.  His involvement with students went beyond graduation – he participated in their weddings, they brought their spouses and children by to meet him, he followed their careers and celebrated their accomplishments.  I’m sure there are many here who owe their career – and life trajectory - to Bob’s enthusiastic advocacy.  He changed lives.  

When I think of my years working with Bob, this is what I’ll remember...
* likely places to find the Dean when he’d “gone missing” (Bistro, Travel Center, Bookstore)
* how the Dean enjoyed listening to music ranging from Eleftheria and Diana Krall to gypsy jazz and classic rock and would often call me into his office to listen to a particular passage (“come here, you’ve got to hear this!”)
* the Dean’s passion for Bistro coffee and scones while discussing politics with a student, grading papers, or catching up on some reading
* finding gifts of chocolates on my desk from his most recent travels abroad

Bob was one of a kind – I’m going to miss him.

Colleen Spedale – Assistant to the Dean of Campus Life

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Of Kafka and Coffee – Lessons from Hawkinson

Professor Hawkinson was a major force in my life. He was what every college student dreams of in a college advisor (advocate for exploration, coach for building an academic experience that broadens your mind and opens opportunity, confidant who helps you through the tough times, and caring uncle who keeps you honest and gives you the kick in the pants you need). He was my senior thesis advisor, one of the greatest and most inspiring teachers I have ever had, my internship advisor, the Bistro advisor, and after graduation a colleague in work as a trustee on the Commons, the Solomon Amendment, gender neutral housing, Greek occupancy, the first-year experience, and many other student life changes. And above all he was an incredible friend.

I keep thinking my connection with Hawkinson should be about introducing me to de Tocqueville or my deep love of the civility, intellect and political acumen of The Federalist Papers or the fact that 25 years after reading and discussing the book with him, I find myself in meetings with Federal Agency clients quoting Exit, Voice and Loyalty. Or our connection should be about his support of the student movement for divestment from South Africa or our mutual passion for student-led innovation and an engaging campus life. Or the hundreds of hours we spent over the last 27 years arguing politics . . . But no, it really is all about food.

Several memories that have flooded through my mind since Sunday the 22nd -

The Gatke Office Talks
In the basement of Gatke Hall, central casting has constructed the quintessential set for the beloved and absent-minded professor. Pine shelves floor to ceiling line three of the four walls groaning and creaking under the weight of books, books and more books. A narrow path snakes its way through stacks of books on the floor. To sit you must carefully remove a pile of books from the guest chair, carefully and conspicuously placing the student’s paper you have found in clear view so it might be noticed and graded (more on this later). And in the middle of it all, at a monolith of books (beneath which a desk supposedly exists) was bow tie-bedecked Professor Hawkinson.
Time stopped in the Gatke Office. As Hawkinson focused on your needs, inspired greater effort, gave a good piece of advice or handed you a book that you must read. But our conversations always worked their way to food. Now, truth be told, the Sue Leason buttered popcorn gauntlet could have had something to do with the subject of our talks. But never fail, we would start discussing Rousseau and find ourselves in a comparative analysis of a real Chicago hot dog and the hollow facsimile available on the West Coast. Deconstructing Kafka’s The Trial turned to reminiscing about knish. Or we would find a connection between Federalist Ten and the appropriate perfection of a Vanilla Malt served with breakfast at the Off-Center Café. And it was in the basement of Gatke where tales of the late-night epic Schezuan cooking feats of Hawkinson, the University of Chicago graduate student, came to be known, and inspired many late-night cooking fests among politics students of our era.

The Bistro Plotting, Planning and Tasting
“There is no place to go late at night and good coffee is impossible to find.”
That was the complaint of two Sophomore Poli Sci majors who decided to go see President Hudson. To our shock, Hudson says, “come back in a week with a business plan.” Do we go to the Econ Department for help? No. Do we even think to cross Winter Street to the Graduate School of Management? No. We make a beeline to Gatke and the basement office. Thus begins a year of discussions ranging from, “I used to teach at UC Santa Cruz – they have student-run coffee shops, let me connect you so you can go do research,” to “you know, you should have Quiche and Soup so people can recharge late at night.” Of course, as our official faculty advisor (just as he has been for dozens of student-led initiatives), he served as an advocate, as an offensive lineman when needed, and always as a coach. And back to the food theme, he also provided many a critical thumbs up and thumbs down as we tested recipes.

