Dave Hitchens Oral History Interview


Dave Hitchens Oral History Interview
26 May 2011
28 May 2011
9 June 2011
Dave Hitchens
John McLain
extracted text
Dave Hitchens
Interviewed by John McLain
The Evergreen State College oral history project
May 26, 2011

Hitchens: Where do you want to start?
McClain: You were born. [laughter] I did read a little bit of an essay that I don’t know if you wrote, but
about your mother and her influence on you. She sounds like an amazing woman.
Hitchens: Because she was my mother, I truly didn’t appreciate her at the time. I was just a kid. The
thing that has come home to me over the years is how much she kept from me.
McLain: Kind of protected you?
Hitchens: I guess she decided—and I got this from my aunt, because they were both sent to Haskell
together, and my aunt characterized it as—I think there’s a quote in there I used from her—she used to
call it “that awful government school.” She said my mother came out of that experience changed. She
was seemingly—all I can do is add to it—look at it and say she was depressed, for a variety of reasons,
not the least of which was she was a single mother at a time when that just wasn’t happening, especially
in Oklahoma.
Whatever her hopes and dreams had been as she was growing up—and she used to regale me
with stories—there were four of them, two boys, two girls—and their experiences. They befriended
baby skunks and whatnot, things like that, in the Northwoods. I could tell her childhood had a certain
charm to it that she sort of tried to pass on to me.
She never said anything, other than she told me that she had been in nurse’s training at the
University of Kansas when she met my dad. But then I found out that wasn’t true. They would take
students who wanted to study nursing from Haskell, take them over to the KU campus, and then take
them back. But her way of explaining it was to completely ignore the Haskell side of it.
McLain: So she was really second-class kind of?
Hitchens: Right, and she never really recovered from that experience, and apparently decided that she
was going to do everything possible to keep me from having to deal with that sort of stuff. She would


say things to me, as I said in that essay, one of the earliest things I ever remember her saying to me was,
“When you go to college.” It was never if you go, or I really hope you go, it was when you go.
McLain: And this was a time when that’s a pretty audacious hope for anybody but an upper-class
Hitchens: Especially folks coming out of Oklahoma at the time.
McLain: And Indian country.
Hitchens: And because she rejected the whole Native background that she had, there was a big blow-up
in my family, and I never understood why until years later. I pieced it together by sort of triangulating
what I could remember of the moment and things that happened afterwards.
There were some significant moments afterwards. When I was about, I think, going into second
grade, there was a huge blow-up. We were living with my grandparents, and there was a huge blow-up
late at night. The next thing I knew, I was being awakened and hustled out. They threw some clothes
on me and packed a bag, and we jumped into this cab and went down to a hotel in downtown Tulsa.
Something had happened. There was something going on in the family. Then we ended up moving
around before we finally settled back down a few years later, and I was back in the Ben Franklin
Elementary School District where I’d started kindergarten. But I never understood what was going on
One spring day, a Saturday when I was nine—it was kind of an interesting year between nine
and 10 for me—I jumped on my bike and I rode over to see my grandparents on a Saturday. I did that
about every other Saturday. We were living close enough that I could go for a bike ride, have a quick
visit and then come home, be home in time for lunch. I get to the house, and my granddad was sitting
there. He had a television set, and he liked that, and he used to sit there and watch television. I hit the
front door and came in and I said, “Hi, Granddad. What’s up?” I think he was watching Ted Mack’s
Original Amateur Hour, which came to Tulsa a week late. In those days, things came around.
McLain: They had to move the film from place to place probably.
Hitchens: Yeah, it was before the coaxial cable came in and the coast-to-coast stuff. I said, “Where’s
Grandma?” He said, “Oh, she’s at her meeting.” I said, “Her meeting? What meeting?” He said, “Her
club meeting. They get together and they hook rugs, and they do a variety of things.” I said, “What club
is that?” He paused for a minute and he said, “The Cherokee Women’s Club.” I said, “What’s she going
to the Cherokee Women’s Club for?” He said, “Well, because she’s a member, and because she’s


Cherokee, and I’m Shawnee. That makes you Cherokee and Shawnee. By the way, your mother is
All of a sudden, I’m nine years old and I’m hearing something I never knew. Suddenly, I’m
Cherokee, Shawnee, and Chippewa. My mother had told me a couple years before at one point—
something had come up that I was asking her about—she said, “If anybody asks you, you’re an
American. You were born in the United States of America. That makes you a citizen of the United States
of America, and that’s all anybody needs to know.”
Anyway, I visited with my granddad, and left before my grandmother got back from the
meeting. I rode home, hit the back door, bounced in around lunchtime and I said, “Hey, Mom! Grandpa
told me something today I didn’t know. It’s neat! I didn’t know we were Indians.” The temperature in
the room—you know when you’re a kid and you do something, and you don’t know what it is, but you
know the temperature dropped. My mother’s face turned to stone, and I thought, what did I do? I
knew I was in deep trouble. She said, in a voice that I can’t even begin to duplicate now—suddenly,
there was this very low voice—she looked at me and she said, “We’re not.” She repeated, “You were
born in the United States of America. You’re a citizen of the United States of America. That’s it.”
What she did, in effect, was she legislated, or the blow-up in the family may have been because
my grandparents—my dad’s folks—wanted to get me more involved in things and whatnot, and she was
against it. She didn’t want that to happen. She didn’t want me having to deal with the kind of racism
and barriers that so-called half-breeds had to deal with at the time.
McLain: She didn’t want you to end up at a boarding school somewhere for Indians.
Hitchens: My life was going to be different, and I was going to college, plain and simple. That was the
first real clear indication I’d had that there was something that nobody was talking about, and it couldn’t
be talked about. I got the clear impression that I wasn’t ever to bring it up again. All that in one
morning, and it was like suddenly—and I remember going through a period wondering stuff and
wondering, who am I?
I will jump forward. It comes later, but it’s still part of the story. When I organized my leave
without pay from Evergreen, because I’d been invited over to do a guest shot at Murdoch University, a
new university in Western Australia back in ’75, I made application for my passport. I had carried with
me—because my mother gave it to me—a certificate from St. John’s Hospital that had my footprints on
it. It was the hospital certificate of my birth.


I think they were doing it at the post office at the time, and I went down to make application for
my passport. I had a driver’s license, and she said, “We need your birth certificate to verify.” I said, “I
have it right here.” I opened it up and handed it to her and she looked at it and she said, “No, I’m sorry,
this won’t do. It’s not your birth certificate.” I said, “It’s not? What do you need?” She said, “This is the
hospital certificate from St. John’s Hospital. These kinds of things are issued as interim things until the
State of Oklahoma registered you with their certificate of live birth. What we need is a copy of that with
the raised seal of the State of Oklahoma to verify its validity.” I went “Oh-h-h.” I couldn’t do it right
then, so she said, “We’ll get everything in the preliminary stuff out of the way.” I said, “How about if I
write to them and have them send you the certificate?” She said, “No, it’s better that you bring it
So I wrote to Oklahoma, sent them five dollars, and I got it. Opened it up, unfolded it, and it was
two documents stapled back-to-back. The front page had stamped at the top, where it said certificate
of live birth, the stamp over that said “Amended certificate of live birth.” I’m starting to read. There’s
my mother’s maiden name, Frances Marie Hitchens, where she was born and her race: Indian. I read my
dad’s name, Frank Lowery Hitchens, where he was born, his race: Indian. So, the day I was born, I was
born an Indian. It didn’t specify which tribe or anything, but that was it.
Turns out that same year when my granddad told me about that, I turned the certificate over,
because I thought, well, nothing had been amended on the front. I turned it over on the back, and the
back of the amendment had space where my mother had submitted her birth certificate, my dad’s
discharge papers from the U.S. Navy—he was a World War II veteran—and my racial category had been
changed from Indian to white. I had been declared a “legal white man” by the State of Oklahoma. I
didn’t know this until I was 34 because I was making application at that point.
McLain: How was such a thing accomplished?
Hitchens: She put those two together, she wrote to the State, sent it to them and said . . .
McLain: . . . son of a veteran . . .
Hitchens: Right. Because in World War II, you were black, white. That was it. If you weren’t black, the
State of Oklahoma grandfathered Indian tribes from the various Indian nations there into citizenship by
delineating them—they could have the right to vote in the State because they weren’t black. Then, of
course, after the 14th Amendment came in, there were quite a few changes, the extent of which how
close it was to me, I didn’t know until 1963, when I got a note from my dad’s mother. She said, “The


government has settled with your grandfather’s people. If you write to Tribal Operations in Muskogee,
Oklahoma, and get the information, you’re in line for some financial settlement.”
It turned out there were three small bands of Shawnee. The Shawnee had gotten moved out of
Ohio and Indiana and into what became Indian Territory, which then becomes Oklahoma. There were
these three small bands. There was the Cherokee Band of Shawnee—which makes it very confusing to
some folks at this point—the Absentee Band, and there was one other I could never remember. I always
have to look it up.
My grandfather’s mother, my great-grandmother—her name was Eliza Hitchens—appears on
the census roll taken when the U.S. Army came in. They had done a survey when they were establishing
the state line between Kansas and Oklahoma. They came in and discovered that there were these bands
of Shawnee who were supposed to be in Oklahoma Territory, but they were living north of the new
state line.
March 4, 1889, the Army came in, did a census, and rounded these folks up, and moved them
into Oklahoma. My grandfather, who’s clear from when I looked it up and figured out the timeframe—
my great-grandmother’s maiden name was Booth. Her brother was like number two on the list of
names. But when her name appears, it’s Eliza Hitchens, formerly Booth. She was number three on the
original list, and then they changed it because they discovered she was married to my great-grandfather,
who, as it turns out, was Cherokee and had been a member of the First Mounted Cherokee Regiment
when the Cherokee Nation allied itself with the Confederate States of America in the Civil War. He went
to war when he was 15.
At any rate, here it appears this, and I realized when they took the census, my grandfather’s
name is not on there, but Eliza Hitchens is on there. She must have been pregnant with him. I looked it
up and found out that he was born in 1889. He was born after the removal. He was born near or at
Guthrie, Oklahoma, which was one of the early capitals of the State. So, there’s this tangled weirdness.
I got $230.74, and each child born before, I think, March 1, 1964, got the same amount.
McLain: They all got $230.74?
Hitchens: Yeah. What happened is that when the government decided to pay these folks for losing
their property, the Cherokee Band, which was my grandfather’s—that was Eliza Hitchens’s folks—
decided they would split the money equally among the descendants of the folks who were on the
original roll, so I sent birth certificates in. I’d had one sent from the State of Oklahoma to Tribal
Operations, but when they sent that stuff back to—I was teaching in Tennessee at the time all of this

