To know Kaye Price-Hawkins is to know kindness and joy. Many people in our community have benefited from her big heart, generosity, and commitment to the arts and literacy. For these reasons, The Grace Museum selected her as the 2021 Grace Gala Honoree.
Kaye never planned on becoming a teacher because she loved the performance art of music and theatre from the age of 5 through college. But her love of reading, and a great passion for helping children succeed, carved out a natural path for Kaye to venture into the field of education, in which she spent 45 years.
Charlotte Kaye Novak was born in Wichita, Kansas. At just 3 years old, she made the first of six moves with her family that shaped her childhood and teen years. Her father, Warder K. Novak, a minister, and her mother, Lottie Novak, a homemaker and Bible class teacher, raised four girls: Kaye, Cheryl, Carolyn and Reci, who provided many exciting and challenging moments for them.
Kaye’s high school activities included the yearbook, Spanish Club and Glee Club, where she enjoyed leadership role opportunities before graduating in 1961 in Columbia, Tenn. She attended Freed-Hardeman College before moving to California to live with an aunt and uncle and attend Pepperdine College. There, Kaye’s love of music and theatre flourished.
“In 1965, our Pepperdine College Choraliers were chosen to go to the Far East to entertain the troops,” she remembers. “One venue was a ship of soldiers who had been fighting in Vietnam for nine months. They excitedly cheered loudly, seeing females from home!”
With that choir, she was able to perform at the Hiroshima monument in Japan less than 20 years after the bombing. She said the audience responded politely and warmly.
“Great memories! Thankfully, most of our USO group still keeps in touch.”
In her twenties, Kaye married, began a family, and started her master’s degree.
“Sadly, I became a single mom with two precious children (Shane and Hainey) under three. Later, when I was able to return to school, I had the focus I needed.”
She turned to a career in education, but that didn’t stop her from using her theatre skills.
“I could use my drama after all because teaching was more fun that way,” she laughed.
Literature became Kaye’s favorite teaching tool.
“In the classroom, children’s illustrated books were entertaining and enlightening. As I read stories to introduce concepts I would teach at a higher level of complexity, the students could ‘see’ better. I ignored the smirks as I pulled out a picture book to read to my middle and high schoolers. The very next day, they would ask, ‘Are you going to read to us again today, Ms. Price?’”
Kaye married her true love, Joe Hawkins, a confirmed bachelor, after 19 years living as an independent, single mom. They married in May 1989 at Brook Hollow Christian Church.
“St. Joseph blesses my life and many others,” she said.
Soon after marrying, Kaye and Joe became loving caretakers for both sets of parents. These experiences and ultimate losses over the next 26 years (first Joe’s parents, then Kaye’s), brought them closer in faith and love.
“As I grow older, I see how God reveals Himself to me through events and people. His presence is in daily joys and sorrows.”
Kaye was thrilled when Grace Museum director, Laura Moore, invited her to serve on the board in 2013.
“I had not been involved with The Grace except to attend a few exhibit openings and one Gala. This event is amazing and I saw the beautiful way The Grace honored those who were a part of its history and growth.”
Since then, Kaye actively volunteered with the museum, and her contributions are nothing short of remarkable. Along with her board member duties, she has shared her gifts in tangible ways through the Education Committee and the Exhibitions and Collections Committee. One of Kaye’s favorite projects was helping the staff develop a creative journaling program for deployed military families to stay in contact with their loved ones.
When asked about the importance of art education, Kaye pointed to three important skills: “Engagement, collaboration and empathy. The arts positively impact thinking skills and broaden understanding. When I included music, drawing or acting to help students expand their writing, they produced results that were much more interesting than they would have experienced otherwise.”
When Kaye retired from public education in 2000, she started her own business, Priceless Literacy.
“This extension of my career allowed me to meet, encourage and share ideas with teachers both in and out of Texas,” Kaye said.
She taught classes, tutored students, and supervised student teachers for Texas Tech and A&M, while partnering with many nonprofit groups. When Priceless Literacy closed in 2017, Kaye donated approximately 1,500 of her cherished children’s books to The Grace, thus creating a reading area on the third floor next to the Education Research Library. Families who stop to read there continue to be delighted.
Kaye also played a key role in acquiring a new piece for The Grace’s permanent collection, a cast bronze totem by Fort Worth sculptor Michael Pavlovsky. This piece can now be seen in the museum’s courtyard.
While chairing The Grace Board from 2017 to 2019, Kaye was able to assist with the museum’s strategic plan in preparation for their reaccreditation visit in 2020 with the American Alliance of Museums.
“I saw the depth of what goes on behind the scenes and learned how many brilliant, dedicated people it takes to keep this beautiful machine humming.”
Kaye loves her family and friends. She continues to eagerly serve the Abilene arts community and other nonprofit groups. Besides The Grace, Kaye has shared her time and gifts by serving other boards including the: National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene Cultural Affairs Council, Young Audiences, Abilene Education Foundation, Christian Homes and Family Services, Abilene Philharmonic, Abilene Heritage Square, Hendrick Foundation Board, and various women’s health committees.
Lynn Barnett, Abilene Cultural Affairs Council Executive Director shares, “There is no one more deserving to be honored by the Grace Museum than Kaye. Her passion for the arts and tireless work to engage not only the many boards of the multiple organizations she has chaired, but our entire community, has left a tremendous legacy that will benefit future generations.”
Please join us at the Gala to help us celebrate our museum and this year’s honoree: Kaye Price-Hawkins.
Contributed By The Grace Museum