While exploring the grounds of Troy University, it’s easy to see that this campus boasts a collection of statues not typically found on university campuses. This, university chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. says, is due to his and his wife’s desire to help bring more diversity, art and cultural inclusion to Troy.
When he first arrived at Troy in 1989, Chancellor Hawkins understood that many Alabamians, and Americans overall, did not have as many opportunities to travel outside of the United States. This, he says, can lead to a limited view of the world and fear of the unknown. It was then that he was inspired to bring more of the world back to Troy University.
It was also his desire to enable the students of Troy to become globally competitive by exposing them to these other cultures and teaching them to appreciate diversity.
“Differences need not be feared; differences need to be understood, and then when differences are understood, they can be appreciated,” Chancellor Hawkins told the Tropolitan. “I think at Troy, unlike most other universities, especially in the Deep South, we found our strength in those differences.”
Known as one of the most internationally diverse college campuses in Alabama, Chancellor Hawkins says the university is home to students from over 76 different countries.
As mentioned in a previous article, one of the most common factors amongst Troy students is the feeling they first had when setting foot on the campus. Many will tell you that they instantly felt “at home,” which ultimately inspired them to attend Troy.
One of the simplest methods of creating this feeling can be found on the main Bibb Graves quad in the form of swings. In various spots around the quad hang swings traditionally found on front porches in the South, and this, the chancellor says, is one of the main reasons they were installed.
“Most of us can remember sitting on a swing just like those on the porch of a loved one,” he said. “It brings back that sense of family and home.”
Creating this culture of home is important for all students attending Troy, according to Chancellor Hawkins, but it’s increasingly important to him that the international students also feel equally at home here.
Chancellor Hawkins notes that many students attending Troy’s partner institutions in China will also become involved in the 1-2-1 Program, which allows them to transfer in two years of academic credit from the partner institution in order for each institution to independently confer a degree upon a student. Students in this program may attend in person or online.
Chancellor Hawkins says creating an inclusive and culturally diverse campus is really showcased when online students in the 1-2-1 Program and all over finally come to campus for commencement. Some of them will never have set foot on the campus until that time, and Chancellor Hawkins can recall many instances when these students would come to him and talk about how beautiful and welcoming the campus was.
Buildings, quads and the Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park
It doesn’t take long to recognize that many of the buildings on Troy’s campus have proudly stood since the university’s beginning, but at the same time, there have been many new additions to the grounds over the past 10 years alone.
When discussing campus buildings and renovation projects, Chancellor Hawkins always circles back to a quote from Winston Churchill, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”
“Our philosophy here is, especially in buildings, to value engineering,” the chancellor said.
First lady Janice Hawkins insists that she can’t stand seeing older buildings torn down because it is “such as waste.” In her eyes, these historic and traditional-looking buildings can be renovated and brought into the new century without having to be torn down.
As the campus continues to grow and expand, it’s true that changes may have to be made to existing structures and some will have to come down in the end, but regardless of what comes and goes, the couple agrees that no harm shall befall the quads, as they were designed by the Olmstead Brothers architectural firm of Brookline, Massachusetts.
Before she even learned of the hand the Olmstead Brothers had in the design of the quads, the first lady recalls a discussion regarding the removal of the magnolia tree grove that surrounds the smaller Shackelford Quad. Needless to say, she was not on board with said plans.
One of the most impressive areas on campus, the chancellor and his wife agree, is the Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park, located directly behind the newest residence hall.
“I don’t know if there’s a more fitting tribute than to dedicate that park after the efforts of our first lady, Mrs. Hawkins,” said Mark Salmon, director of Troy’s Physical Plant. “Everyone remembers her efforts to get out there and work with our grounds program. I think it’s just fitting.”
The park itself is a relaxing and ideal place for students wanting to get more in touch with nature or enjoy the amphitheater arena, but the main attractions of the area can be found in some very unique statues that adorn each side of the pond.
The statues are replicas of the famous Terra Cotta Army, which was unearthed in 1974 and depicts the armies of China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Chancellor Hawkins visited the original excavation site in Xi’an and was so fascinated with the idea that he called on his close friend the world-renowned Chinese sculptor Dr. Huo Boa Zhu to see how something like this could be brought back to Troy.
Not only did the sculptor donate 100 of the Terra Cotta Warrior statues to the university, he was also responsible for Rodin’s version of “The Thinker,” which is located outside the Shackelford Quad. The university purchased another 100 of the statues, making Troy University the home of the largest permanent exhibit of Terra Cotta Warrior statues in the United States.
The park is also home to artwork by one of Troy’s native artists, Nall Hollis. A sculpture by Hollis, the “Violata Pax Dove” or Peace Dove, stands outside the back entrance to the International Arts Center on Troy’s campus.
“I couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute to my bride than that park,” said Chancellor Hawkins. “If the board members hadn’t named it after her, I certainly would have done it myself.”
Looking to the future
The couple says they are approaching their 30th year at Troy University, and as of February, the Troy University Board of Trustees votes to extend the current contract of Chancellor Hawkins for four more years.
With more years at Troy ahead of them, the chancellor says there are three particular goals he hopes to achieve. To start, he stresses the importance of keeping academic offerings at the forefront of the list. He says he wants to continue to build educational value among Troy students, as he believes it is “often not a priority in American higher education.”
Secondly, the chancellor wants to continue to build, maintain and expand the facilities of the institution. Currently, there is a larger renovation project in the works for the university, as well as the installation of potential walking and nature trails in the area behind the Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park.
Lastly, Chancellor Hawkins says he hopes to see more push to implement Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs at Troy, as well as continue to grow their health profession programs.
The first lady wholeheartedly agreed with the idea of implementing more STEM programs, as she clearly recalls the feeling of being a mother moving to the area with small children. If the university is able to offer more classes of this nature, she believes it will help Troy produce better-prepared teachers, which will give faculty members with children moving to the area peace of mind in terms of finding quality educational opportunities.
The chancellor says focusing on these three areas, in particular, can greatly help invest in Troy’s long-term brand, as well as instill a sense of school pride in the students.
“This is the greatest job anybody could have, and it’s all in how you manage it, think about it and talk about it,” the first lady said.
In regard to what’s on the horizon for the university’s future, Chancellor Hawkins and his wife seem optimistic that Troy’s future will only continue to flourish as the years go by.
With construction in progress, commencement ceremonies and celebrations taking place and new students arriving each year, Chancellor Hawkins is excited to see what the next four years will bring.
“Here, we say ‘preserving the past is progress,’” he said. “Anything unfinished is potential for improvement.”