was happening—listed on the documents that were returned to me was an amended certificate of live
birth, but it didn’t show up. My children’s birth certificates—my three oldest children—their certificates
came back, but I’d never seen that one that I had sent. For some reason, it didn’t come back in the
folder that they sent me. But they put me and my three oldest kids on the census roll of the Cherokee
Band of Shawnee.
I would have discovered then, back in 1963-64 when this was happening, except there wasn’t
anything there. And it didn’t dawn on me. I went back and I looked at it because I’ve still got those
things. I looked at it one day and I said, why didn’t I get curious when I saw my birth certificate was
amended? It said amended certificate of live birth. It turns out, she made those changes when I was
nine. Ever since I was nine, I was probably the only totally legal white man to be found, because the
State of Oklahoma had declared me such as a result of these documents that she had submitted.
She wasn’t full-blooded by any means, and I think that was one of the things that puzzled her.
Why should she—except she didn’t realize that she was living on the reservation, Bad River Chippewa of
Lake Superior—when I was seven, I got sent up there. My grandmother, Anne—her mother—was living
in Chicago, and she took me into Wisconsin so I could meet a bunch of relatives. It seemed everybody I
ran into, they’d look at me and say, “Oh, you’re Fran’s boy.”
She had taken me there, back to Wisconsin, when I was 18 months old, but I didn’t remember
that. When I was seven and I was meeting people—“This is your cousin, So-and-So”—I was like, how am
I related to all of these people? Turns out, there’s a good reason for that. My grandmother took me
back to the reservation, but it wasn’t operating like a reservation the way you would assume a
reservation operated. These folks had lived in these areas for quite a while. They had established farms
and things, or they were living in towns. But the geographic area that encompasses the Bad River
reservation bleeds over into it, and there was an offshoot that was living on the shores of Lake Superior.
When they were talking about it, they said, “You’ve got to come. You’ve got to move because
you’re part of us.” They said, “No, we’re not moving.” So they had to make an exception, so they
declared this 10-mile-wide strip of land along Lake Superior—it’s the Red something—I want to say Red
Hawk Band or something, but they’re really Bad River folks.
McLain: This is along the north shore? North of Duluth, along the shore there?
Hitchens: You know where Bayfield is?
McLain: I do.


Hitchens: That little peninsula where the Apostle Islands are, that’s the area.
McLain: So it’s Red Cliff.
Hitchens: Yeah, the Red Cliff.
McLain: I know that area.
Hitchens: Do you?
McLain: Yeah, my in-laws have a home up there on Madeline Island, and I go there. So she’s part of the
Red Cliff.
Hitchens: My mother’s maiden name was Rasmussen. Her mother was Anne LaFournier. Turns out
LaFournier, there’s a LaFournier Park in New Orleans. He was the last French governor of the Louisiana
Territory. When the Spanish took control, they came in and tried to work something out with him, and
he organized a revolt, and got arrested and was executed by the Spanish. So there’s this park in New
Orleans, and some of his descendants ended up in Wisconsin.
McLain: Up in the Northwoods area.
Hitchens: Yeah, the Northwoods.
McLain: Yeah, I’ve probably been up in that area 15 or 20 times. My wife was born and bred up there.
Hitchens: My grandmother’s, I think, sister married a guy, Aunt Kate and Uncle Mike. I didn’t realize
they were great. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand that. They were living on a farm a mile and a half
south of Lake Superior. They took me to swim in the lake one day after I’d been there two or three
days. We walked down this road, and they were telling me about land usage, not explaining it very
But I got ready to swim and this eagle came circling around, flying down. And as I stepped into
the water and it was cold, he came down like from here to that doorway, flying in front of me. Uncle
Mike said, “Oh, the eagle came to say hello. He’s greeting you. That’s pretty special.” I said, “Wow, I
had no idea.” I’m this city kid from Tulsa.
So, yeah, again, the Red Cliff—again, on my mother’s side of the family, they had an uncle
named Leo LaFournier. I don’t know how close Leo was to Anne, but that’s clearly one of her brothers.
But they’re in the Red Cliff area. They stayed there.
I found out all this stuff when I discovered my uncle, Oliver, who was my mother’s youngest
brother. There was Paul, and my mother, and then Oz—or Oliver—and then Jan, in that order. During


World War II, Oz was a radioman/gunner on Dauntless dive bombers and Helldivers, flying off the USS
Shangri-La. They were on a heckling mission over Hokkaido Island, the northernmost Japanese home
island, and he hit a fog bank and smacked into the side of a mountain. Oz was thrown clear. It killed his
pilot. He had a separated shoulder and several broken ribs, but he got himself pulled together. He
survived and made friends with local dogs. He was stealing eggs and things from the farmers around,
and catching frogs and eating raw frog legs. He said later that some of the stuff that he had learned on
the reservation had helped him survive. Before he left the Navy—he became a career man—but he
became somebody who also trained folks in survival because of the experience that he’d had.
McLain: He never got caught by the Japanese?
Hitchens: He’s only one of two Allied aviators to crash on one of the Japanese home islands and elude
McLain: Wow.
Hitchens: The day he got captured, it turns out the guys that captured him—he thought they had these
big, long rifles—they had bamboo poles—home guards. They had chased him for a while, and he had
turned to look back to see how close they were, and he tripped over a root, and falling down, they came
up on him. So he gave it up. He had this tattered little dictionary and he was trying to talk to them, tell
them he was an American. He said he expected to get beaten and knocked around. He said they were
all very polite. They took him into the village, and then they took him from the village down to the
coast, where there was a small inlet or something that they could connect. Come to find out, it was two
weeks after the signing of the official end of the war on the Missouri.
Years later, some guy who was interested in military history had heard about him. He made it
through the Korean War, too. Had a very interesting career. Ended up working at the Lawrence
Radiation Lab after the war was over with, and had this book written about him. The book’s title is
Chippewa Chief in World War II: [The Survival Story of Oliver Rasmussen in Japan]. So I picked up some
more things about my mother’s family structure by reading that particular book—again, because
nobody is talking about it. There’s a photograph of all the kids. It’s a fascinating thing.
Anyhow, let’s get back. I’ve really taken us away here. All that background, with my mother’s
concern and whatnot, when she got to Tulsa after I was born, there was still part of her that every now
and then she would scrape together enough funds, and she would register for a class at the University of
Tulsa. She took geology one year. A couple years later, she took criminology. That was kind of
interesting because I was, again, nine or 10—10, I think—my folks were going somewhere on a Saturday

and they were figuring I was old enough that if I wanted to stay home, why, I could stay home and they
probably didn’t have to worry about me. I said, yeah, I wasn’t interested in whatever it is they were
going to do. They said, “We’ll be back in a while,” and so they left.
I was sitting there with my feet up on the coffee table. I looked over and here’s this criminology
text. I wonder, what’s criminology? That’s what Mom’s taking. I grabbed the book and opened it up
and started to read. They were gone two and a half hours or so, maybe three hours. They got back and
I’m still there. I’m mesmerized, reading this college text, and reading about Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby
Face Nelson.
I said, “Wow, that was fast.” They said, “We were gone about three hours.” My dad said,
“What are you reading?” I said, “Oh, I’m reading Mom’s criminology text.” He said, “Oh,” and he turned
and he went on out. He started to go out of the room and my mother said, “You got any questions?
You understand it?” I said, “Yeah. I’m puzzled about one thing.” She said, “What’s that?” I said,
“What’s a sexual psychopath?” My dad goes in to get coffee, and my mother’s standing there and she
says, “Well . . . you might not quite be ready for that yet. We’ll sort it out.” I had a fairly good idea from
the context that I was reading. One or two of these guys had been characterized as such, and I was
puzzled. I wasn’t sure what that meant at the time. But that kind of stuff was going on with me.
McLain: She’s taking a class whenever she can scrape together the money.
Hitchens: She would take a class.
McLain: Was she hoping to get a degree?
Hitchens: I have no idea.
McLain: But something just, I want to learn.
Hitchens: Yeah.
McLain: And there she was.
Hitchens: It turns out after her death, my stepfather told me—because my folks eventually were
divorced and she remarried several years later, and she had another son. He’s roughly 25 years younger
than me, and we’re not really in contact. There’s too many years difference to really be able to have any
kind of ongoing contact. I’ve lost my train of thought. Oh! Hans told me that she had left behind this
huge stack of journals. She’d been keeping a journal for years.
McLain: No kidding? Writing.


Hitchens: Writing. I said, “Can you send me some of her stuff? I’d love to get an idea of what she
was”—it never happened, never materialized. I think Chris had something to do with that. I made a
couple of efforts to have contact with him.
McLain: That’s your brother?
Hitchens: Yeah, he’s never responded, so that’s that. I can understand that. Genetically, inside my
particular family structure and experience, people take stands and they stick to ‘em, by golly. I don’t
know if that’s good or bad. Turns out to be pretty good in some instances, and maybe not so good in
She came home one day—I was five or six—and she’d found a used bookstore where she could
buy for 25 cents, 50 cents, used hardbound books. She came home with a sackful for me—Robin Hood,
Little Lord Fauntleroy, Black Beauty, things like that—so I was reading those things at a pretty early age.
I read Moby Dick for the first time when I was 12. When I was 14, I read The Grapes of Wrath. My
mother said, “That’s a little rough, isn’t it?” I said, “There’s nothing in there that I haven’t read on public
toilet walls all my life.” She said, “Oh, okay.”
I had a lot of curiosity. There’s hardly a day in my life—I fell on a floor furnace and burned my
hands when I was 18 months old. I remember for sure—because my dad, who was a fireman, hustled
me to the closest fire station where they had ointment that you put on, and bandaged my hands up. I
remember, I was sitting on this counter in the kitchen, and there were all these firemen around, and
they were trying to cheer me up. I knew then, when I think back on it, I could not read then. The rest of
my life, I can’t remember when I could not read. I’ve been reading, and East Tulsa boys aren’t readers.
McLain: Did you mom teach you to read at a young age, or did you just teach yourself?
Hitchens: I remember going through the process in the first grade, but I also remember seeing things
and talking about things, and looking at comic strips before then. It’s kind of a jumble.
McLain: The essay mentions that you were, I think the term is outcast. You really felt like you were a bit
of an outcast as a learner.
Hitchens: That’s partly because when I was in sixth grade at Franklin Elementary, I was walking home.
We’d got out of school one afternoon, and it was in early fall. Still warm. We had an underpass at the
end of the corner. Franklin’s grounds sat at the intersection of 11th and Yale. There was an underpass to
get you under Yale—under 11th—to the other side. Where we were living, I had to walk about six, eight


