David Lee Hitchens

September 13, 1939 – February 15, 2012


Professor David L. Hitchens, age 72, passed away on the morning of February 15, 2012 from lung cancer. He died peacefully and comfortably surrounded by his family at his home.

David was born to Frank and Frances Hitchens in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was the first in his family to attend and graduate from college. He attended the University of Wyoming on a swimming scholarship where he earned his bachelor and master degrees in history and literature. He continued his education at the University of Georgia where he earned his doctorate in American history. He taught U.S. history at four colleges in four different states before landing a founding faculty position at The Evergreen State College (TESC) in Olympia, Washington in 1970. He helped create and build the renowned cornerstones at TESC –interdisciplinary studies, team teaching, and narrative evaluation of student learning in higher education. With the exception of a sabbatical, when he taught at Murdoch University in Western Australia, Professor Hitchens spent the rest of his academic career at TESC. He was conferred the status of Emeritus Faculty Member in June 2011 when he retired due to terminal cancer.

He was a self-taught and active musician. He played guitar and bass and sang in a variety of bluegrass bands throughout his life. For nearly a decade he was a disc jockey at KAOS radio where he shared his love of bluegrass music.

David lived his life surrounded by intellectual curiosity, by love, with dignity and devotion. He will be remembered as an educator, passionate lecturer, avid reader, keen storyteller, loving husband, father, grandfather and friend. He is survived by his wife Joan; six children (and partners) – Dawn (Richard), Dana (Kendall), David (Nikki), Denise (Chuck), Dedi (Rob), and Leah (Scott); six grandchildren – Brittany, Alicia, Ashana, Lexi, Dylan and Carson; four step grandchildren – Brittany, Sierra, Evan, and Bailey; one step great grandchild – Sayler; ex-wife Dorothy.

Plans are underway for a Celebration of Life, date to be announced. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations be made to the David L. Hitchens Scholarship in honor of Frances Marie Rasmussen at The Evergreen State College.

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Hitchens Retires after 49 Year Teaching Career

(June, 2011) If given his choice, as long as he was still having fun, David L. Hitchens would be struck dead delivering the most brilliant lecture of his life, mid-sentence, at The Evergreen State College.  He wasn’t offered that choice.

Dave was still having fun for what was his last program seminar on January 20, 2011. He did not know at the time he would not return to the classroom.  His teaching career, which began the day after his 23rd birthday in 1962 in Athens, Georgia, ended without fanfare after 49 years.

David L Hitchens is retired effective June 15, 2011 after 41 years teaching, lecturing, learning – reading, writing, thinking and talking – at the Evergreen State College (TESC) in Olympia, WA. He was the youngest member of the Planning Faculty hired in 1970. He was the first faculty member to arrive for duties on campus July 1, 1970. He is the last full time faculty member from the planning faculty to retire. This is one time in his life he wasn’t adequately prepared. Retirement came and got him.

Dave can tell you the story of how Omnia Extares! came to be the motto of TESC. He helped draft the first faculty handbook. He can talk about how furniture would travel the campus and magically reappear at the end of the year. He has seen buildings rise up around ever since the steam tunnels were dug. He emceed many years at the Beer Garden stage during Super Saturday, a 20 year community event now come and gone. He’s sat on hiring committees, faculty meetings, Disappearing Task Forces (DTFs), and many other administrative duties. Foremost, he has taught thousands of students to advance their skills in reading, writing, thinking, and talking.

Dave is a historian by trade and his garbage can mind tucks away some very obscure facts. And please, the facts are are what count. Look it up.

Dave was not given a choice about the ending of his career. After a diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer in October, 2010 he began a targeted chemotherapy treatment on January 21, 2011. He waited until a Friday evening so he’d have time to recoup over the weekend. His allergic reaction to a drug called Tarceva changed everything.  It stopped him in his tracks. Dave is down but not out, yet.

Dave is a storyteller as well as a historian. Anyone who has sat in for his lectures and seminars knows that. “No actor ever had a better part,” he tells us. Indeed.  He can be a bit of a ham with any audience, small or large.  Lecture, bluegrass music, radio show, even now from his bedroom pulpit… Dave loves to tell stories.

Along with announcement of Dave’s retirement, he and his family are proud to establish the David L. Hitchens Scholarship in Honor of Frances Marie Rasmussen as tribute to his mother. Equal access to education at all levels is one of Dave’s greatest desires for the world. As a first generation college graduate himself, Dave wants to offer opportunity to those who aspire to embrace lifelong learning.

Now it is your turn to help. Share your stories, wishes, and memories about Dave. Help future generations come to know the man behind the scholarship. Your contribution of stories and/or money will give this scholarship perpetual life. Your outpouring now, while Dave is still able to enjoy the memories, will be hopeful and, very likely, entertaining.