First Assignment

It is very difficult for me to know where to begin talking about David.  We met in June of 1971 at the Planning Conference being held at Pack Forest.  The academic program that I was assigned to was “The Individual, the Citizen, and the State”.  Five faculty and a heady brew it was.  Dave was the Coordinator, sort of a department chairman but less than and more than that.  I was scared to death.  I’d never taught a novel before and we began with Catch 22. 

I was the person responsible for introducing David to John Raser and Murdoch University in Perth, West Australia–a university designed to be different.  There were echoes of Santa Cruz, St. John’s of Santa Fe, Sangamon State in Illinois, as well as a few others at Evergreen and at Murdoch.  I recall the Vice-Chairman of Murdoch Steven Grew telling Dave that they would take care of all the arrangements for him to come to Australia.  Dave did not realize that it was up to him to apply for a passport.  So, when this finally became clear to him he scrambled to obtain his birth certificate.  When it arrive, he discovered that it was an amended passport  and his lineage as part Native American had been removed.  I guess that said a lot about Oklahoma, where David was born, and how the Caucasian population viewed the Indians.  Dave went off to Australia and found, I believe, some interesting parallels between Frontier America and Australia, especially Western Australia. 

Every week I sent a large envelope with the Cooper Point Journal and other Evergreen material to Dave.  When he returned to us he said that he felt that he had never been gone, he was so up to date.  The high point of all these packages of printed matter seems to have been the newspaper photo of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller giving the finger to a group of students who attempted to stop him from speaking at some event. 

Dave had to deal with the fact that he was a Yank as well as teaching at a new and very different university in Australia.  When the size of your office, based on your academic rank, is controlled by regulations issued in the national capital (Canberra), then you know that you are in a far different place than America. 

David grew, and through reflection became a better teacher.  That did not occur all at once.  Perhaps it is best to say that the shoe dropped piece by piece. 

There is one small item that came into my life as a result of something that David purchased.  When Betty Estes and I helped Dave clean out his house in Tanglewild in June of 1972, into my VW van sent a small metal box that had held some child’s carpenter toys.  I believe that these had been a Christmas gift for his son.  The tools were gone but the metal box was intact.  I saved this box and placed shoe polish, shoe laces, shoe shining brushes, and rags in it.  It is one of those small and insignificant things but has a forty year memory associated with it.  1971-1972 carries many memories with it.  February 9, 1972 was a Monday and a day for our faculty seminar.  Bus, it began snowing and did not stop for twenty-four hours.  We received twenty-three inches of snow and essentially shut down for a week.

When Mervyn Cadwallader, one of our founding deans, asked each academic program to do something to celebrate Evergreen I placed copies of all of our nearly three dozen pieces of assigned reading in a hallway outside our offices and put up a sign indicating that this was assigned reading for our program.  A student walked by, stopped,  read the sign and then turned to me and said:”Assigned reading?  That is a denial of the spirit of evergreen.  THAT was never a denial of the spirit of David L. Hitchens.

2 comments

  1. RW. Rawles says:

    You knew Prof John Raser?

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