H. Bowman Hawkes

Founder of the Department of Geography

Professor of Geography 1947 - 1977
Emeritus Professor of Geography 1977 - 1987


Professor H. Bowman Hawkes founded the Department of Geography in 1947. He came to the University of Utah at the persuasion of President A. Ray Olpin, who was personally acquainted with him at The Ohio State University where Dr. Hawkes was well known for his superior teaching while still a graduate student. He became the first Professor of Geography in Utah and headed the first Department of Geography in the state for 13 years.

The distinguishing quality of Dr. Hawkes’ teaching was that he truly loved his students, his discipline, and the “glorious Earth”. Immediately Geography became an attraction to students across the campus. Enrollments increased rapidly as Dr. Hawkes’ reputation and the image of Geography expanded. As the number of majors increased and the spirit of Geography flourished both on campus and among the agencies of government, a masters degree program developed and in 1951 the first Ph.D. degree was awarded.

Heavy teaching loads prompted Dr. Hawkes to pioneer closed-circuit TV instruction, increasing enrollments substantially. Dr. Hawkes believed in his students, and they knew it. His favorite interaction with them was while investigating the earth on his well-known field trips, where he inspired many hundreds of young people to observe, interpret and respect the Good Earth as a biophysical system and the home of humankind. He traveled the state widely in search of just the right experiences for his young friends. In the process he established close associations with professionals in government and industry throughout the state, enlarging still more the meaning of Geography and the recognition of the University of Utah. He taught extension courses in several towns remote from the Wasatch Front.

His recognition as an exemplary teacher reached out widely across the country, and he was invited to teach summer school at several universities year after year from Washington State, Wisconsin State, Northwestern, and Peabody. Mean while he served as president of the Association of American Geographers Pacific Coast Region and the Great Plains-Rocky Mountain Region.

Dr. Hawkes special sensitivity toward resource conservation and stewardship led to his invitation to present the prestigious Frederick William Reynolds Lecture at the University of Utah in 1960, a presentation which he entitled Paradoxes of the Conservation Movement. In 1960-61 he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach at the Free University of Berlin, and the University of the Saarland, where he lectured in German.

In 1962 Dr. Hawkes was called on to represent the discipline of Geography in the National Science Foundation’s development of the new Earth Science curriculum for secondary schools following the Sputnik incident, which prompted a whole new national initiative in science education. Back on campus he continued to attract and inspire students. In 1975 he was awarded the University’s highest honor to its teaching faculty, The Distinguished Teaching Award. Even after retirement, he was brought back for several years to teach courses especially identified with him. Only reluctantly did the Department let him actually retire.

Among the University’s outstanding faculty members, Professor H. Bowman Hawkes is surely among the most renown and respected among contemporary colleagues on campus, among professionals in the state, and most assuredly among thousands of students. His name is still echoed in the community when the subject of Geography is mentioned and among teachers elsewhere when Utah is mentioned. Dr. Hawkes’ followers literally circle the globe. At least 15 former students became professors of Geography, half of them as department chairpersons. Many public school teachers are proud to say “I’m here because of Dr. Hawkes ”. It was more than his teaching of the subject matter; it was his warm and enthusiastic humanitarianism. At his retirement party over 200 friends, colleagues, and former students came, many from great distances, to honor the mentor who had so abundantly enriched their lives.

H. Bowman Hawkes represents everything that is good about the University.