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.