blocks, and then a couple blocks to the left, I was home. I walked to and from school unless it was really
terrible weather.
I got down to the middle of the underpass and there were these three guys waiting for me—Pat
Wynn, Ricky Fugate and one other kid, I can’t remember his name—and they blocked me. I was trying
to come through, and they stopped me. I said, “What’s wrong?” “We want to talk to you.” “Why?”
They said, “If you don’t stop being such a smart aleck, we’re going to beat you up every day after school.
Because all you do, you’re always answering these questions.” I looked at him and I looked at all three
of them and I said, “One at a time, or all three at once?” I figured I could maybe hold my own one at a
time. They said, “All three at once.” That’s how pissed off they were at me. I went “All right,” and then
they let me go.
But I got excited about it. We had a sixth-grade teacher, the first male teacher I’d had. He
would ask a question and I had the answer. I’d hold my hand up. And I toned it down after that. I didn’t
want to get beaten up by three guys. I had no idea that there were people in that room that weren’t as
involved with the learning as I was. And it was real clear in junior high and high school, in those days—
they were through the ‘50s, late ‘40s into the ‘50s, because I graduated in ‘57—it wasn’t cool for young
guys to be too smart.
We had a guy in school—his name was Bill Jones—and he was a guy who had a slide rule
dangling from his belt all the time. He wore glasses. He was clearly pretty smart. People would make
fun of him. They’d walk down the hall and say, “Draw, Jones!” Because of his slide rule and things like
that. When I realized that I was a reader, I didn’t have anybody to talk to, because none of my friends,
as far as I knew or thought, had any of the same kinds of interests. They didn’t talk about those kinds of
things. The most they’d ever talk about was maybe if they’d seen some movie that they had kind of
liked, they might want to talk about the movie. But to talk ideas and stuff . . . again, when I was nine, it’s
like on some levels, I never quit being nine. Joan likes to tease me about that all the time.
But my mother took me over to my aunt’s house. They were getting together to have coffee or
something. It was a spring day, nice and warm. So while they were having coffee, I went out and sat on
the back stoop of my aunt’s house. I remember sitting there looking up, and the sky was absolutely
clear. It was one of those cloudless days, really blue sky. I remember thinking, here I was looking up at
this vastness, and imagining what it was like out there beyond, where you could see the stars—since I
understood the rotation of the earth—and where that went, where that led, and what did that mean? I
realized, I am so insignificant relative to all of that.

Then there were these other things I remember thinking. But then there are ants and termites
and things, and they run around and do things, and they’re not even aware of us. And there are things
you can’t see that are tiny, germs and viruses. I had this moment of feeling a sense of my place in the
universe suddenly.
McLain: You were how old?
Hitchens: Nine. How exciting that was. Well, a few weeks later, we’re over at my grandparents’ for
Sunday dinner. Because it’s getting warm—late June, early July—in Tulsa, the weekends are starting to
get damn hot. So we would eat late because my grandparents didn’t have air conditioning. You’d cook
stuff, a roast or something, and let that cool down, serve it, eat. Then my granddad liked to lay quilts
out on the backyard, and we’d go out there and lie down and enjoy the cool evening breeze.
I was lying there looking up at the stars, and a week or so before all this, I’d been reading about
the bloodstream, and how that operated in the human body, and about red and white corpuscles. I was
fascinated with that. Wow, when these white corpuscles fight, they fight disease and things. Back to
that business of there’s all this out here, and then there’s all this tiny stuff. Where does it all go? I’m
lying there, and we finished digesting our food, and I was looking up at the stars, just sort of feeling
wonderful, thinking and looking up at everything. Back to that vastness.
I remember saying, “Hey, Mom, wouldn’t it be neat if, as we were lying here looking up at the
stars, that we’re living on a corpuscle in somebody’s bloodstream, and these things that we think are
stars are actually reflections of other corpuscles and whatnot?” It got real quiet, and my grandmother
said quietly—I don’t think she thought I could hear her—“Fran, where does that boy get those ideas?”
McLain: Were there teachers along the way who saw your curiosity and your talents?
Hitchens: I had a couple when I got to high school who were really supportive. One who sat me down
when I was a junior—Mrs. Mauer—I encountered her my sophomore year, my first year in high school.
She directed plays and whatnot, and I was in every play from the fifth grade on all through high school.
My sophomore, Rogers High had the distinction of putting on the first amateur production of a new play
that had been written called I Love Lucy. We paid the royalty, and we put it on. We invited Desi and
Lucille to come to the opening.
McLain: So, before the TV show, there had been a play?


Hitchens: No, they wrote the play as a consequence of the TV show. It had just been published, so she
jumped on it, and I got cast as Ricky Ricardo. I played Ricky, Anne Cook played Lucy in this. We sent
them a telegram inviting them. They sent us an opening night telegram telling us to break a leg and all
that kind of stuff, which Mrs. Mauer read to us before the curtain went up.
She sat me down my junior year and she said, “I’ve noticed something about you. You seem to
have a wide curiosity about things, and it seems like you want to know about lots of things. This is a
world where you’ve got to specialize. I don’t know how you’re going to fit in. You may be able to make
it work if you know a whole lot of things about a lot of things. But you also need to recognize that there
may be a point you’re going to focus in and specialize on something, because the world is moving in that
The following year, my senior year, because of one schedule conflict at the time, I thought I was
going to be an artist. I actually wanted to be a political cartoonist. I was drawing political cartoons for
the Tulsa High School’s jointly published weekly newspaper. You could submit cartoons, and I’d done
that for a couple years. Because I needed an art class, because I was an art major—if you’re going to
college, you were automatically an English major. You had to have four years of—they took the ninthgrade year and applied that to high school in Tulsa in those days. You had to have four years of English,
and then you had to have three solid years of something else. I did art and I did history and English. I
did two years of Latin. I got all that required stuff out of the way.
But because of the schedule conflict for an art class that I wanted in the afternoon, I didn’t have
anything in the morning until I discovered Ernest Darling, who was the father of one of my good friends,
Doug Darling, and also the chairman of the History Department at Rogers High. Ernest Darling had a
class in ancient and medieval history in the first class period. That meant that would be my homeroom.
I’d stay there for the first class period and I could organize my schedule the way I wanted it for the rest
of the day. I thought, okay. It was a little weird to have—I’d go visit Doug. “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Darling.
How are you?” That was about it. That might be a little uncomfortable, but, oh, well. So, I took the
The first day he said he had come back the year before—he’d been on a fellowship at Teacher’s
College at Columbia University—and he’d picked up some ideas. He wanted to do teaching, especially in
history, a little different. What he told us was—this was the first year he was going to try this—on
Mondays, he would dictate to us an unfinished outline, based upon some aspect of some aspect of


ancient history, because we did ancient history in the first semester and medieval history in the second
He said, “Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, look around the room.” And he had these
tables set up, and he had all sorts of books and things, reference works. He said, “You can use the
material that’s here in the room, you could go to the library. You have automatic hall passes to go see
what’s in the library. But on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I want you to take these unfinished
outlines and find the holes. Look up the material, and see what you think should go in to finish the
McLain: Wow, a little puzzle.
Hitchens: “And then on Friday,” he said, “we’ll discuss. We’ll talk about what you found that should go
in to finish these things off.” The first week, right away, I was dissatisfied with what I was able to get by
using the materials that were there in his room and down in the library. So the following Monday of
week two, he dictated the outline, and it had something to do with Rome. I thought, where can I get
more? Ah, the University of Tulsa Library.
My mom came home from work and I said, “Hey, Mom, can I use the car tonight?” She said,
“It’s a Monday night. It’s a school night. What for?” I said, “I want to go to the TU Library. I’ve got a
project in Mr. Darling’s ancient history, and I want to use the materials there.” And the keys came
sailing across the room. [laughter]
So I went out, parked, and went in. I went to the desk and the librarian said, “Can I help you?” I
said, “I’m on a project. Where’s your section on Rome?” She said, “Oh, well, you go down there.” They
had a spiral staircase metal open stacks that went up into the darkness. “You can go back so many rows
and turn on the light, and go up the stairs there. It’s the third landing. Turn to your right and go down
to the end.”
So I’m going down, turning on all these lights, and they’re lights inside cages along. They cast
interesting shadows and whatnot. So I got up, turned on the light down the catwalk to go to the end. I
got down to the end, and I looked up at it. And there, from the floor of the catwalk, as far as I could
go—that I could reach if I got up on tiptoes—was all books on Rome. I’m standing there going, whoa, I
had no idea.
I just reached up. I looked at one and it said “Rome” on the cover. It was a blue leather binding.
I pulled it off, pulled it down, and as I looked down at the top of the volume, there was all this dust on it.
So I went “Poof!” and blew the dust off. I was suddenly enveloped in these dust motes that was musty,

library odor. I was surrounded. The light was coming from over behind me to my right, so there were
these sort of shafts of dust motes flying around. I opened up the front of the book to see that the last
time that book had been checked out of the library was 1928.
I had this feeling that hit me at that moment. Something had happened. I had no idea what it
was, but something important had taken place. Years later, I described it as Clio, the Muse of History,
came sidling up and stuck her tongue in my ear. [laughter] Because that’s when I realized it was a
moment unlike anything I’d ever had, except that day that I was looking up at the sky when I was sitting
on the back stoop at my aunt’s house; the sudden realization that I was stepping into a different reality.
I looked through these things, and suddenly I had seven books stacked up. I had enough room.
I could hold my hands down like this and put them under my chin. I thought, well, there’s probably
enough here. I should be able to get something out of this stuff. So I went waddling down. I was trying
to turn lights off with my elbow going down the stairs. Got down to the desk, and this same woman is
there. She came up and she looked at me and she said, “Oh, it looks like you found some material.”
And I said, “Yes, ma’am.” And she said, “Okay, let me have your library card and I’ll check this out for
I didn’t have a University of Tulsa library card. I didn’t know I needed one. I had a Tulsa Public
Library card. I pulled that out and gave it to her. She says, “No, I’m sorry, this is the Public Library. We
need a University of Tulsa library card.” I said, “I don’t have one.” She said, “The other thing that I have
to tell you is you’re only allowed to check out five books at a time. You have seven here.” And I’m going
“Oh-h-h.” She said, “Well, do you want a library card?” I said, “Yes.” So I filled out that stuff and
handed it to her, and she said, “It’ll be ready next week.” I said, “What do I do? I’ve got a project.” She
said, “This is important to you, isn’t it?” I said, “Yes, ma’am.” She said, “All right. Between you and me,
I could get in a lot of trouble if people found this out. What I’ll do is I’ll check these books out to you on
my card if you promise me—when will you have them back?” I said, “They’ll be back next week because
I’ll have the next step in my project.” She said, “You’re sure?” I said, “Oh, yes, ma’am.” She said, “All
right. You can use my card and I’ll have your card ready next week when you bring the books back, and
we’ll go from there.” I said, “Oh, thank you.”
So I went out, got home, sat down and started. My mother had never seen me do something
like this. She knew I read a lot, but there I was stuck into it. I was stuck into it that year. I discovered
what it was like to do research. I discovered that there’s so much to know in history out there.”
McLain: This was your junior year in high school?

