Dr. Ron Hawkins announces retirement from role of Provost

Though Dr. Ron Hawkins will retire from the Office of the Provost June 30, he will continue to serve as a faculty member in the Rawlings School of Divinity and the School of Behavioral Sciences at Liberty for the foreseeable future.

Hawkins arrived at Liberty soon after the university’s initial founding in 1971 and has been a witness to its growth over the past four decades. Hawkins said that he has watched Liberty make tremendous progress as a university, and today, his greatest pride as the provost has been watching the university develop into a serious academic institution. Hawkins’s work in the university’s accreditation process has been extremely significant to the university’s academic success.

“(As a university), we are attracting more and more gifted students and faculty.  We are becoming a truly world-class institution,” Hawkins said. “That makes me feel really good because I realize that … I made a difference. I contributed to just a small part of that.”

Hawkins began teaching as a professor at Liberty in 1977. Aside from five years spent serving as president ofWestern Seminary in Oregonand as associate pastor of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hawkins has spent the last 41 years in a variety of roles at Liberty, including department chair for the Department of Church Ministries, associate provost for Adult Education, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and vice provost.

“When you’ve been involved for 41 years, you think, ‘Wow! Look how far we have come!’” Hawkins said. “Sometimes I reflect on how amazing our story as a university is.  Our beginnings were very humble – we literally started in back rooms of the church at Thomas Road.’”

Little by little, Hawkins said, Liberty has grown and expanded, even through financial and accreditation struggles, to become the university it is today. According to Hawkins, the university’s success is largely due to the tremendous vision of Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. and the continued vision and effective work of President Jerry Falwell Jr., whom Hawkins has worked with directly in his role as the provost.

Since he was 20 years old, Hawkins has been pastoring churches and serving in a variety of leadership positions. These leadership positions are a special privilege, he said, because of the amount of influence that leaders are given, and the huge opportunity they have to do good wherever they are.

“What I will miss, and what I love about leadership is that, (as a leader), you have influence,” Hawkins said. “I don’t think about the power of the position, and I don’t think about the prestige of the position. What I see is the ability to influence for good and the ability to make things better. That’s what lights my fire.”

In August 2017, it was announced that Hawkins would be retiring from his office the following June. Hawkins said that his decision to resign from the role of provost was largely rooted in a desire to end his time in the position well, give himself time to transition out of the role and also give the university the opportunity to find someone to replace him.

“A good leader does not stay in place until they cannot walk anymore or until there’s a crisis and (the administration says), ‘Oh my goodness, now we’ve got to find somebody,’” Hawkins said. “If you hold on too long, you hurt the organization because you haven’t planned for transition.”

Hawkins does not know whether or not a new provost has been selected. He said that he has decided to leave that decision entirely up to President Falwell.

After he retires on June 30, Hawkins said that he will turn his attention to several personal goals he has established. First and most importantly, he will seek to be the very best disciple of Christ that he can be. He will also spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

“I have an amazing wife that I’ve been married to now for over 55 years,” Hawkins said. “She’s a wonderful person, and she deserves far more than I’ve ever been able to give her.”

And even with decades of experience under his belt, becoming a better teacher and mentor is another one of Hawkins’s goals.

“I love it when I can have lunch with one of my previous students realizing, ‘This person is impacting more people than I have ever impacted, and he/she was my student. And they still look at me as a mentor,’” Hawkins said. “That is tremendously meaningful.”

Hawkins said that anyone who sees themselves as a leader will always be kept busy, whatever their current position.

“When you’re a teacher or mentor or a provost or a dean, you’re never out of a job. You always have something more to do,” Hawkins said. “There’s always somebody who could use a word of encouragement and use your influence, whether it’s positional or moral influence.”

Ultimately, Hawkins’s current focus is on ending well. He referenced a line from the writings of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes, which says, “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning.”

“I think young people need to know that there are people who actually kept the faith and who walked the walk, talked the talk and who really ended well,” Hawkins said. “I think ending well for me at this point is ending well in the provost’s office and being excited about the next season for influence.”

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