Born in 1919 in Sullivan, Indiana, Robert Hawkins entered Indiana State University in 1937 as a Harold Bright Scholarship recipient (awarded for clarinet performance and excellence in student conducting), Upon graduation, he was named Director of the Indiana State Marching Band until his enlistment in the U.S. Navy in 1942. He served until an honorable discharge brought him home from Okinawa in 1945. Two years later he completed a Master of Music degree from Indiana State and then continued graduate work at Columbia University in New York, receiving a PhD in 1951.He then became Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Western State college in Gunnison, Colorado. Over his sixteen years there, he was named Chairman of the Music Department and Director of the Gunnison Music Camp, which grew in size and reputation throughout the Rocky Mountain region and the nation. Western State College bands traveled widely, performing at the New York World's Fair and Radio city Music Hall, among other venues.