Hitchens: This was my senior year. I’d just turned 17. Before the fall semester was over with, Mr.
Darling took me aside one day and he said, “Dave, I don’t know how to say this, because you seem so
enthusiastic, and I don’t want to mess up your enthusiasm. But you’ve got to give other people an
opportunity to get in. Why don’t you hang back and let other people start the discussion?” Because I
was constantly jumping in, I had to stop.
McLain: You were excited.
Hitchens: Yeah, and I surprising him. Well, when I finished my master’s degree and I headed to Georgia
for my doctorate, I stopped off in Tulsa and found out that he was at Rogers High, so I went to see him. I
walked in the door, and I ran into Thelma Arnold, who was a chemistry teacher that I had had trouble
with when I was a junior. Because I was swimmer, I was something of a jock, and she didn’t have a very
high opinion of me. I walked in, and there she was, Mrs. Arnold. Oh my god. My first person to see. I’d
been away five years, and there she was.
She looked at me and she had a funny little smile, and she said, “Oh, it’s Dave Hitchens. Are you
home on leave or what?” I said, “No, actually I just finished my master’s degree in history at the
University of Wyoming, and I’m on my way to start a teaching assistantship for my doctorate at the
University of Georgia, and I’m here to see Mr. Darling, thank you very much,” and walked off. And she’s
going “Huh, huh?” And inside I’m going “Yeah, socked it to you.” [laughing]
So I went to see him, and he was kind of stunned and tickled, because I was only the second
person he’d ever worked with that had gone on. Is that Phil?
WOMAN: Phil’s here, yeah. However you guys are doing is fine.
McLain: I got him off track.
Hitchens: He got me started in the wrong direction.
McLain: Maybe we’re at a good place to take a break today, and I could come back another time? I’d
love to come back.
Hitchens: Would you?
McLain: I would. This would be really wonderful for me. Is that okay with you?
Hitchens: You bet. When do you need to have this stuff?
McLain: I think I have a bit of time.
WOMAN: You’re talking about doing the fall magazine and stuff like that?


McLain: Right. I know they’re still working on the spring one, getting it out the door. I could come
back. I actually live very close to here. I could come on the weekend even if that’s a better time for you.
I don’t want to wear you out. And I don’t have to just come back one more time either. If this is fruitful,
it’s great for me. It’s really fun.
WOMAN: I’m sure I’m going to enjoy the taping because the questions will come from a whole different
perspective, and I like that idea.
Hitchens: John knows about the Red Cliff reservation folks in Wisconsin.
McLain: Been there many time to that area.
McLain: In fact, there’s a beautiful little Chippewa cemetery on Madeline Island. I don’t go in because I
respect it too much, but I often go and peak in from the outside.
WOMAN: That’s where you got sidetracked a little bit, huh?
McLain: We started with his mother. We’re moving along. We’re into teenaged years now.
Hitchens: I told him the library story.
McLain: How the Muse of History bit him. Licked him, he said. [laughter] Obviously, I want to ask
about Evergreen at some point, the footnote at the end of your life there.
Hitchens: Forty-one-year footnote. Anyway, I’ve been rolling right along.
McLain: But I am mindful of your energy and everything.
Hitchens: Well, 2:00 or 3:00 in the middle of the afternoon is pretty good most any day. If you’re close
enough, do we have anything scheduled for tomorrow?
WOMAN: I think we should probably check in with them. They’ve been trying to get in to see you for a
week or two.
McLain: Tomorrow is a little iffy for me because I’ve got to go to a meeting in Tacoma at 10:00.
WOMAN: Next week opens up again. I’m going to be painting rooms at my house this weekend. I’d
love to come over between a coat of paint, if that’s not a problem for you.
WOMAN: Saturdays are actually pretty good.
Hitchens: Usually.
McLain: I’ll call you. I’ll call you Saturday morning.


WOMAN: I’m back after 10:00 in the morning because I got do my workout, so call late in the morning.
We’ll just double check. Sundays, I’m reserving not to have people, just to have a day down. Saturday
would be good, or back on a weekday.
McLain: Monday is the holiday.
WOMAN: One day is the same as the next to us most of the time.


Dave Hitchens
Interviewed by John McLain
The Evergreen State College oral history project
May 28, 2011

Hitchens: Where do you want to start today, or how do you want to proceed today?
McLain: I thought we were kind of at an interesting place. You were back visiting your high school,
heading off to be a teacher and a PhD student. I know from your vitae that you started having a number
of teaching assignments in the ‘60s that you did. I noticed that you were . . . how do I want to say this?
You didn’t quite fit the department mold of the junior professor always. I wonder if you want to talk a
little bit about that.
Hitchens: When I got to Austin Peay, one of the things they did was they handed me five sections of the
basic Survey of U.S. History 101 fall quarter; five sections in winter, 102; five sections spring, 103.
McClain: Teach roughly 500 years?
Hitchens: Well, it was U.S. History, so the first one was from colonization to 1820. The next one was
1820 to 1865. The third one was 1865 to the present. The present then was—I got there in the fall of
McClain: Five sections?
Hitchens: The week was divided up strangely. I had three sections that met Monday-WednesdayFriday. I had a 10:00, a 1:00 and a 3:00 section. Then I had two sections that met for an hour and a half
each on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was Tuesday 10:00 to 11:30 and 1:00 to 3:30. They hired two of us
who came in as assistant professors.
I was told in no uncertain terms by the chairman of the department—a very strange man named
Wentworth Morris—I’ve written about him elsewhere—he said, “The State of Tennessee expects you to
be in class, and to give instruction. For every minute that you’re in class, you are to be teaching. You’re
not supposed to waste time, and because you have five sections, you are to make sure that you say the
same thing to each of the five sections.” Already, I’m . . . wow. Especially since I had those two hour
and a half chunks.
McClain: Totally different set-up and timeframe.

Hitchens: Yeah, exactly. I got through the fall quarter, and what I did is when I put together lectures, I
tried to do sort of lectures in unit chunks. I’d have a unit on politics from a period, say, 1800 to 1820.
Then I would have American economic history from 1800 to 1820. I tried to give them a sense of what’s
going on in these areas of American life, and how it would make sense to them. Because I knew that it
was very easy to confuse them. I’d spotted that right off the bat when I was at Georgia.
McClain: These would have been mostly freshmen?
Hitchens: Mostly freshmen, because like in Georgia and Tennessee—most of the states in the union at
the time—if you were going to get a bachelor’s degree at any state institution, one of the requirements
was you had to demonstrate a knowledge of aspects of either U.S. and state history, or in some places,
they had a separate class. That was the requirement.
The reason I got a teaching assistantship at Georgia was Georgia’s Legislature had just passed a
new law mandating that all Georgia institutions would provide a required course that all students that
came through the state’s four-year institutions in the state of Georgia would provide a class in U.S. and
Georgia history. That was a requirement. No one was to graduate without understanding, or
demonstrating an understanding of, national and state history, which was kind of interesting.
The whole idea is something I’ve always tended to agree with; that if you’re going to teach
history, one of the purposes is to help people understand what their role is as a citizen in a democratic
republic. To understand their role, they need to understand something about the history of how we
started, where we came from, why we’ve ended up doing things the way we’ve done, and to understand
something about how sometimes the mistakes we’ve made can be very stupid, and how to try to avoid
those. You can only cast an intelligent ballot in the future if you are an informed citizen, and have some
sense of what’s going on and where it came from. I’ve always agreed with that. I think that’s a
fundamental thing that part of learning should be to help you understand what your place is in our
society and in our nationhood, if you will.
I think it was Alexander Mieklejohn who defined that as the “moral curriculum.” That was one
of the things that Merv Cadwallader—he had read Mieklejohn and he was a kind of Mieklejohn disciple
when he started his explorations in interdisciplinary study. Mieklejohn’s experimental college at
Wisconsin had been interdisciplinary, and he felt this was the way to get students to frame them to
understand what their role was in terms of our democracy. Hence, the moral curriculum. I’ve always
agreed with that. I thought that made good sense. How in the world are we going to know if we’re
making the right decisions if we’ve got a bunch of uninformed—as we do today—voters who are going,

“Well, you know, uh, the Teabaggers seem to make a lot of sense. I don’t like taxes, so screw ‘em,”
which means you screw the upcoming generation. You cut back, like they’re doing in various states,
they’re closing down entire school districts and things like that. I understood that, and I bought into
that. I was trying to do my best within the framework of what they wanted me to do at Austin Peay, to
provide that sort of knowledge.
Well, remember I said I had this section Monday-Wednesday-Friday at 3:00? Everybody knows
3:00—especially 3:00 on Friday—the only hour that’s as deadly is Monday-Wednesday-Friday at 8:00
a.m. Maybe they’re more deadly because it’s 8:00 a.m. and nobody’s awake. But Friday at 3:00, most
everybody—I had a kid come to me at the beginning of fall quarter that year and said, “I’m going to be
absent. I can’t be here Friday or Monday.” I said, “Is there a problem?” He said, “I’ve got to go home
and help them.” He came from a farming community and his dad owned a farm, and it was hog-killing
time. He had to be there to help the family kill the hogs and start smoking the hams, and doing that
kind of stuff.
I had never encountered that before. I asked a couple that I trusted, who I knew weren’t going
to put me on, and they said, “Oh, yeah. It’s that time of year. They’ve got to be there, because that’s
just the way it is.” Austin Peay drew their student body from more rural communities. Kids came from
some places where there were still one-room schools operating—very rarely, but in different places. So
I came to understand “Okay, all right, I can understand that’s the kind of situation, so go ahead on, make
sure you do your good job helping your family put itself through the winter,” because that was part of
winter preparations.
I could see all of that, and I knew that the 3:00 section, if I was going to have significant
absences, it would be at 3:00 on a Friday. So my effort to impart the same knowledge to everybody
meant that in general, I would have to say roughly the same things in five separate lectures over the
course of the week. But if I’ve got three that are 50-minute periods, and two that are just under an hour
and 20 minutes, how do you do that?
Well, I worked out a little system. I had codes for each section, and I would do my best—
because I’d be working off a set of notes and whatnot—to get to the start of wherever I stopped in my
10:00 section, and I tried to make sure that I met that for the 1:00 section and the 3:00 section. Then I
had a separate category for the Tuesday-Thursday sections to try to keep them together. I was giving
them the same lectures, but organized slightly differently because of the hour and a half period.

