Inducted into the Wisconsin Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2001
Lester Hawkes, who served as a professor of journalism at UW-Madison for 30 years once said: “Community journalism is my whole life.” His quote probably best summarizes the devoted service Les Hawkes gave to his industry. He was an expert on the ins and outs of weekly newspapers. Many aspiring graduates were tutored by him as they entered the field of community journalism.
He started a statewide internship program for students to work on newspapers in the summer. Hands-on, it was the best of learning. He also started a course in which students evaluated weekly publications from all angles for five months.
Described as gentle but firm, Les loved his students, inspiring them about community journalism, helping them find good jobs and then watching them “climb life’s ladder.”
Les began his career in the back shop of his father’s newspaper in Illinois and published a book “Your Front Page” in 1949. Until his death, he was in close contact with daily, as well as community, newspapers. His enthusiasm for journalism inspired son Dennis to become publisher and editor of the Lake Mills Leader and Cambridge News.