Last modified: Thursday, January 17, 2008
Replacing what the storm took away, celebrating what a teacher gave
IU School of Education dean presents replacement diploma for alum who lost hers in Hurricane Katrina
Media Outlets: Broadcast-quality video of Dorothy Hawkins-Brooks' celebration is available upon request. Please contact Chuck Carney at 812-856-8027 and email@example.com. Audio clips are available at this link, http://site.educ.indiana.edu/news/tabid/5663/Default.aspx.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 17, 2008
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Dorothy Hawkins-Brooks, 87, a 1968 Indiana University alumna and now faculty emeritus from Jackson State University, lost her home and most possessions when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans. When asked recently if IU could do anything to help her, Hawkins-Brooks asked for a piece of paper, a symbol of a transformative time in her life -- a replacement diploma for her doctorate in education.
Gerardo M. Gonzalez, dean of Indiana University's School of Education, traveled to Jackson, Miss. with a replacement diploma and dissertation for Hawkins-Brooks.
"I was deeply moved by the fact that a woman who had lost everything in such a terrible disaster would ask to replace something of such little monetary value," Gonzalez said. "Yet, these documents were so meaningful to her, she would ask for nothing greater."
On Monday, Gonzalez presented the diploma at the Edison Walthal Hotel in downtown Jackson, where more than 80 former colleagues and students gathered to celebrate their friend and mentor. Hawkins-Brooks taught at Jackson State University from 1975-85.
"She really excelled in terms of teaching other teachers," said Jackson State colleague Jacquelyn Franklin, an education professor who headed the planning committee for Monday's event. Franklin was also a student of Hawkins-Brooks when she served as a principal in the New Orleans schools.
Hawkins-Brooks said she asked for the replacement diploma because of her positive experience at IU, where she began work on her doctoral degree in the 1950s.
"I valued it so highly because Indiana University accepted me as I was," she said. "And they helped me to discover myself first, and then to refine whatever skills and abilities I possessed and to serve others."
A Ford Foundation fellowship allowed her to begin studies at IU during a time when African-Americans were not allowed to study at many colleges in the South. Although she had her choice of many schools, she said IU attracted her most.
"I enjoyed the warmth of the professors at IU," Hawkins-Brooks said. "They made us feel so welcome. They valued us. And most of them saw something in us -- the yearning to accomplish. And I'm very grateful."
She taught for 14 years in the segregated school system of New Orleans, then served as a principal in the school district over the next 19 years, beginning doctoral work at IU during her time as an administrator. She became a professor at Southern University at New Orleans in 1973, then joined Jackson State two years later. She designed and implemented the university's Adult Education Program.
Another IU alum who did her undergraduate work under Hawkins-Brooks at Jackson State said her former teacher made her career possible. Ann Harris Slaughter, Ed.D. '83, spoke passionately on Monday about what Hawkins-Brooks meant to her as example to follow. Slaughter went on to a teaching career in Atlanta.
"Thanks to powerful, dynamic trailblazers like Dr. Dorothy Hawkins-Brooks, who led the way so that those of us who followed would be able to attend IU in greater numbers, obtain more diversified degrees, and become more fully involved in both academic and campus life," Slaughter said.
Several others spoke of Hawkins-Brooks' influence on their lives and careers during the event. A Mississippi state representative presented a state proclamation honoring her; a Jackson city councilman brought honors from City Hall.
Hawkins-Brooks said she was at a loss for words to describe the evening, arranged by her former students and colleagues after learning the IU School of Education planned to present the replacement degree. She said she appreciated the "joy and the love that permeated this meeting." Asked why she thought so many made such an effort, she credited others, not herself.
"I imagine through the grace of God I've been able to accomplish, because it was not just Dorothy," Hawkins-Brooks said. "I was reared by many people along the way."
The following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at http://site.educ.indiana.edu/news/tabid/5663/Default.aspx. Look for the story headline under "Podcasts."
Hawkins-Brooks answers why when she had lost everything in the hurricane she wanted as much as anything to replace her diploma and dissertation from 40 years ago:
"I valued it so highly because Indiana University accepted me as I was and they helped to refine—helped me to discover myself first, and then to refine whatever skills and abilities I possessed and serve others."
Hawkins-Brooks speaks about getting the opportunity as an African-American educator in the South in the 1950s to attend graduate school:
"They gave us grants to come, to go outside the state and go to whatever university we wished. And Indiana University being very well thought of, accredited, academic atmosphere was excellent. I loved the cultural events. I took advantage of everything that was presented in the summer, and also the year that I was able to spend on campus under the auspices of the Ford Foundation Fellowship."
Hawkins-Brooks speaks about why her experience at IU was so positive:
"But I enjoyed the warmth of the professors at IU. They made us feel so welcome. They valued us. And most of them saw something in us -- the yearning to accomplish. And I'm very grateful."
IU graduate and former Hawkins-Brooks student Ann Harris Slaughter says her former teacher opened opportunities for her and her family at IU:
"Had she not laid the foundation before us, my sister and I might never have attended IU. And I might never have become the art committee chairman for three and a half years at the largest dormitory on campus, guest lecturer in human growth and development in the area of home economics, or later become a member of Phi Delta Kappa. Yes, somewhere in the cognitive constructs of my mind I can still hear the smile in Dr. Hawkins-Brooks voice as she tells the story of how she drove her 1955 blue and white Bel-Air Chevrolet all of the way from the mighty city of New Orleans to the grand campus of IU, in hot pursuit of a higher education."
Slaughter says African-Americans at IU owe a debt to Hawkins-Brooks:
"Thanks to powerful, dynamic trailblazers like Dr. Dorothy Hawkins-Brooks, who led the way so that those of us who followed would be able to attend IU in greater numbers, obtain more diversified degrees, and become more fully involved in both academic and campus life."
Gonzalez says the request to replace the documents made an impact on him:
"I was deeply moved by the fact that a woman who had lost everything in such a terrible disaster would ask to replace something of such little monetary value. Yet, these pieces of paper were so meaningful to her, she would ask for nothing greater."
For more information, contact Chuck Carney at 812-856-8027 and firstname.lastname@example.org.