I came in on this Monday and called the roll. In those days, I didn’t get to know the names of
the students. There was a seating chart, and there was a body in that seat. You’d call the roll and
somebody would say, “Here,” or I could just go down. I didn’t even need to call the roll at times because
I could just go through and see if there’s an empty chair and mark them absent. If somebody came in
late and didn’t tell me and I missed it, they were still absent officially.
Anyhow, I got through the rolls situation, looked at my notes, and launched into my lecture. I
was rolling. I was having a good time. Sometimes I’d get carried away. I do now. [laughter] I was
feeling pretty good. This lecture is going okay. I think they’re going to get this. I was 45 minutes into
the lecture, and at the back of the room—to this day, I do not remember his name because I couldn’t
look it up fast enough, I had the seating chart somewhere else in my notes—this hand went up. Now,
this is a quarter. It’s not a quarter and a half, but it’s well into the winter quarter.
Nobody had asked me a question at any point in the middle of the lecture to that point since I
got there. The only time they would ask questions would be at the beginning and the end to make sure
“Is this going to be on the final?” Often I’d say, “I don’t know yet. These categories of things are
important, so pay attention to them.”
Anyway, the hand went up, and I stopped and I said, “Do you have a question?” He started
fumbling, and he was really nervous. I thought, what’s going on. He said, “Uh . . . uh . . . Mr. Hitchens, I
don’t quite know for certain. Didn’t you give us this lecture on Friday?” I heard from other places
around the room people going “Ah!” This intake of breath, because he had the temerity to say
something that they thought was going to put me on the spot. He asked me that and I was standing
there looking at my notes, and was kind of puzzled, and I thought, well, I don’t know. I started looking
back through, tracing my little codes and whatnot, and I’ll be damned. He was right. I had given them
that lecture. [laughing]
So I stopped and I looked at him, and he’s very uncomfortable. I said, “I want to thank you for
posing that. I have five sections. I’m supposed to tell all five sections the same thing, keep everybody
together. You know. Some of you have classes that meet Tuesday and Thursday for an hour and a half,
and it’s been difficult for me to get used to sorting that out. There’s something very wrong here.”
McClain: He’s the one who put the professor on the spot.
Hitchens: Right. I said, “I want to thank you for pointing that out. But what’s going on here? I had no
idea. You had the courage after 45 minutes of hearing me say the same things that I had said on Friday.
What about the rest of you? Were the rest of you just going to sit there, and go off and chuckle after

class and go ‘Oh, what an idiot Hitchens is. He gave us the same lecture two days in a row.
“What’s going on here? We’re supposed to be involved in a learning experience. I’m supposed
to be helping you people to understand aspects of how our nation is put together and how it operates
so that you can be better citizens. So that when it comes time to vote you make a smart decision about
your voting. How can that happen when either you’re so beaten down that you don’t care about your
learning, you don’t care? There are things I have to lecture on that personally I’m not a big fan of. I find
them dull. I’d rather lecture on other kinds of things. But I have a responsibility. The State of
Tennessee is paying me so you people at least are introduced to things that will give you some sort of
rounded sense of what it means to be a citizen. That can’t happen if you’re not paying attention.
Anybody in here who didn’t recognize that this was a lecture that I’d already given last Friday?”
I looked around and I saw a guy, and I knew he hadn’t been there on Friday. I said, “I know you
didn’t because you weren’t here.” He started, you know.
McClain: “I don’t know how to answer this.” [laughing]
Hitchens: I said to the group, “There is something here that’s wrong enough that I think I have to do
something about it. Whatever I think I’m doing as an educator, I’m in this because I’m trying to help
everybody learn and understand things. Clearly, that’s not happening if you’ve got people who are
willing to hear the same thing, same jokes I told.”
I realized I had an inkling. One of the reasons that I think I was feeling good about what was
going on is I thought, well, that joke went smoother than the last time. But I didn’t connect it up,
because I was making sure, you know, this section seemed to be, for some reason, out of order or
behind. It didn’t dawn on me.
I said, “We’re going to do things differently from now on. I don’t know exactly how, I’ve got to
think about it. But I’ll let you know in our next class meeting or so.” I said, “Don’t jump on your
compatriot there, because he doesn’t realize it, but he’s done me a huge favor. And all I can say is thank
you for having the courage, because you could have kept your mouth shut. I could have gone on, and
you folks could have told a funny story about this guy Hitchens over in the History Department who is so
dumb, he doesn’t even know that he’s repeating his lecture.”
They all went out and they left. So I sat down and I said, okay, I’ve got to make changes. How
do I do this? What is it I think I want them to do? I want them to be able to explain things, or to
understand why we vote the way we do, and organizing the Constitution and the challenges to it, and

how slavery was the problem about the Civil War, and all the rest of that. I ran through some stuff and I
thought, maybe it has to do—and I thought about those questions that had to do only with “Is this going
to be on the final?” I thought, maybe there’s my key. Their only concern, mid-terms and finals, because
that’s when things “count.” And they don’t seem to understand that there are other moments; that the
whole thing counts. And we’re not transmitting to them the idea that your time in class is there because
that time counts in terms of understanding. And if you’re not understanding, if you don’t think anything
counts other than taking the mid-term and the final, you ain’t learning.
I decided that at the beginning of each week, I would hand out a list of terms. I would tell them,
“These terms are all of the things that are going to come up in the lectures that I’ve structured for this
coming unit or this week. If you spend time when you’re studying and reading, pay attention to the way
I handle the terms when I’m presenting them in lecture. Because often, I have slight disagreements with
your textbook. You may have already noticed. But it’s up to you to decide how you want to handle the
way you think you want to understand it. By everything I tell you without question, or you want to say,
‘Gosh, he’s different from the textbook. I think I’d better hang onto the text’? Or, do you sort out ways
of understanding it that makes sense to you? And if you make sure that you have reviewed and worked
through, spend each week reviewing the terms that have come up, I guarantee you, they will be on the
final. I will build the mid-term and the final from the terms list that I’ve already handed to you, so there
won’t be any surprises. What I’ll be looking for is I will structure questions, and I will ask you things that
will help me to get a sense of, did you understand this? Where did you come down on the issue where
it was clear I was different than the text and the textbook said X and I said Y? In what sense did you
make of it? Because that will tell me whether you’re using your brain, or working to try to achieve
better understanding.”
I put it into effect. It began to go interestingly pretty well. At the end of the winter quarter, and
definitely by the end of the spring quarter, when they posted my grades, there was no longer a bell
curve. It wasn’t five percent Fs and five percent As, and everybody sort of stuffed in the middle. Things
had moved in the direction of As, Bs and Cs.
McClain: Because students knew what was expected and they were owning it.
Hitchens: Yeah, they were understanding, and they were able to show me, in the way that I structured
the exams, how well they understood it. And, as they were understanding it, they were better. They
were just showing improvement. I’m going, “Yeah!”

I suddenly got questioned at a History Department meeting. Somebody raised a question about
my standards. I said, “What are you talking about?” “Well, what have you done? Your grading seems
to have gone to the dogs.” I was trying to make sense of that. I didn’t have time to explain things to the
rest of the department at the time.
I went back to my office, and there was a note. I had been summoned by the Dean of Faculty.
Apparently my department chairman had expressed concern to him, and the Dean was curious when he
looked at this sudden change. “What’s happened here?” I said, “Dean, what are we here for as an
institution? What’s higher learning all about?” Well, nobody had asked him that in a while. [laughter]
McClain: Maybe since his interview.
Hitchens: Yeah, maybe, because he was much older. I told him about the Friday section, and how it had
started me. I thought, at least what I’m doing isn’t doing what I thought I was doing to be a professor. I
wasn’t into this just to pat myself on the back and act like the star in the front of the room, even though
I have said over and over again “No actor ever had a better part than somebody who becomes a college
professor,” unless you have a one-man show on Broadway. And those don’t run 40 years. [laughter]
McClain: I’m sure Hal Holbrook can keep being Mark Twain forever.
Hitchens: But you’ve got to move around.
McClain: You can’t do it on Broadway.
Hitchens: No, you can’t do it all the time. It stopped me, especially after I said what I had started to do
in terms of changing, and reassuring them that there was material there that if they paid attention to it,
and had come to understand it, they would, in fact be able to do well on the mid-terms on the finals.
He said, “Can I see one of your exams?” I got it to him, then went back into see him and he said,
“This is a tough exam. I’m not sure I could pass it.” I said, “You could if you took my class.” He said,
That was one thing that definitely generated a difference between me and everybody else in the
department. Because if I was right—and I think I was—the way everybody else was doing it wasn’t
working. The whole idea of everybody having five percent-five percent bell curve was meaningless.
People figured out they could go in, and close their eyes and check off the boxes, and generally produce
a bell curve.
During the course of that first year, I got to know some guys in the English Department. They
were upstairs on the second floor of the building we were in. They had a good coffee room. The History

Department didn’t have any kind of coffee room, so I took to hanging out with them. The guys there
were much younger, in general. Little did I know, but they all felt sorry for me because I was having to
deal with Wentworth Morris, the chairman of the Department of History. I didn’t know about that till
much later.
At the beginning of the second year I was there, I was looking at the structure of things for the
beginning of the winter quarter. I’d gotten to know a guy in the English Department named Charlie
Watts. In the course of our discussion, I said, “Week two of winter quarter, what are you going to be
talking about?” He told me that authors that he was dealing with, because he was teaching American
literature. I said, “That’s funny because week two winter quarter, I’m talking about these guys, and they
are interconnected with your guys. But I talk about it from the standpoint of American political
literature, things that came out of the founding period that helped solidify our national understanding of
things.” I said, “I have an idea. Why don’t we trade classes for that week? You come into my sections
and do American authors of the period, and I’ll come into your sections and I’ll do American political
literature of the period. My people will get a better understanding of how the so-called creative writing
interconnected with what was going on, and your folks will get a better understanding of how the socalled non-creative writing, political writing.”
Charlie thought that was a good idea. We went first to Jim Simms, who was the chairman of the
English Department, and talked to him and explained what we were doing and why we wanted to do it.
He said, “That’s a great idea. Have you talked to Went Morris yet?” I said, “No, we’re heading down.
After we talked to you, we thought we’d find out if you wanted to make a decision now or leave it with
you to think about it, but we’re going to talk to Morris and let him know that we’ve talked to you.” He
said, “By all means, do that. I think it’s a great idea.”
It turned out the only difference was that Charlie had a section that met Monday-WednesdayFriday from 9:00 to 10:00, and my earliest one was 10:00 to 11:00. He didn’t have anything from 10:00
to 11:00. But we had 1:00 and 3:00. That was our hour and a half monstrosities on Tuesday and
Thursdays at the same time period, so it fit very well.
Jim said, “I like it. Do it, and let’s see how it goes.” So we went down to see Morris. Morris was
in his office. He sat there peering at us over his glasses. He said, “Well . . . I don’t know. It sounds okay,
I guess.” That was all. We figured he’d said okay. He’d been informed. We told him what we were
doing and why we were doing it. We’d already talked to Simms and the English Department was on
board. There would be just this one week switch, and then we’d be back to our regular stuff.

