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Alumni Tribute: James Hawkinson A'49 S'55

North Park University, North Park Theological Seminary, and the wider family of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) said goodbye to an elder statesman of the Covenant late this spring. Rev. James R. Hawkinson, 80, passed away on May 24, 2011, from complications following surgery earlier in the month. As a pastor, mentor, Covenant administrator, father, and friend, Hawkinson exemplified a life of significance and service. He challenged the whole church to stay close to the gospel while moving forward in authentic life and community.

“Jim, in his person, lived out the best of who we are, as someone deeply committed to God and to God’s mission in the world,” said ECC President Gary Walter to Covenant News in May. “In terms of transmitting the unique identity of the Evangelical Covenant Church, no one has been more influential than Jim. His work lives on through his writings and collections of Covenant wit and wisdom.”

Hawkinson was a tireless encourager of individuals to engage in the community, to share their gifts, and to hold true to the community of believers.

“My goals have always been largely ones of spirit—to gather our people across the lines that tend to divide them economically, politically, theologically, polity-wise, and so on,” he said in a Covenant Companion interview in 1995. “The wisdom lies in the body and not in one or another of us. When we are together almost always you can count on something wonderful happening. When we are separate we tend to run in different directions and be divisive.”

Hawkinson was born on July 9, 1930, in Oak Park, Ill. He earned an associate degree from North Park Junior College in 1949, a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Augustana College in 1951, and graduated from North Park Theological Seminary in 1955. He was ordained in the Covenant in 1956. Jim married Alyce Mae Larson C’53 on June 11, 1954. The couple had five children: Judith C’77, Eric, Mary C’88, Peter S’92, and Paul C’92.

The Hawkinson family legacy at North Park will not soon be forgotten. In October 2010 the University president’s residence was renamed the Hawkinson House to honor the legacy of Jim, Alyce, and their extended family, including Jim’s parents, Eric S’25 and Lydia, and his brother and sister-in-law, Zenos C’43 and Barbara C’43. Zenos served for 24 years as a history professor at North Park College.

North Park’s president, David Parkyn, especially appreciated Jim’s welcoming spirit. In a letter to Alyce Hawkinson, soon after Jim’s funeral, President Parkyn wrote, “More than anyone else, perhaps even more than all others combined, I found in Jim a gracious and enthusiastic welcome to this new community.”

Beyond North Park, Hawkinson’s memory and work will live long in the ECC. He served at the denominational offices for 28 years, and four staff members he hired in the then-publications department (now Covenant Communications) remain in their posts.

“Jim cared passionately about the church, which meant he cared deeply for the community of believers,” Jane Swanson-Nystrom C’78, one of Jim’s hires and the managing editor of the Covenant Companion, told Covenant News in May. “For him, the Covenant was family—not a static one but an ever-growing family—and he saw the promise in each family member and encouraged full participation in the fellowship.”

Hawkinson said in 1995, “I think my challenge to the church would be to be true to itself. And the challenge to each of us would be [to be] true to the communal self—to the deep dreams and desires that grew out of the revival movement when God drew us together as a people and gave us a direction to go. I think my challenge to the church would be to rearm that—not by looking back but by looking forward. Stay close to the gospel.”

Special thanks to the staff at Covenant News for their tributes and features about Rev. Hawkinson used in the compilation of this story.

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Rev. James Hawkinson