Tag Team for the American Political Thought Orals: or, what do Red Hook and onion rolls have to do with Selznick?
One of the best classes I ever took at Willamette was Hawkinson’s senior seminar on American Political Thought. Our small group of about 10 students would gather in the Eaton seminar room and debate that week’s reading (ranging from the correspondence of the framers to the use of television to shape the presidency)
with Hawkinson pushing us to express a strong point of view and for others to pose objections and alternatives.  What could be more fun? But there remained the fact of the dreaded Oral. 60 minutes of being grilled by Hawkinson on everything and anything covered in the class. As a joke, John Donovan and I suggested to Hawkinson that the two of us should be able to do the Oral as a tag team and that it should be conducted over beers and sandwiches at Brice’s (Hawkinson’s favorite deli in the 80s). Not only did he agree, but he upped the ante: “Ok, but it will be two hours, I’ll come up with tougher questions and if you do well, I’ll buy the beers.” We had a blast. It was a tough exam (but the ability to high-five for the tag team help get us though and indeed Hawkinson picked up the tab.

The Chinese Dinner Ransom Payment
On graduation day, John and I compared notes and realized that neither of us had received our Senior Thesis papers back from Hawkinson. We approached him (resplendent in his University of Chicago regalia — including the very cool velvet beret) and asked about our papers. “Oh, they are safe and sound and you both did well. But I want to give some more comments as this will be the last feedback I give you.” As we packed up for post-Willamette life, we wondered could they be under the wrong pile of books in Gatke? A year passed. We saw Hawkinson at a young alumni gathering. Still safe and sound. Five years passed. “I am saving them as a gift for your 10th reunion.” The 10th reunion arrived and Hawkinson offered a deal: “I am saving your papers for your 20th, but I will cook you a gourmet Chinese Dinner to commemorate their ten-year anniversary.“ And what a meal it was.
Hawkinson came to Portland. Haggled at the Asian markets, assigned chopping and peeling duties to about 10  class of ‘88 alums gathered for the occasion, and made what seemed like a 12-course feast that will always be remembered as one of the best meals of my life.

The Retirement Dinner — otherwise known as the Great Foie Gras Uprising
After Hawkinson’s Retirement, a group of us invited him to Portland, where we would cook a dinner in his honor. Prior to dinner on a warm summer evening, we gathered on the front porch for cocktails and, of course, to talk politics. Suddenly we heard the sound of a crowd with chants, roars and yells. It was coming from Hawthorne Blvd. and Jon Radmacher went to investigate. “It’s a giant protest.” Well of course we had to go and see or participate. We rounded the corner to encounter a crowd of 50 – 100 very loud protesters. What were they protesting? Genocide? Clear cuts in the National Forest? The war in Iraq? No, they were protesting Foie Gras. And for some reason (the poorly written signs, the screaming of violent obscenities at the children sitting in the restaurant with their families or the sense that this was civil disobedience run amok), we committed an incredibly politically incorrect act and entered the restaurant to buy a drink in protest of the protest. We proceeded to have a great discussion on the nature of protest and political voice as well as the power and politics of food.

Food for Thought
Hawkinson fed our minds, fed our hunger for community engagement, fed our expectations of a more civil society and often fed us good food made better with great friendship. He embodied non nobis solum nati sumus – not unto ourselves alone are we born. Every year since I graduated, he has told me about and sought support from the community for amazing students he was helping to get a job (I have been fortunate to hire some of them), students he was helping find a computer, students he was helping go on a summer research experience by raising travel money, students he was helping get an internship and of course students on campus with great ideas he was helping get the support to become a reality. His priority was finding the talent and ability for contribution and community building in each of us and doing everything in his power to nurture and grow this potential. He is and will always be greatly missed. He is and will always be part of the fabric of Willamette. His Legacy will live on in our commitment to support students and to ensure their education in and out of the classroom sends them into the world with the ability and the conviction to have lives of contribution, success and meaning. Bob – Thank you for changing, improving and enriching so many of our lives and our community. There will always be a place for you at our figurative table and in our hearts.

Eric Friedenwald-Fishman Class of ‘88
June 5, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

Remembering Bob

I am typing this e-mail looking at the black chair next to my desk and Bob's pictures on the wall.
It was very sad and I came to realize that Bob was a very big part of my life.  He made me very comfortable asking any of my questions and sharing my thoughts and opinions.  I always admired the way he communicated with people.  We enjoyed talking about cultural differences, trips and foods-restaurants.  I miss him a lot and I still cannot believe he won't walk into Travel Center with a cup of coffee and cookies in his hands.