So when the time came, on that Friday, I went in because the time was different. I went in and I
met Charlie’s class and went off to get a cup of coffee. Jim Simms came to me and he says, “Have you
talked to Went Morris?” I said, “Well, no. What’s the matter?” He said, “Did you and Charlie talk to
Went and get his okay to trade classes? Because I know that’s what you’ve been doing this week.” I
said, “Oh, yeah. We went to him right after we talked to you, and explained that you were on board.”
He said, “Well, Went apparently has forgotten that. Went had this habit, as far as he was concerned,
your classroom wasn’t a sacred place for him. If he had a question he wanted to ask you, and he knew
you were in class, he’d just walk in and talk to you and interrupt and ask you a question.”
At another point, that first spring I was there, Huge Akerman, who was the fellow that was hired
with me at the same time, was lecturing in a room that was adjacent to Morris’s office and the History
Department office itself. The corner of this classroom fronted on the parking lot right behind. There
was a driveway that came in, you went to the right to the parking lot and just had to come across.
Apparently it was a spring day and the windows were open. We didn’t have central air conditioning at
the time.
Hugh was lecturing, and all of a sudden, this briefcase comes sailing through the back window
and goes kerflop on the floor, startling the students who were in the back row. Right after the briefcase,
there’s this figure in the window who comes through and drops down, picks up his briefcase, walks up to
the front of the classroom. Hugh was just stopped and stunned. It was Went Morris! Grabbed his
briefcase, dusted himself off, and said, “I didn’t want to have to walk all the way around to go in the
A couple of times, he thought he’d left things in that same classroom. I had two sections that
met in that classroom. I’d be holding forth, and the door would open, he’d come in and go over to the
desk, and rumble through the drawer in the desk. Sort of saying half out loud, “I don’t know. The damn
thing’s not here,” and turn around and walk away. [laughter]
For some reason or another, during the time that he thought I was to be in class for my 10:00
section, he wanted to ask me a question or see me about something, so he just walked in the classroom.
Of course, we traded, and Charlie Watts is in there.
McClain: “Where the hell is Hitchens?”
Hitchens: Yeah. “You’re not Hitchens.” Charlie is saying, “Well, we traded. Don’t you remember?”
And he couldn’t do it right there. Morris went “Grrrr!” and stormed out, slamming the door, and
immediately called Jim Simms to ask what the hell was going on. Jim said, “Apparently Went didn’t

remember that you and Charlie had come to see him. What I’ll do is I’ve already set up a time I’m going
to see him. I’ll see what I can do to calm him down.”
I got back to my office and I found a message from my bank. I called up the bank and my
banker, this fellow I was working with there, said, “What did you do to Went Morris?” I said, “What?”
He said, “Went Morris called me a while ago and wanted to know how much money you owed me,
because he was going to fire you for insubordination.” I said, “What?” [laughing] I said, “I have no idea
where that comes from, other than there seems to be a mix-up in his understanding about scheduling.
I’ll try to get back to you.”
I hung up and I thought, that sonofabitch. Before he found out anything for sure, or before
anything was clarified, he’s calling my banker. Because small-town Tennessee, that’s kind of the way
things operated in those days, and maybe still do, for all I know. I went back to see Jim, and I’m cussing
a blue streak. He says, “Called your banker? I’ll meet with him and then I’ll let you know.” I had to wait
around my office and the phone call came through. In the meantime, I’d met another section, trying to
finish off the day. The week wasn’t ending quite as I had expected it to.
Jim called me and he said, “Well, I think I got it sorted out. I finally got Went to admit that he’d
kind of”—I said, “He couldn’t remember the two of us coming in, explaining we wanted to do this thing
differently, and that we’d already discussed it? We could have come to him first, but we just happened
to be closer to you to come see you?” He said, “Yeah, and you probably will never get an apology from
him, because he’s convinced that at some level, he’s right. Come see me on Monday.”
In the meantime, I hung up and I was sitting there in my office, and I thought, I can’t let this go
by. I went straight down to Morris’s office, walked in. He was there all by himself. Closed the door. I
said, “You four-eyed ring-tailed goddamn sonofabitch, if you ever get into my business like this ever
again, I’ll put you in the hospital.” And I turned around and walked out. As I walked out the door, I
thought, I’d better be looking for another job. But I’d lost it. I was just beside myself.
I go in Monday to see Jim Simms, because by this time, my second year there they gave me a
private office up on the second floor, and I was cattycorner from the coffee room where the English
Department was, which had solidified my interactions with the guys in the English Department.
It just hit me. It was Charlie Waters. Boy, I’m glad that popped in, because I knew when I said
Charles White, that was wrong. And Watts, I’m thinking Charlie Watts? He was a football player.
Charlie Waters.

So I went in and Jim says, “Have a seat. We’ve got a job opening up next year, a position in the
English Department. We think we’d fit it well. On behalf of my colleagues in the English Department,
we would like to offer you [the job]. We don’t need to advertise it because you’re already here, and
we’d like to offer you a position in the English Department with us.” I was floored.
Got back to my office and the phone rang, and it was the Dean of Faculty asking me to come
over to see him. He’d gotten some word about what was going on, and he didn’t quite know how to
handle it. But he’d also been informed by Jim Simms in the English Department that they were going to
offer me this position. He’d looked it up and he said, “I know, as an undergraduate and on the graduate
level, you were close enough, you almost had a double major in history and literature.” On the
undergraduate level, I was four hours short of a double major, and I had minored in literature on the
master’s level. He said, “If your degree said American studies, it would be a wonderful shift. We won’t
lose you, given what’s going on. But I’m afraid the accrediting folks wouldn’t understand it.”
So, I’d gone from down here, to back up here, and starting to cycle back down. I went down and
I checked the mail. There was a copy of the bulletin of the American Association of University
Professors. In those days, they carried job announcements in the back part. I sat down, and I was
looking and reading through the job announcements. The Frostburg State College in Frostburg,
Maryland was looking for a 20th Century U.S. history specialist. Well, my specialty is 20th Century
diplomatic history, but I had enough of the other training that I could fill that slot, too.
I immediately knocked out a letter and sent it off to them. The next thing I know, I’m getting a
response, and an invitation to come for an interview. So, I went there and interviewed. I liked the
department chairman, and I liked what they wanted me to start teaching, so I said, “Okay.” Got back to
Tennessee and said, “We’re moving. We’re getting our ass out of here. We’re going to Maryland.”
McClain: You had a whole bunch of little kids.
Hitchens: Yeah, by that time, we had four. Denise was born in ’65. We headed off to Frostburg, and
when I hit Frostburg, one of the things I discovered is that part of my teaching load was I had one
section of Survey U.S. History that met Monday-Wednesday-Friday, but it met in the college auditorium,
because I had 175 to 200 people, and I’m lecturing to this big batch of folks.
I realized, as I was looking around, that the English Department had American lit introductory
class that met in the same kind of situation, and Political Science had introduction to political science
that met in the same kind of situation. I thought, there might be a different way of doing this. I
contacted some of these guys in other departments. I took the cue from my experience with Charlie

Waters and trading classes, and how well I felt that had gone ultimately, because it had given my
students a peek at a slightly different approach, but showed them that there are connections that are
I told them what I had done about trading for a week, and that between the two of us, we
thought it had been very beneficial. It gave us a slightly different audience, and it allowed me to talk
about American political literature in a way that I hadn’t talked about it before.
McClain: How did the students respond?
Hitchens: The students liked it. It’s something different. So I said, “Since political science and history
and English”—I wasn’t sure about a couple others, but I thought there might be a couple other
departments that we might want to bring in on it, maybe sociology or something like that—“What if we
got together and divided up the semesters into units, and each one of us would offer our unit to the
whole”—we could fulfill our responsibilities for introductory stuff for major areas, and reduce the
individual load, each of us being responsible for 200 people, maybe more, depending on how we
wanted to divide it up—“for a certain amount of time in each quarter. Everybody would contribute to
that, and we’d have this kind of . . .
McClain: . . . coordinated studies.
Hitchens: I didn’t have the term in my head at the time, and I wasn’t visualizing it as an integrated . . .
McClain: . . . full-time curriculum?
Hitchens: I wasn’t thinking interdisciplinary. That term popped up later on when Rollins College
reached out to see if I wanted to come down there, because they were doing interdisciplinary studies.
But I was noodling in that direction. It was like, if we put a bunch of things together, maybe what we
could do is divide things among us so that we’d each have discussion groups. Could we have a core
reading list? Of course we could. I was sort of stumbling, fumbling in that direction.
And I was quite surprised. I had the English Department and the Political Science Department,
where there were younger guys there who thought, if we’ve got to do these big lectures, it’s a way of
continuing to make sure they’re done, but we can do them differently. It would have probably ended up
looking very much like some kind of coordinated studies program before it was all over with.
It was Richard Jones who came up with the name for coordinated studies. He won a half-gallon
of Scotch. [laughter] I think it was Chivas Regal, although in those days, the Scotch that was his
personal choice was Usher’s Green Stripe. Of course, that’s central to all of this. [laughter] During the

planning year, the deans had said, “We’re trying to describe this team-taught theme-oriented
interdisciplinary approach, it’s got to have a better name.” So they announced this contest. Whoever
came up with the best name, in their judgment, would win a half-gallon of Scotch, so there was a little
incentive there.
McClain: Did you have an entry?
Hitchens: I had several entries. I didn’t take it all that seriously. I proposed a few funny things. One of
the things was I took Don Humphrey’s and Charlie Teske’s and Cadwallader’s names and combined
them. I said, “We would call them HumpCaTeske Units.” [laughter] I would do little cartoons and
circulate them around, and somehow Charlie McCann managed to snake copies of everything that was
circulating around what the planning faculty was doing. He would routinely send copies to the Trustees,
so they could have a sense of what we were doing.
Years later, I was looking at something out of the Archives, and there it was, my little thing
about HumpCaTeske Units, as well as some of the other things that people had submitted. A little later,
I had done a sort of Jules Fieffer-esque cartoon, and there’s a Xerox of that in the folder in the
notebook. I talked to Charlie about it and I said, “I had no idea you’d been paying that close attention.”
He said, “Well, what did you think, that I was going to turn you crazies loose?”
McClain: And he’d keep his finger on what was going on.
Hitchens: Yeah. That gave me an even greater appreciation for Charlie’s acumen and his way of
understanding how to lead from the middle.
McClain: Right.
Hitchens: I think back about the Trustees buying the guy who told them everything they didn’t want to
hear, and him having the courage to say, “You hire pros, you hire people you think are going to do the
best job, and you stay out of their way, unless they fuck up. It will be obvious if they are, and if you
jump in fast enough, you can avoid a lot of the damage. But for the most part, they’re not going to do
that. They’re not going to mess up. If you encourage them to go for it, that’s what they’re going to do.”
That whole approach, the sort of intellectual side of that, is what really worked, I think, for all of
us. Because as long as we were within the rough framework of the things—no departments, no
requirements, no grades, things like that—whatever else we came up with that was going to make
sense—especially make sense to him—it was going to be okay. It turned out to be like that.
McClain: Imagine, there were 17 of you?

