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Center Snapshot: William Hawkins
William Hawkins. Image above: William Hawkins is an Equal Opportunities Specialist at NASA's Langley Research Center. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Sasha Congiu, NASA Intern

There's a new guy in town, and he's ready to protect all of NASA Langley's employees.

Langley's new Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) specialist, William Hawkins, was born to help people. His name William means "great protector," and has been his lifelong guideline, especially throughout his career.

"I believe I'm cut out for this kind of work because I'm always pulling for the little guy or the little girl," Hawkins said. "My name means the great protector. For me, helping people is in my blood."

It means protecting people’s rights, and Hawkins has been doing it since 1996.

"Everyone has a right," Hawkins said. "People think that the peace that you have at work is a privilege. But it isn't. There's a difference. It's a right."

His EEO line of work started in 1996 while Hawkins was on active duty working for the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base (LAFB). While in the Air Force, he received his bachelor’s degree in human resources at St. Leo’s in Hampton, Va. After 23 years, he then retired and received a job with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in the Civil Rights Division.

He continued working in EEO and then worked for the Navy for 14 months. After a long, but rewarding time on the military side, he joined the NASA family on November, 21. And it’s a dream he has yet to wake up from.

"You ever have one of those dreams where you feel like you’re still waiting to wake up?" Hawkins asked. "I don't want to get off this ride for a while."

Part of the ride is tackling his continuing challenge.

"What is challenging and continues to challenge me is getting people to understand what we [EEO] do and why we do it. Unfortunately, sometimes people already have their minds made up about us," Hawkins said.

He sees it as just a misunderstanding.

"A big part of what we do is form and nurture relationships," Hawkins said. "Quite often the EEO is looked at as the big bad wolf. We don’t do that. We try to keep the peace; we are here to show people that 'I work for you, which means everyone, not just certain people.' "

Being there for people isn’t something Hawkins just does at work. He also applies it to his family, also known as, "Limited Play."

"Limited Play" is his band name, or at least a potential band name that his family sings with occasionally. While the debate between names continues, they are currently working on a song called "Pumped up Kicks," by Foster the People, a song requested by his son. Hawkins and his 14-year-old son Spencer both play guitar, and his wife Jacqueline and 19-year-old daughter Avery sing.

"The band is just really forming right now," Hawkins said. "That's how we spend our time together and just hang out." Along with playing in a band, he and his family are all currently in school.

Avery attends Thomas Nelson Community College, in Hampton, Va. and Spencer attends Phenix Middle School in Hampton, Va. Additionally, Jacqueline is earning her PhD in Adult Counseling at Cappella University, and Hawkins is earning his master’s degree in law at Champlain University of Vermont.

But Hawkins doesn't have a plan to use his law degree for any specific purpose. It's just to have it. "I am at the age now where I can’t go back to school just to climb the corporate ladder," Hawkins said. "I've already finished a career, so from here on out it's just gravy. I don't think I could appreciate school if I was going to just to get ahead."

So if he's already had a career and is now working for Langley, why law? It all started with the movie, "The Devil's Advocate," starring Al Pacino, who portrays Lucifer as high powered lawyer, and Keanu Reeves, who is his mentee.

Hawkins' motivating scene went this way:
Keanu Reeves asks Al Pacino, "Why a lawyer?"
He responds saying, "Because when you control the law, you control everything."

"And that really struck a chord with me," Hawkins said. "It's true. When you know the law versus when you don't know the law, it provides leverage because if you don’t know what you're up against you've already compromised yourself. Law is something I've always been interested in."

And something his son has always been interested in, but not because of the movie.

"I asked my son [at the age of 9], 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' " Hawkins recalled. "And he said 'a lawyer.' I asked 'why?'
He says, 'Because I can help people, just like you.' "

Hawkins will continue to be a role model for his son and many others, though his role at NASA has just begun.

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