The eight-night “Celtic Lands” Flying Jayhawks voyage took passengers to historic sites in France, Ireland and Scotland. Dwight David Eisenhower II, grandson of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower hosted several educational talks aboard the ship. Heather Hawkins kept this diary of the journey.
The Celtic Lands trip was such a wonderful time with some amazing Jayhawks! I love seeing Jayhawks from all over the U.S. become instant friends—that Jayhawk connection is pretty fantastic.
We landed in Paris and took a short bus ride to Honfleur, France. What a beautiful little city! There was a gorgeous wooden church with so much character. We were able to explore a bit and even found time to stop for our first macaroons of the trip (there would be plenty more of the next ten days!) After an afternoon of exploring we were off to the beautiful Le Boreal.
We enjoyed a welcome dinner that evening with all our Flying Jayhawks. It was clear from that very first dinner that we were going to have an amazing time!
Day 2 brought us to Caen, France. To say I wasn’t prepared for the intensity and emotion that would come from being on the beaches of Normandy would be a huge understatement. It was so powerful to see the indentations in the ground from the bombs, the bunkers where German soldiers were posted and the incredible steepness of the cliff right off the beach. We were able to walk on the beach. What hallowed ground!
After we left the beaches of Normandy, we headed for the American Cemetery. The cemetery is maintained by the American government and it was pretty breathtaking. David Eisenhower read testimonies from our fellow passengers about their loved ones that fought in World War II during an incredibly moving ceremony.
The captain’s welcome reception capped off a very emotional day.
This was our lone day at sea. David Eisenhower gave a few wonderful talks. It was the perfect day to rest up before our next stop!
Dublin, Ireland, was all kinds of wonderful! The morning started with a bus tour of Ireland and then off to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. Trinity College was gorgeous! We toured their spectacular library, which looked as though it was taken out of the movie Beauty and the Beast. The reader in me could have sat in there for hours and hours!
We had a free afternoon to explore Dublin. The energy of the city was so contagious! Live music around every corner, fun and interesting shops and tons and tons of pubs— it’d be a crime not to have a proper pint of Guinness when in Dublin so we made sure check that off our to-do list.
Our Sunday was spent in Holyhead, Wales, at the Bodnant Gardens. The Gardens were huge and so peaceful. Lots of photo opportunities at this place.
That afternoon we visited Caernarfon Castle. We climbed to the very top and snapped a few selfies—pretty fitting to have the Jayhawk at the peak of a castle! Interesting fact we learned about the steep spiral staircases of towers: they were built so that those guarding the tower could easily swing their swords downward. Anyone trying to storm the castle and come up the stairs would swing their sword right into solid stone!
The Isle of Iona in Scotland was our next stop. We spent the morning on a tour of the Iona Abbey. The four iconic high crosses were striking. The “road to the dead” was a path that lead us to the burial spot of many ancient kings and clan chiefs. Every spot of the island seemed to have a calming peace.
Tuesday was the day of castles. We visited both Dunvegan Castle and the Eilean Donon Castle. The amount of stone it took to build these majestic castles is pretty mindblowing!
The evening we hosted our Jayhawk reception before dinner. I’ve got to be honest, it was pretty clear during that reception that our group was most fun group on the ship – without question! We took the opoprtunity to sing the alma mater and do the Rock Chalk chant on the deck of the ship!
The last day of our trip started with some excitement. Shortly after we departed the Le Boreal via the tender boat a heavy fog enveloped us. The tender driver did a great job guiding us to land, but it was a pretty exhilarating way to start the morning.
The Jacobite steam train (Hogwarts Express) took us to Fort Williams. We were able to snap some great photos of the famous bridge in the Harry Potter movies. The scenic train ride had ample opportunities for great photo opportunities! No chance to snooze on that trek!
We ended the day with short excursions to Oban and Glencoe. Both cities had a lot of characgter and were wonderful spots to wonder around and pop from shop to shop! The Captain’s Farewell Reception was the perfect way to end our adventures in the Celtic lands. Glasses of champagne and loads of laughs wrapped up this journey with the best Jayhawks around!
—Heather Hawkins, executive assistant to the president and donor relations coordinator, hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Celtic Lands” from May 16-25, along with Tegan Thornberry, assistant director of membership and business development. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.
Jayhawks looking for last minute Valentine’s Day cards might spot a familiar family.
