• Dedan K. Bruner

A Tribute to Dr. Wilbert D. Hawkins



Once upon a midnight dreary,

while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

Only this and nothing more.”

-Edgar Allan Poe


The Raven – one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous writings. For me, this poem is so much more than a literary classic. It’s a sweet and nostalgic reminder of my childhood, and of my father, an Elizabeth City State University graduate, with a concentration in English. Bedtime was always special with Daddy. While we often read books I loved like The Giving Tree or Where the Sidewalk Ends, some nights he would recite The Raven (really!) until I fell asleep. Though famous and revered, it’s not the happiest prose, as Poe unpacks intense feelings for losing the beloved Lenore. But somehow, it was so beautiful. When Dad would recite from memory, easily some 15 years post-college, he would speak in the slightest British accent, magically transplanting me from 1985 to 1845. That’s my dad.


A little bit country

He was born and raised in Tillery, a town so tiny, I’m not sure anyone outside of Halifax County, North Carolina would be able to pinpoint it for you. His parents were farmers, as were the parents before. My parental grandmother finished Brawley High School (same as my dad), but my grandfather had to forego his schooling to work and support his family. Dad grew up very modestly – no vacations to nearby Virginia Beach or Nags Head, let alone Martha’s Vineyard. His neighbors weren’t Circuit Court judges, like mine, but they knew the immeasurable value of community. Importantly, my grandparents also knew education would unlock doors of opportunity for my father. They couldn’t have been more right.


Family first

When I was born on February 16, 1980, my father was midway through his doctoral studies at the University of Virginia. Always a family man first, he left Charlottesville and his coursework to be at home with Mom and me. Though I’m forever grateful for the sacrifice of putting his degree on hold, I knew it was that final piece of the puzzle he’d need to take his career to the next level. So while I was in high school, my mother and I convinced him to seize the moment. Eighteen years after pushing pause to raise me, Dad and I both graduated in 1998. He, with a Doctor of Education degree from Virginia Tech and his “mini-me” with a summa cum laude high school diploma. I will never forget the pride of seeing him walk across the stage that day.


Following my leader

Now, as a mom to a precociously sweet eight-year-old daughter, my father’s sacrifices mean so much more. I get it that much more. In spite of my dad’s hectic schedule at times, he was and remains present. He still hand delivers balloons on Valentine’s Day and once drove an hour just to throw away a trapped mouse I couldn’t bear to discard. He’s my hero and my first love. And while we don’t always agree – though I’m becoming more conservative like him (Yikes! Lol.) – I wouldn’t change a single thing about my dad.

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