Hitchens: Eighteen. The only trouble is you mostly see 17 because Fred Tabbutt was still on contract at
Reed, so he was on quarter-time here. He would come up, he’d spend a week with us. Sometimes he’d
just be around two or three weeks in a row, he’d be up for a day, and then he’d be back. He didn’t have
a huge impact, but he made some contributions at certain points, which I think probably worked out
pretty well for us.
McClain: You were all pretty different in some ways.
Hitchens: And already, each of us had established or had been doing things differently, and understood
certain things pretty well. We discovered that we could then be in agreement, even though each one of
us—the strange thing about the planning year was you had 17, 18 people in the room with these three
founding deans, and you’d think nobody can agree on anything. Each one of us had a different idea
about how and why.
But early on, we made the decision to do things differently. Richard Alexander made a pitch to
us based upon his understanding of how the Quaker meeting worked. He argued to us that we should
strive to achieve consensus. We made the decision, wherever possible, we weren’t going to vote on
stuff, we were going to work for consensus. If we could achieve consensus on an issue, that would make
it stronger, and make it more likely to work in the way that we were hopeful that it would work.
The other thing we decided was that we would rotate the responsibility to chair the faculty
meetings among us. I don’t know whether this is a compliment to my abilities, or whether they decided
that they’d found a chump that they would stick with it. But I was the only one on the planning faculty
to serve two consecutive months. Everybody else served one month if they were acting as chairman of
the faculty meetings.
I had two consecutive months, and it turns out—it was in the spring when we were making
some pretty big decisions about coordinated studies and the curriculum and things like that—I got some
compliments from folks after that. I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention.
McClain: Too busy.
Hitchens: Yeah. But as I said, I don’t know whether it was a compliment to my ability to get these
disparate folks to finally come together and achieve consensus, or whether they thought, “Ah he’s dumb
enough to do it. We’ll stick him with it. Hahahahaha. We’ll go off and do other things.”

McClain: Here it is, fall of 1970. You’re looking at trying to get a college to open its doors and bring
students. Charlie’s probably busy getting the facility built, or at least figuring out where things are going
to go.
Hitchens: My first day on campus, they began to pour the second level of the Library Building. The
steam tunnel areas had all been dug out. I went out to where the flagpoles are, where the circle comes
in, to look out over what is now McCann Plaza, and it was just piles of dirt, with these trenches in front,
and the beginnings of, I could see them pouring stuff there. I brought a sandwich with me, so I was
standing out there and munching on my sandwich—July 1, noon of 1970—I thought, you know, I’ve only
lasted two years at any other place to this point. I wonder how long I’m going to be here? I ate my
sandwich and I went back.
By the end of the week, Charlie McCann’s secretary, Rita, called me up to say that the President
was inviting me to be his guest for lunch on Friday at the Jacaranda.
McClain: I know where that is.
Hitchens: We went to lunch. I’d been introduced to him earlier, but he wasn’t around for interviews or
anything like that. He was leaving that up to the Provost and the deans to handle. But he took me out
to lunch, and I had a wonderful time. It was the first time I’d ever spent much time at all with the
President of one of the institutions I attended. I spotted right away that this was a different guy from
those other people that I had encountered who were Presidents.
Over the course of the rest of the summer, before the rest of the planning faculty convened, he
invited the deans and me out a couple of times to the President’s residence, because they were finishing
stuff up. I remember one day in particular, he’d been listening to them talk about something, the
decisions we were making, and he asked me, and I reinforced it. I said, “Well, I understand it pretty
much the way this is,” and I sort of chimed in and reinforced what the deans had been saying. Charlie
kind of smiled and said to Merv, “Where did you get this guy?” [laughter] I think he was kind of startled
that it was clear I understood the things that we were talking about trying to do. But we couldn’t do too
much because the rest of the planning faculty wasn’t there, so they put me to work helping draft the
first draft of the faculty handbook, things like that.
I got to know Malcolm Stilson in the Library, and discovered that there’s all this money available
to acquire books and things, so I started ordering. I would call up Malcolm and we’d talk about things.
He came to me one day at the beginning of the fall, after the faculty had convened, and he said,
“We’ve got an opportunity for a deal. Do you think this a good deal? If we spend $50,000 on microfilm

with University Microfilms, they’ll give us three microfilm reader/printers included in the deal free.” I
said, “When you say microfilm, what kinds of things are they offering?” He said, “Well, the New York
Times from 1852 to the present.” I said, “Go for it!”
We still have in the Library this chunk of magazines and newspapers from the 19th into the 20th
Century. It’s been there, and I’ve tried to encourage students to go use it, and they discover it’s a great
resource if they get to it. The reader/printers, I think, have been superseded, and microfilm is kind of an
outdated media form these days, but still, I wish there had been microfilm more available when I was
doing my research. I was having to pull down big, bound volumes of things and go page by page.
McClain: I used to work in an old Franciscan archive. They were dealing with huge volumes of bound
Hitchens: Those things were heavy, and bulky. If you dropped one on your foot, you knew it!
McClain: You were trying to put a college together at the same time you’re hiring next year’s teaching
faculty, writing catalog. How on earth did all of that work out?
Hitchens: And working with people in Admissions if they had questions about students, especially
borderline students. Because we told students that we weren’t worried about GPAs, and if they had had
difficulty, but they felt like they understood what we were wanting to do, and really wanted the
opportunity to come here, if they’d write an essay and get a supporting letter from a couple of teachers
that they’d had, that would help them, and that would help us make decisions on their behalf.
One of the guys—I’ve forgotten his name now—that we managed to admit under that particular
structure was a kid who won the Golden Eagle Award at the Cannes Film Festival before he finished his
undergraduate career at Evergreen. He’d been interested in media. He was a film buff. He didn’t care
about anything else that was going on in high school, so he didn’t pay much attention to the demands
that they were trying to make. Algebra? What do I need algebra for? I want to make films.
McClain: He probably would have withered at the state university system that you were withering in as
a faculty member, it sounds like.
Hitchens: Yeah. First of all, he wouldn’t have ever been admitted because of his grades. We always
figured that somewhere somebody would have shown somebody something, and if we could get them
to tap into that and we hear, then we could make more intelligent decisions. I think we were right.
We also told prospective faculty that we were as much interested in life experience as we were
in credentials. A lot of people didn’t believe us, but we were honest about that. One of our early

faculty, it turned out he had done a whole lot of work, but never quite finished some degrees, but had
done a tremendous amount of work in philosophy. He was encouraged to apply, so he lied on his
resume. He was a quarter-hour short of one degree, so he’d never been awarded it and he’d never
done anything about it. But he said he had the degree.
This came to light about our third year, I think. We’d hired him, and he was a wonderful
teacher. By that time, Ed Kormondy was the Provost, and Ed called him in and said, “Somebody
mentioned that they didn’t think you had the degrees you claimed. We’ve done some checking, and
we’re sorry to say you don’t. Because you lied on your resume, we can’t keep you.” We lost somebody
very good because he didn’t trust us. He didn’t believe that what we said was real.
Gil Saucedo was sort of a last-minute hire. We’d hired somebody who had had an accident or
something. Couldn’t come. Dave Barry had connections back at San Jose State, and heard about
Gilbert, and just sort of hired him to fill in to plug that hole. Gil only had a bachelor’s degree.
McClain: Is that right?
Hitchens: I kept encouraging him. “Get a sabbatical and go off and get your doctorate. You don’t have
to mess with a master’s degree. You know enough that you can just jump in.” Richard Jones chided me.
He thought I was somehow putting Gil down. I said, “No, I just think it would give him more punch.”
Because every now and then you’d run into somebody who would say, “Well, I just discovered Saucedo
only has a bachelor’s degree. What makes him think he’s up there on your level?” I said, “Because he
knows a lot.”
And because we weren’t worried about credentials in the early days, just like we were letting
people in who were lower than the bottom of their class, or we were helping people who’d been
dropouts to get a GED and get into the college. We were looking at people we thought would provide
good learning, and be strong members of the faculty to help students learn. Those were moments when
we were clearly able to do things differently than our compatriots at Central and UW and WSU and
elsewhere, and keep them around long enough to show that it paid off.
McClain: Right. Evergreen is one of the few places that’s actually managed to hold onto a lot of its core
innovations over time. And yet, it’s probably fair to say that had it been created a few years in either
direction, it might have never been that kind of college at all.
Hitchens: No. We were almost, because of budget crises that popped up halfway through the planning
year—January of ’71, the Legislature immediately were . . .

McClain: . . . “You can’t have this.”
Hitchens: And their first thought they were going to delay us for a year, so we wouldn’t open to
students until ’72 instead of the fall of ’71. We managed to avoid that, but we confronted our first
budget cut . . .
McClain: . . . before you’d even opened.
Hitchens: Yeah, we didn’t even have buildings finished and they were cutting our budget. They were
saying, “Well, you’re not going to grow. We’ve got to”—so the original growth plan was we were going
to have 25,000 students by 1984.
McClain: I saw that.
Hitchens: And you probably saw the plans—phase 1, phase 2, phase 3—of campus construction.
McClain: Right. Football stadium. [laughing]
Hitchens: The wisest thing that Charlie McCann ever did was convince the Trustees that we did not
need a football team, in terms of our academic program. The biggest problem that he may have saddled
us with in the long run convincing the Trustees we didn’t need a football team, so there was nothing
that people in the immediate community could hold onto.
McClain: Get excited about.
Hitchens: Yeah. Then the basketball program sort of slid in under the closing door. I don’t know to this
day how that happened. The guys who were most influential in structuring the basketball program are
no longer with us. They got that going, and they went off to go to other schools and be administrators
at other places.
McClain: How have we been able to hold onto as much as we have as a college?
Hitchens: Well, because we, unlike other places, built everything from the ground up. We didn’t have
to go into an already-established institution with formalized tenure structures and whatnot, like UW.
The institutions that would survive all of this that are sort of contemporaneous with us—Santa Cruz—
they didn’t stay the same. There was, I think, Ramapo State in New Jersey that started out to be
different, and they didn’t stay the same. Capital University in Illinois, Empire State, they were different
enough that they in effect became a college that’s organized around individual contracts, without our
kinds of coordinated studies programs.
Hampshire has, I think, stayed fairly close to its founding principles. But they were slightly
different from us at the time they were formed, and they’re private. It was the Seven Sisters and other