Mika Yamanaka
Travel Specialist - WU Travel Center

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Graduation 2007

Carolyn Burns, CM of Kaneko, Class of 2007

Maggie Shaneyfelt, First president of Kaneko, Class of 2007

Contributed by Carolyn Burns

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bob and I shared our first class together in the Fall of 1982.  He was the new professor in the Political Science and I was a befuddled freshman.  I think most people recall those first days in college as intimidating, but Bob's warm personality and legendary sense of humor was comforting.  Over the years he became my advisor and mentor.  He challenged me and made me laugh.  He was no ivory tower professor.  Right now I can hear him in my mind lecturing about "eyewin triangles" in the basement of Gatke Hall and bragging about the '85 Bears.

After graduation I'd often see him at the grocery store or grabbing coffee.  He always had time for me to chat.  During his administrative tenure he often told me about how proud he was of the Willamette students and the positive things they were doing for the community.

At our 20th class reunion I had the opportunity to introduce my 5 year daughter to him.  He couldn't have been more gracious.  His recent passing sparked a conversation with her about teachers and what a huge impact they have on our lives.

I've always loved the Willamette motto - "not unto ourselves alone are we born."  In my mind, Bob and his legacy embodies the motto.

Lindsay Partridge '86 JD '89

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Bob means to me........

He had a sense of humor like no other person.  He could cheer me up without me realizing it's what I needed.  He inspired me to achieve greatness, to believe in who I am as a person and what I had to offer others.
He's one of the smartest men I know.
He always had the answer.
He was always there to make sure my class selections worked for me.
He was a man who you could get mad at and then forgive and love the minute you saw his face.He would defend me when required and also let me know if I was out of line.
He was not afraid to express his emotions or feelings.
Sometimes he would get quiet and I knew something was going on with him.  We would talk and work through it together.  He trusted me.  What a gift.I enjoyed our little competitiveness, and we laughed for long periods of time - who could out do whom. Oh there were times when we had plans and he did not show up - but that was Bob.
Stepping on my dress when he walked me down the aisle at our wedding

Re-packing Bob at the last minute for his trip to Prague, taking out his favorite blue shirt.
His travel experiences turned into many stories.I will never forget our many dinners, movies, brunches during the holidays, idea of buying a beach house and his visits to our home.
There was never a day that went by where I didn't want to see Bob.
He believed in me.He never gave up on me and what he felt I could accomplish.  He saw the best in me and reminded me often.  
He was always there for me when I needed a hug or reassurance.
e was a mentor, like a second father to me and most of all one of my dearest friends.
I will miss him more than I even know at this moment.
I love him and will always.  I hope he hears me now.....

Kindra Jordan
WU Travel Manager

Nearly every morning, I would see Bob walk out to his car, usually dry cleaning and briefcase in hand. Sometimes, I would call out from across the way, "Aren't you retired yet?!" Bob would laugh and say, "eh, I'm working at it" - or "I'm getting there" - or "who has time for retirement?!"
I've known Bob for nearly 10 years, and even his apartment manager couldn't hide from his love of academia and personal quest to ensure the world was highly educated. While those talks were limited to minutes at a time, Bob always made sure that I was following whatever path I wanted to be on, and that it was perfectly fine to fence sit and enjoy my station in life; as long as I followed whatever it was I wanted to "be when I grew up". (However, graduate school was mandatory) Conversely, I would ask Bob what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would tell me he hadn't figured that out yet. I think we both settled on being career students for life. There was rarely a place I saw him not interacting in some form of learning or teaching, whether that be at Willamette, our community, or the local coffee shop.
Semi-retired or not, Bob's true passion was his students. Hearing these amazing stories from his colleagues and students reaffirms why Bob never really left Willamette. His students were his inspiration. While you may have sought Bob's insight, advice and encouragement at some point, or like me wanting a continuous IV of random information about the world from a true intellectual; Bob needed us just as much.  Because of Bob, the formal and the countless numbers of informal students gained a better grasp on the world, however his students MADE his world complete.
Bob will be missed greatly by our community.
Melodie Atkinson
WOU Alumni 2009

Swing dancing

I met Bob Hawkinson in an unusual manner. 

While as a student at Willamette, I took up swing dancing classes in Salem. Through this class, I became acquainted with two men who would become my first dance partners. I also laughed at them when they entertained the idea that they might be professors at WU.

When I ran their names by some fellow WU students, I was, quickly and shockingly, informed that I may have insulted DEAN Bob Hawkinson and PROFESSOR Jerry Gray of Economics. We all had a very good laugh!

I had a very wonderful time dancing with Bob! I admired how brave and determined he was to learn to swing dance. He was always a good sport. Always a good time.

Thank you for the dances, Bob. I'll dance one number for you.