Jeff and Heather Hawkins are featured in seasonal banners at Hallmark retail locations this year. We introduced alumni to Heather, j’06, g’12, who works for the Association as executive assistant to the president and coordinator of donor relations, and her husband, Jeff, c’06, a former KU basketball player, on our blog in 2014.
The Hawkins family’s modeling career all started with a KU connection. Shannon Presti, a former KU basketball manager and friend of Jeff’s, encouraged the couple to pursue modeling opportunities for their two future Jayhawks, Mavrick and Sienna. Presti, c’05, connected them with Rachel Imdieke, a photographer and fellow Jayhawk, who introduced them to Voices& Talent Agency in Kansas City. The agency signed the family, and the rest is history.
As Jeff tells tells it, “We really feel like the Jayhawk connections made this possible for our family. Without the guidance of Shannon and Rachel, we never would have landed with Voices& and then Hallmark.”
We asked Heather about their experience modeling as a picture-perfect family in this sweet Q&A just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Tell us how you were selected for the Hallmark ad/promotion.
We’ve had a handful of other modeling jobs since our family was signed. Our agent at Voices& submitted us for the Valentine’s Day promotion, and we were really blessed to be selected for the shoot. It was such a fun day, and we were thrilled when we found out they were using the picture of the three of us for the campaign. The people we worked with for Hallmark have been top notch! They were so kind to us and since we were newbies, they really helped us through the process.
So what’s it really like being a model?
Oh my goodness, it’s fun! I am absolutely certain that when I hit the lotto someday I’m going to pay someone to do my hair and makeup. It’s been so eye-opening to see the creative process and how many people work so hard to make those shoots go. It’s such a team effort!
Have you had any “superstar” moments where people recognize you from the photos?
It’s been fun to get pictures from friends and family all over the Midwest standing by the banners. My aunt actually went into a store and asked the manager if she could have the banner when Valentine’s Day was over. She’s been collecting them up all over town.
What did Sienna think of the experience?
That girl was absolutely hooked from the moment we walked in. She’s absolutely a girlie-girl and loved having them put her in different outfits and play with her hair. Her favorite part was without a doubt jumping on the bed. She seems to think she now has the clearance to jump on any bed she wants, whenever she wants!
We have a pretty great team here at the KU Alumni Association! While many of our staff members travel around the world hosting events and meeting Jayhawks, many others work behind the scenes. In this new series on our blog, learn a little more about the people who make your Alumni Association a positive force for KU—and a fun place to work.
Heather Hawkins, j’06, has served as the executive assistant to the president for the past three years. She has a degree in strategic communications, which comes in handy as she helps with projects for the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors and works closely with Presidents Club members and other donors. Heather is married to former KU basketball player Jeff Hawkins, c’06, and they have two adorable Future Jayhawks.
What’s your favorite spot on the KU campus?
Absolutely Allen Fieldhouse, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been in that building, I STILL get the chills!
If you could have dinner with two people, living or not, who would they be? I’d pick my dad’s mom who passed away when I was little. I would love to have time to hear about all the trouble my dad surely got into as a little kid. My second choice would be Gillian Flynn, author of “Gone Girl” and a KU alumna! Her books are fantastically addictive. I lost sleep after reading each one because I couldn’t get the stories out of my head.
Put your iPod on shuffle. What are the first five songs?
“Single Ladies,” by Beyonce, “Heartbreak Warefare,” by John Mayer, “Ordinary People,” by John Legend, “The Way You Make Me Feel,” by Michael Jackson, “The Age of Worry,” by John Mayer
Cats or dogs? Dogs, all day, everyday. To be honest, cats give me the creeps!
What’s the last book you read? I love to read. One of my happiest places in the world is the library. the last book I read was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, I highly recommend it!
Tell us about something in your office: a favorite photo, trinket or other object or memento. My favorite objects are the Mother’s Day pictures my son Mav drew and my bulletin board of pictures of my kids, Mav and Sienna, and my husband Jeff.
What’s your favorite color? Green
Favorite KU celebrity? I’ve got to go with my charming husband, Jeff Hawkins. Basketball season holds a very, very special place in the heart of the Hawkins household.
Do you have any hidden talents or unique hobbies? Sadly, no special hidden talents or unique hobbies. However, with two kids, a husband and three dogs, I’m not sure there’s time for any unique hobbies unless I could learn to sleep standing up or function with two hours of sleep—those skills could certainly come in handy!