It was Mr. Hawkins who, for example, helped arrange for the construction of a new wing to house the Temple of Dendur, a gift from the Egyptian government — a project, opening in 1978, that was supported by the Sackler family, whom Mr. Hawkins had courted assiduously. (The family’s name was removed from the wing in 2021 over the role their company, Purdue Pharma, played in the opioid crisis.)
“All the major gifts during his time were projects that he was intimately involved with and helped bring to fruition,” Sharon Cott, a protégé of Mr. Hawkins and the Met’s current counsel, said in an interview.
Mr. Hawkins was also the secretary to the board of trustees and later its counsel, a post that pushed him beyond his official responsibilities to become something of a cultural consigliere to the astronomically wealthy. Though not nearly as rich as his unofficial charges, he was frequently seen mingling with them at their parties, dressed in understated, perfectly tailored Savile Row suits.
If the museum learned of a potential donor, it was often up to Mr. Hawkins to then reel them in, said Emily K. Rafferty, who worked with him as the head of development at the Met and later served as its president.
“Sometimes it would be me and sometimes I would say, ‘Oh, I think the best person for that is somebody else,’ and often that person was Ashton,” she said in an interview. “He was a multipurpose kind of guy.”
William Ashton Hawkins was born on May 11, 1937, in Manhattan and grew up in Syosset, a well-heeled Long Island suburb. His father, Ashton William Hawkins, was an investment broker who had moved to New York from New Mexico, where Ashton’s grandfather had helped found the city of Alamogordo in 1898.