The UTSA community lost two highly revered professors: Dr. Cynthia Hawkins, Department of English, and Dr. John Morris, Department of Political Science and Geography.
Hawkins passed on Feb. 16, 2017 while battling cancer.
“Cheerful, generous, bright, encouraging, participating in and helping with numerous departmental events, Dr. Hawkins was a cherished advisor, supporter, mentor and friend,” English professor Dr. Wendy Barker said. “Losing her rips open a terribly painful gap in our midst.”
Hawkins was a Pushcart nominee, Dzanc Books Best of the Net nominee and a two-time runner up in Glimmertrain Press’ fiction contests. She remained dedicated to her creative writing and shared raw insight into the finality of an artist’s life in her short story “Here Lie the Broken Bones of Cynthia Hawkins.”
“I vaguely remember a faux window in the first hospital with a golden-lit giraffe as if I was on safari with Hemingway and admiring the vista while in agony. Otherwise, my story has one room, one ambulance ride,” she wrote.
The narrator’s reflection of her experience of breaking her femur nods to Hawkins’ affinity for literature. The reference to Hemingway and personal agony captured the spirit of American creative fiction.
“These details are the most important ones of this story, and they’re all still lining up,” Hawkins wrote of the love and support poured into her heart from family, friends, colleagues and strangers. “And they’re all still lining up, the ones I sift in my fingers and wonder in dramatic Jane Austen fashion, how can I endeavor to deserve these blessings?”
Hawkins graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a PhD in English literature and creative writing. While at Binghamton, she co-founded the Writing By Degrees creative writing conference and received the SUNY Binghamton English Department’s Distinguished Dissertation Award for a creative work, as well as the Marion Link Fellowship for creative writing. Hawkins earned her B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from the University of Tulsa where she was the recipient of the Anderson Scholarship for Creative Writing.
Stories in her anthologies include “Melon” from “The Way We Sleep” and “Activism on the Ground: Habitat for Humanity” from “The Routledge Handbook of Participatory Cultures.” She was also the editor of the ebook anthology “Writing Off Script: Writers on the Influence of Cinema.”
“Cynthia has had an incredibly large impact on my life,” UTSA alumna Stephen Gutierrez said, “not only by helping me become a better writer, but also by encouraging me to follow my dreams in making movies.”
The funeral service for Hawkins is Wed., March 1, 10:00 a.m. at Alamo Heights Methodist Church in San Antonio.
Dr. John Morris passed Feb. 16, 2017 from complications with a heart bypass surgery.
“John was a passionate, irreverent and good natured individual who was very dedicated to his teaching and students,” said political science and geography department chair Dr. Daniel Engster.
Morris was described by COLFA Dean Gelo as rigorous and popular. His classes were known to be dynamic: he polled students and fostered debate.
“Learning is innate to youth. So is mirth and adventure,” Morris told to UTSA Today, “I personally believe the classroom can include both learning and collective joy.”
Morris received his PhD in geography at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a total of four degrees. His research included Historical Geography of Greater Southwest, Exploration and Imaging of the High Plains of Texas and Revelation of 19th Century Culture. He won the University of Texas Regents Outstanding Teaching Award in 2010 and the Piper Professor Award in 2012.
“There is hardly a topic on which John did not have some degree of expertise,” said Dr. Richard Jones, department of political science and geography.
“It might be imagined that someone who spoke five languages and traveled extensively (including extended time in Russia, Austria, Israel and Mexico) would have a global perspective and Morris did,” Jones said. “It is interesting that he also had a Texas perspective from his upbringing in the Texas Panhandle and his research on the area. He was involved in local planning issues, particularly environmental planning and activism in Austin.”
Morris regularly taught world regional geography, cultural geography, geography of Europe and weather and climate. He particularly enjoyed teaching large auditorium courses. He used wit and humor to further engage with new college students and prepare them for success in their other courses.
“He can never be replaced, and we in the department of political science and geography are still mourning his death,” Jones said.
Morris is the author of three books: “From Coronado to Escalante,” “El Llano Estacado” and “A Private in the Texas Rangers.” He was working toward submission of a two-volume illustrated study of Texas photographers at the turn of the century, “Lost Artists of the Texas Real Photo.”
Funeral services for Morris have yet to be announced.