Mayland Chan Heym, Class of 2000

Monday, May 30, 2011

Remembering an educator, a mentor, a friend

Reposted with permission, from the Statesman Journal

This Memorial Day many members of Willamette University's extended family will remember Robert "Bob" Hawkinson, who arrived on campus as a politics professor in 1982 and served as dean of campus life for a decade (1998-2009).

Bob passed away last Sunday, May 22, while reading the newspaper at a Starbucks near his home. I was not surprised to learn that Bob was popular among the coffee shop's employees. One was a student and one of his mentees, while many others loved his good humor and sage advice. Bob died doing what he loved best: enjoying coffee, engaging in politics and nurturing the young people who surrounded him.

Many people knew Bob longer than I — I met him during my job interview in 2003 and worked for him for three years — though I like to think that we had a special connection. From a small starting point, that his mother and I shared Kansas as a home state, Bob learned my passions and goals and provided opportunities that fostered both.

We shared an interest in the history of higher education, which I left Willamette to pursue a doctorate in, and several of the classic books in my library were originally Bob's. He gave me nine of his trademark bow ties as a parting gift. In an intentional (though unknown to Bob) homage to him, I wore one of those ties to my dissertation defense and another to my graduation the week before he died.

What made Bob so special is that the connection I felt with him was shared by hundreds of others. Since his passing, many have written about their relationship with Bob on [this] blog.

He served many roles for many people: a dedicated teacher, a committed colleague, a supportive supervisor, an excellent career counselor and a delightful travel companion. He brought his marvelous sense of humor to each of these roles.

Although Bob had transitioned into a less formal position at Willamette in the last two years, he continued to regularly and meaningfully touch the lives of faculty, staff and, especially, students. He rippled pleasantly across people's lives like the Mill Stream that runs through campus.

I last spoke to Bob in April when I called to ask him to be a reference. He was more than happy to, but he quickly turned the conversation to my graduate school experiences and the goals for my academic career. We also laughed at how his scholarly life had come full circle.

Reminiscent of his graduate student days, he was primarily wearing jeans and working out of a windowless office. He told me to come visit him this summer to pick up some more bow ties; he was wearing them less and less.

Bob's life circle was far closer to closing than either of us knew during that conversation. I'll forever be sad that I couldn't visit him this summer and pick up some more bow ties. I'll forever be grateful that I — and many others — learned from Bob how to make meaningful connections within our communities.

We all should strive to lead a life as connected as his. If we do, it will be a strong indication that we, like Bob, left the world a better place.

Michael Hevel received his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa this month and can be reached at michael.hevel (at)

Hawkinson on Graduation Day 1988

Eric Friedenwald-Fishman
Creative Director/President
Metropolitan Group

Dinner for Hawkinson: Portland 5/29/11

Last night a group of alumni from the 80s gathered for dinner to honor Hawkinson. In addition to student activists from 86, 88 & 89, it included my cousin Erin who will graduate in December next year and two of her classmates (one of whom just graduated).  We shared stories of Hawkinson the academic advisor, the inspiring teacher, the student advocate, the mentor, the friend and, for many, the family member.  Stories ranged from formation of the Bistro to “The Freshmen Paper Lecture,” which scared most of us straight, to the development of World Views and the creation of The Commons. We cooked, drank wine, ate, laughed and cried together and experienced the community that Bob had helped create.  Throughout the dinner we were periodically distracted by the stampede of our children playing together and lobbying for the start of dessert. They have all grown up with stories of Hawkinson and with their parents constant involvement in and discussion of politics. To some degree they, like many children of our WU generation, are his pseudo grandchildren and evidence that his teaching will be passed on.  

Pictured: Wendy Willis ‘88, Eric Friedenwald-Fishman ‘88, Mika Lim ‘11, Chris Duncan Didway ‘89, Jon Radmacher ‘88, Larry Didway ‘88, Mike Tewfick ‘89, Todd Jones ‘86, John Rehm ‘89, John Donovan ‘88, Willi Gilliland ‘88, Erin Bloom ‘11, Slater Smith ‘12, Sian Williams (married to Donovan)

Some of our kids: Violet Radmacher-Willis, Grace Duncan Didway, Grant Duncan Didway, Maximilian Friedenwald-Fishman, Eryn Donovan Williams, Sophie Friedenwald-Fishman, Ruby Radmacher-Willis and Evan Donovan Williams.

Not Pictured: Rebecca Friedenwald-Fishman (taking the photo) and Bill Bush ’88 who had to leave before we got organized.


Eric Friedenwald-Fishman ‘88