Robert Hawkins went to work for what was then called the State Hospital shortly after graduation. He began a steady rise through the ranks from psychiatric technician to become superintendent of the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo. He earned a bachelor's degree from then Southern Colorado State College in 1965 and a master's degree in social work from Denver University in 1967. He was named acting superintendent in January of 1996 and was appointed superintendent in October of that year. He served on the Pueblo Civil Service Commission and Colorado Commission on Higher Education. After his death in 2002 a new $50 million building on the CMHIP campus was named in his memory.