Professor Hitchens was my first professor at Evergreen. I could see from the start he had a passion for teaching. He loved to lecture:) He and Jerry were a pair in the classroom. It was the start of a great career at Evergreen for me. Thank You Professor Hitchens for your passion and your stories, I will never forget them!
I took my time in trying to write this- I fully believe that Dave Hitchens was the ideal Evergreen professor, that it was example that others should have followed, and would attribute the longevity to the school, as an experiment, to his guiding spirit. I had him as a professor my Freshman year, in 2003, when he taught Looking Backward, a program about twentieth century America. He later served as an advisor for an independent contract where I studied fiction writing, and I felt a great deal of pressure to make sure that this remembrance was well-written, a goal I have since abandoned.
I meant to write in this guestbook a letter to Dave, telling him what I’ve been up to: Until these manuscripts sell, I am working odd jobs, but odd jobs he might’ve found interesting, doing public policy polling and assisting in the teaching of classes of how to be an election judge. I was composing this letter in my mind as I ate my lunch, and listened to a record, Bill Callahan’s Apocalypse, which I intended to recommend to Dave, as a fan of the great songwriters of yesteryear, because that record’s observations about living in as complicated and frustrating a place as America seemed like something he could nod in agreement with.
I am saddened to hear of his passing, that I cannot pass this information on to him. He seemed to possess the sense of understanding that is, while not rare, perennially in short supply in human interactions. I am sure I learned a lot from him, as we all did, but the thing most memorable, that will most be missed, is that spirit, so friendly, so non-ideological. I wonder what it would have been like to have attended his classes in the early years, when the age difference between him and his students was not so great; before he took on this sort of aged gravitas of wisdom, almost to be taken the same way you would take a hundred-year-old oak tree or something. Still friendly and benevolent, but otherworldly to a certain degree. Certainly he seemed out-of-touch with the trends in professor’s personalities as I experienced them later in my schooling at Evergreen, which were more ideological and less broadly empathetic.
Despite how much we lose for not having Dave with us, I maintain that in death itself there is peace for the deceased, and that beyond this Earth always at war with itself there is an essence more in keeping with the spirit of the man than that of the country he found himself teaching about. I wish him well as he enters into it, as hope that those closer to him, his friends and family, continue to find assurance in his qualities made manifest in other people.
As the writer of the very post in this guestbook I have already said all there is to say about how I feel about Dave Hitchens. I would love to be at the table with Dave, Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe and Lewis Grizzard having a whiskey and talking up the South.
Makes me smile just thinking about it.
My most enduring memory of Dave, amid a myriad of memories, is of Dave cuddling new born Gabriel at a rowdy party at Sid White’s in 1971. He took a squalling baby from my arms and turned him into a lamb. He stroked his nose and if baby’s purr, Gabriel did.
We will miss him along with all the other no-longer-with-us founding faculty.
My love and condolences to the whole extended Hitchens clan.
Dave was, quite simply, the finest teacher I ever knew, and a dear friend.
The first time I heard him speak — in a writing workshop in my very first program at Evergreen — I remember Dave promising us that he would teach us how to research, and how to write, but, more importantly, how to think. A promise kept, at least for me, and with generous helpings of humor, wisdom and kindness thrown in, more or less for free.
I’ve reached an age where reports of friends and relatives passing are no longer so rare, and each one is like a powerful hand reaching out and pulling me back into the past. Few have pulled as hard as the news of Dave’s death. I’ve done much and traveled far these past three decades, but my years at Evergreen were, in many ways, the most intense of my life — for both good and bad. Dave was a big part of the good, and a sympathetic friend through the bad.
To be sure, the memories are a little jumbled after 30 years, but they can still make me smile. Mostly I remember sitting in Dave’s office, or across a table down at Buzz’s Tavern, and listening to his stories — of Oklahoma and Georgia and Australia, of characters he had known; the characters he had been.
I have no faith in an after life. Reason tells me not to, and it seems like asking too much of the universe anyway — as if this life were not a sufficiently precious gift. But if I’m wrong, if something DOES come next, I can only hope that Dave has taken his rightful place among the eagles, in his own Tailfeather Chronicles.