Dr. Hawkins, college of agriculture dean, passes away at 56


Photo provided by Whitney Sprague

Tova Kibal, Features Editor

Dean Earl Hawkins, 56, Dean of The Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, passed away after a fight with brain cancer on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Hawkins was a loved professor at West Texas A&M and highly valued in the community as a friend, mentor, father, and advocate of agriculture.

Hawkins was respected and admired by his colleagues at WT. Dr. David Lust, associate professor of animal science, met Hawkins in 1981 on the farm where Lust grew up. He described Hawkins as a person who always saw value in everyone and believed in helping others.

‘‘Dean was a fearless advocate for the things he believed in, and he unapologetically believed in students, in good people, and in WTAMU Agriculture,’’ Lust said. ‘‘Dean’s [life] was a life well lived, a race well run. He has been an example to all that knew him.’’

Hawkins was born in Groom on Oct. 2, 1961, and grew up in Clarendon. He received a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s degree in animal breeding, physiology of reproduction at Texas Tech University, as well as a doctorate in physiology of reproduction and growth from Texas A&M University.

Hawkins married Jaye Erin Bearden in 1995 and they lived in Las Cruces, N.M. where he worked as a professor at New Mexico State University. Hawkins came to WT in 2009 as the new head of the department of agricultural sciences and proceeded to become the dean in 2015.

At WT, Hawkins had many friends from different backgrounds and at different career levels and Lust describes this as ‘‘perhaps his most significant impact.’’

‘‘Dean placed great importance on family. He cherished his own family and encouraged us to do the same,’’ Lust said. ‘‘He also made his colleagues feel that we were part of his larger family.’’

WT Graduate Whitley Sprague worked with Hawkins in the department of agricultural sciences as a student worker from 2012 to 2015. Hawkins recruited Sprague to attend WT when she was a sophomore in high school. She explained that she knew she wanted to go to WT and surround herself with people like Hawkins after he had given her a tour of the university.

“He was just a really good friend,’’ Sprague said. “He was always the type of person who would make sure you were doing alright, whether it’s in your classes or outside your classes.’’

Sprague’s family knew Hawkins well and she shared that he was a mentor and someone she could count on.

“I was three hours away from my parents, so he was kind of an additional dad for me anytime I needed help,’’ she said, “whether I needed my lawn mowed at my house or needed a tire change, he would have been the first person that I called and he would have been there for a second.’’

Hawkins valued family highly and wanted people around him to do the same. Dr. Tim Steffens, assistant professor of agricultural sciences, said that Hawkins expected people around him to work hard, but to put family first.

“Once, when I was working around some holiday trying to get caught up on things, he found me in my office and told me that if I didn’t get home to my family by noon he was going to fire me,’’ Steffens said. “Not as a real threat, but as a way of emphasizing to me how important it was to take care of family stuff and not let the job consume me.’’

Hawkins was an important force behind the growth of the agricultural sciences department and the department’s new complex. For Steffens, Hawkins was also the force behind him finding his career at WT.

‘‘He saw something in me that I wasn’t even sure I had and gave me an opportunity to have the most rewarding job I have had in my career. And for that, I will be eternally grateful,’’ Steffens said. ‘‘I hope I never let him down.’’

Hawkins is survived by his two twin daughters, Callie Dean Hawkins and Hannah Bryce Hawkins, his wife Jaye Erin Hawkins, mother Glenda Hawkins, brother Doug Hawkins and his wife, Daphne, three nephews, Brayden, Brigg and Josh Hawkins, his aunt Regina Wootten, uncle Jack Hawkins, aunt Gwen Cochran and cousins.

Donations can be made to the WTAMU Foundation Dr. Dean Hawkins scholarship at WTAMU Foundation, WTAMU Box 60766, Canyon, Texas 79016.