Bill Harkins ’16 ~ Pray, Hope, Don’t Worry
After a distinguished career with the Marines spanning two decades, Bill Harkins returned to his hometown of Mobile, Ala., ready to pursue the next chapter in his life.
A Bronze Star and four-time Meritorious Service Medal recipient, Harkins earned his master’s degree in public administration while in the military. When he retired from the Marines as a lieutenant colonel in 2006, this knowledge, combined with his exemplary leadership and organizational skills, led to a position as CitiSmart coordinator, and most recently, executive director of public services, for the City of Mobile.
Despite his responsibilities and busy schedule, Harkins felt compelled to continue his education, this time at Spring Hill College in the department of theology. He graduated from SHC with a Master of Theological Studies in 2012, a certificate in spiritual direction in 2013, and anticipates completing his Master of Arts in Theology in 2016.
“I wanted to pursue graduate studies because I knew I was called to be a permanent deacon in the Mobile Archdiocese,” says Harkins. “Spring Hill College was the perfect place to do that, because of the small class sizes and the personal interest professors have for students here. I have told many people that my Christian faith has been greatly broadened and deepened due to my education at SHC.”
Harkins manages his career, school, and a personal life by balancing coursework with family time, praying daily, and ensuring that he puts his relationship with God first. He also attributes his success as a student and enjoyment of his courses to the incredible support he’s received from every instructor at Spring Hill.
“Dr. Matthew Bagot’s course on Catholic Social Teaching has helped me understand how to apply our faith to our interaction with society,” says Harkins. “Also, I respect and admire Dr. Christopher Dodsworth—his energy and willingness to assist his students are great.”
Dr. Dodsworth, department chair of philosophy at Spring Hill College, worked with Harkins on an independent study course that centered on the subjects of prayer and suffering. Dr. Dodsworth noted that Harkins is not only a student serious about his academic study, but also a person who will use what he’s learned in the department of theology to help those he serves.
“We worked through some difficult material on the nature of suffering; what it would take to defeat it; the nature of love and personal relationships; and, finally, a Thomistic account of how relationship with God can be enhanced through suffering,” says Dr. Dodsworth. “Through all of this, Bill leveraged his experience serving in the marines and also as a deacon in the church to take what was sometimes very abstract theological material and make it spiritual, practical, and pastoral.”
During his time at SHC, and prior to graduate school, Harkins also published several articles in nationally distributed magazines on the topics of training, stress, prayer, and working with unfamiliar cultures. For much of his writing and his homilies, Harkins draws upon insights gained in theology and spirituality over the past few years at Spring Hill. He also taps into his experience as deacon for St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Mobile, as a member of Leadership Mobile’s class of 2008, and as a marine and military police officer in the United States, Afghanistan, the Far East, and Europe.
Harkins’ personal philosophy for happiness is simple, and borrowed from St. Padre Pio. “He said, ‘Pray, Hope, Don’t Worry,’ which is easier said than done,” says Harkins. “I also follow St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and way of prayer that I try to apply daily to all facets of my life and teach others as a deacon and as a Christian in the world.”
Upon graduation in 2015, Harkins plans to continue working for the citizens of Mobile in his current role and serving his parishioners as their deacon. He is also helping form the next class of deacon candidates in the Archdiocese of Mobile, where his education from Spring Hill College will prove invaluable.
“I am eager to share what I’ve gained in the classroom and in prayer while at Spring Hill with these men and their wives as they discern whether or not the vocation of permanent deacon is what God is calling them to,” says Harkins. “Juggling the family, prayer, work, and study schedule has been challenging for me. I couldn’t do it without the prayers and strong support I receive from my family, friends in St. Ignatius parish, the professors and staff at SHC and the folks I work with. These men and their families will be in similar situations and I hope to help them develop their own methods for handling the challenge.”
Harkins relaxes by reading and painting landscapes. He and his wife, Maria, enjoy movies and chasing after their three dogs. Their daughter, Savannah, is a college freshman.