By Sabrina Jones
February is often called the month of love, with Valentine’s Day and all. For 55-year-old doctoral candidate Mary Hawkins, love is exactly what saw her through her two-year commute to Gonzaga from her ranch in Devil’s Tower, Wyo. Yep, that’s right: Wyoming to Gonzaga.
Her husband “Rip,” a graduate of University of North Carolina (’61) and Emory Law School (’68), has been her biggest supporter – except during last season’s NCAA basketball semifinals. “Rip” remains familiar with the nontraditional academic experience. He attended law school during the off-season when he played middle linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings (1961-65).
“The design of the Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies allowed me to attend classes two to three months at a time, and then go home for a month, which my husband really appreciated,” said Hawkins, who has lived this routine with her husband of 25 years since January 2008. She also was able to be near her son, Jason Lair (’09), who lived in Spokane after earning a master’s degree in Gonzaga’s religious studies program.
Hawkins’ doctoral dissertation is titled, “A Hermeneutic Inquiry of Mindfulness-Based Practices in Cardiac Care: A Model for Leadership.” In essence, it means “leading from the heart,” something Hawkins said she has been doing in different ways throughout her life. When she was 18, she was ready to attend college, scholarship in hand. But when her mother became gravely ill, Hawkins’ priorities shifted to family.
“Now I call the whole experience delayed gratification,” she said. “While I was caring for Mom, I became certified in respiratory therapy, biofeedback, massage therapy, and earned a master’s in physical therapy. Stress-related care has always been a passion of mine,” she said.
Completing a doctorate is another chapter in this heartfelt story.
Heart disease runs in the Hawkins’ family. Rip’s mother succumbed to a heart attack at an early age, and both of Mary’s parents died of cardiac disease. Her father died just as she began the doctoral program. An older brother suffered a severe cardiac arrest last spring and awaits an experimental stem cell implantation procedure. Several more of her siblings are being treated for arrhythmias and hypertension. She has been researching a range of alternative methods in cardiac care including mindfulness, a 2,500-year-old meditative practice that promotes awareness in the present moment to help reduce anxiety and stress. Her study also explores Heart Math™, using instrumentation to become aware of heart rate variability. She examines these heart healthy practices as a wellness leadership model.
Mary completed her doctoral coursework at Gonzaga last fall but will return to campus this spring to defend her dissertation proposal. She hopes to have the book-length study completed and approved this summer.
To me, this whole experience is more than a study about the heart, it’s from the heart,” Hawkins said. “This is a true love story. One of love and faith in God to follow a calling that said, ‘Go here.’ A story made possible by the endless love of my husband and family, who support my deep love of learning.”