groups that pulled together and created Hampshire as a separate institution, because they somehow
understood the way to make coordinated studies work is to do it from the ground up.
At Rollins, when I got there, they were talking about the hourglass curriculum. They had the
first three what they called foundation courses. I think I’ve told you, those looked like half-time
coordinated studies programs ultimately. They had the first three in operation, but when I got there
and I was elected to the Curriculum Committee, they were trying to convince the older tenured,
entrenched faculty to open up and help finish off the three capstone courses that would complete the
hourglass. So it was broad interdisciplinary here, and then in the middle of your time, you did the
specific focus work—your major—and then it was broad interdisciplinary as you were leaving and
moving out into the rest of the world.
That got real mean. It was like pulling teeth, these older guys saying, “Oh, you know, these
young whippersnappers. I’ve got tenure and you don’t.” Then there began the possibility of tenure
fights, where people like me who had been hired and brought in to help finish this off, who’d had
crossed swords with these older, entrenched guys. They said, “You can’t get away with this, so I’ll show
you. I’ll just crush you when the time comes, when you’re up for tenure.”
We didn’t have to mess with that kind of stuff. We didn’t have tenure. We had a series of finite
contracts. Things were renewable. And because we were going to evaluate ourselves, each other, and
students, and students were going to evaluate us, we figured that that would prevent people from dying
from the neck up. You’d have to stay on top of things. You’d have to be thinking and trying to expand,
doing something different, or taking something you’d already done and refining it, and doing it
differently the next time you did it.
Which is the way I’ve tended to operate in my time at the college. Because, again, I bought into
it. I didn’t have a name for it, but I’d already been a proponent of the moral curriculum before I ever
heard of Mieklejohn. Got here and got to know Mervin. I’d been following my nose, trying to do things
that seemed logical. I was like Br’er Rabbit. “Don’t throw me in the briar patch.” Wow, how did this
happen? Here I am at a place that’s wanting to do things, or at least is encouraging me to do the things
I’d always wanted to do. And I’m going to be an integral part of the institution. Wow. How great is
McClain: Yeah. I’m just thinking about Richard Alexander introducing the whole notion of the Quaker
consensus. Did introducing that idea into your work as planning faculty have a direct effect on how you

initially saw the administration of the college working out? For instance, the series of contracts, peer
review as opposed to departmental review and oversight, were those values playing out?
Hitchens: We very early on made the decision as a faculty. We made a deal with the Trustees. We
would give up tenure if they would allow us to structure the college the way we wanted. McCann sold it
to them, and they bought it.
Also, Charlie was not a fan of standing committees. He’d been Dean of Faculty at Central, and
he had seen standing committees develop. They had hardening of the categories, for lack of a better
term, and ended up aggrandizing power and functioning in particular ways. The whole idea was we
were never going to be run by standing committees. The other thing that Charlie didn’t want us to do
was to allow us to have the Registrars run the college the way they do in traditional universities.
There were some things that we were consciously saying, “We’re not going to do it this way.”
So if we’re not going to do it this way, how are we going to do it? What makes sense? And somehow or
another, those of us sitting around that table all the time could achieve consensus. I don’t know how
often when I was running the meetings, I’d say, “Well, I think we’ve hit it. I think we have a consensus at
this point. Anybody here object? If you don’t think we’ve reached it, say so now. If you feel like we’ve
achieved consensus on this issue”—and I would state it the way I understood it, and it would go into the
record that way and that was it. No votes or anything.
If somebody wasn’t satisfied for one reason or another, they raised the issue right then, and
then we continued on, or we agreed “Let’s put it aside for the next meeting. Let’s talk about this, that
and the other among ourselves, think about it some more, and then we’ll bring it up at the next time.”
We were doing it much differently than—the idea, when we created the Agenda Committee, I
thought, oh, here we go. And when the Hiring Committee became sort of solidified, I worried about
that, too. As long as we had these rotating things, where it wasn’t the same group of people all the
time, I thought we were more likely to hang onto our sort of core values.
We also had such a good run at it from the beginning. Some of it had to do with the way, when
we hired the next 35 people, and brought them in with us, and began to civilize them, for lack of a
better term, the way we got them to buy into. I’ve mentioned several times over the course of the
years that my sense of things for the first year with students was it was earn-while-you-learn time.
Students would spot things and they’d be worried, and I would think, wow, I’ve got to pay attention to
that because that’s something we didn’t think about. I think that was all part of the shaking-out period.

Early on, we also had moments. Mervin Cadwallader, in about our sixth year, put forward an
idea. He was concerned that he never expected us to buy the idea of what became coordinated studies
as the central learning experience of the institution. His experience had been inside preexisting,
functioning institutions with dual tracks, the traditional track and the interdisciplinary track. There was
a part of him that always believed that was the way to go. We had a little bit of trouble. I was off in
Australia when this popped up, so I was on the outside of it and wasn’t involved in any of the
discussions, and the college had seemed to solve its problem as a result of it. But in the fall, of, I think,
’75, Mervin put forth a plan that would have had us have two tracks. We would have had the traditional
McClain: Kind of modular-type studies and discipline specific?
Hitchens: Yeah, and that would allow students to move back and forth as they chose, so that there
would always be options. For students who got here and suddenly realized they weren’t real
comfortable with interdisciplinary stuff and team-taught coordinated studies kinds of programs, there
would be a refuge. And people who suddenly got tired of that, they’d have a way out.
It caused a bit of a ruckus. You can look back and find records of that. The result was that
Mervin left. He lost that particular battle, just like he was stunned when the planning faculty voted for
coordinated studies as the major curriculum structure, reinforced by the idea of individual contracts,
which would allow students to go as deeply and as intensively as they were able to into a topic or an
area of study. I think he was just completely stunned. He’d had this idea it would a part of, because
that’s what his experience had been. We said, “Hey, let’s make it all. Let’s make the whole thing. That
will be the showcase of what we’re doing.” And we pulled it off. We had enough people who stayed
around long enough that I think that helped project it into the future.
Right now, I don’t know. If you asked me what my sense of things is for the future, this whole
year, the faculty has been involved in this RETALE thing. RETALE is the acronym for Rethinking Teaching
and Learning at Evergreen. I’m thinking, uh, we’ve got enough younger faculty who came straight out of
graduate school and this is their first teaching experience. Whereas all of us, especially those of us who
were on the planning faculty had experienced a lot of things, and were completely disillusioned about
the traditional way.
I have never badmouthed the traditional structure. To my way of thinking, one of the great
achievements in higher learning has been the state university in the United States of America. That
opened it up to people who would never have had access to higher learning in Europe and elsewhere.

When I got to Australia, I was stunned to discover there were only 12 institutions of higher learning at
the university level, and less than one-half of one percent of all—they call them school leavers instead of
high school graduates—were admitted to university when they applied. Murdock was trying to do
something different. They were also trying to appeal to the older student who hadn’t been able to do
these things and wanted to come back to school, and I thought this an opportunity. They got interested
in me because of my experience here at Evergreen. I thought it was a chance to export some of us over
It would have been just fine, except that Murdock had also been burdened by the federal
university system with establishing a veterinary school. So the folks in the sciences had this vet school
that said, “You’ve got to do things a certain way.” They had used that, and we suddenly had the two
cultures. There was science and there was everybody else. The science guys thought that we didn’t
have standards—back to standards—and it was like, oh, I’m going back home where I don’t have
questions raised about “Why do you do things this way?” “What’s the purpose of this?”
So, hanging on to the core values, there’s something about the strength of them by themselves
that I think, when it comes right down to it, there have been efforts—when Olander was President, he
tried to get us to sort of give up our core standards. It didn’t work. I was surprised then that there were
those that coalesced around “No, we believe in these things. This is the way we structured it and we
want to continue to see them operate into the future, and that’s how we’re going to go.”
But with the younger faculty, I just don’t know. I don’t know how—it seems to me that we’re
not doing a very good job of melding them in to join with us in the enterprise. It’s allowed them to think
more in terms of narrow, specific, personal agendas.
McClain: Yeah. I can’t remember, but at some point, I sent out an e-mail to folks pointing to some
particular historical document from early in the college’s founding. Steve Herman called me up and
asked me to lunch. [laughing] I went and had lunch with him and he said, “I really appreciate it that you
sent that. I think we need a primer for new faculty of some of our core, historical documents,
something that people can point to. What were the key points along the way where critical decisions
were made, and the thinking that happened?”
Hitchens: And we were going to have a social contract rather than a code of conduct, and those sorts of
McClain: Right.

Hitchens: At various points, there’s an older document that Rudy Martin and Dave Marr put together
called the M ’n M Manifesto that you might want to take a look at.
McClain: Yeah.
Hitchens: I suspect you might find, if you were able to spend the time going through some of the
Archives and some of the stuff that Randy Stilson has of folks on the planning faculty, or look at the stuff
that McCann transmitted to the Trustees, you might find an interesting trail of stuff. Because ultimately,
once we made the decision, he had to sell it to the Trustees. But he found that he’d sort of greased the
skids better when he had kept them informed. They had a sense of what was going on.
McClain: They didn’t get surprised.
Hitchens: Yeah, exactly. And they knew what they were doing when they made the deal with us that
we would give up tenure if they would allow us to create—we weren’t going to do anything super-weird
and strange, we were going to do something they could be proud of. Because that’s what we were
One of the earliest things I remember Don Humphrey saying in a meeting was that the reason
he was at Evergreen was he felt that the traditional state university had become a place that hurt people
because of their rules and regulations. He said, “I want Evergreen to be a place that doesn’t hurt
people.” So there was that kind of mood and sensibility that circulated around. And we could be in
agreement. No, we weren’t trying to hurt people. We were trying to show people that learning is a
lifelong thing, and that we give you some tools to take with you, and if it worked, you’d be able to be a
better citizen, and you’d be able to cast a more intelligent ballot, maybe even participate more actively.
We’ve coughed out at various times some stunningly influential people. Matt Groening. When
Time Magazine declared that The Simpsons was the greatest sitcom of the 20th Century, I was stunned,
because Matt’s sensibility still reeks of Evergreen.
McClain: Did you have him as a student?
Hitchens: Not directly. I was his sponsor when he had the internship as editor of the Cooper Point
Journal. I didn’t write his evaluation or anything. He was working with somebody else. I can’t
remember who was doing that at the time. It was before Dianne Conrad came. I had signed an
evaluation, but I hadn’t written it. He had a field supervisor and somebody different. My policy there
has always been to ratify the validity of what the field supervisor says has gone on, so I didn’t have any

experience with Matt the way I would have if he’d been in my seminar in a coordinated studies
The people that sort of popped up who have become significant in terms of John Bellamy Foster
was a student in the Individual and the Citizen and the State. I believe he was in Dave Marr’s seminar
that first year, there were students in that first program of mine. If he wasn’t in Marr’s seminar, he may
have been in Kirk’s seminar, but I think it was Marr. And Bob McChesney. McChesney worked with Tom
Rainey when he was here. But they published a lot of stuff, and they’ve had quite a bit of influence.
One of the things I do remember about Foster is that he was clearly an intellectual as an apprentice
toward being a college professor when he was here. It was real obvious.
Rita Pougiales was in that program, too. Again, I think she may have been in Marr’s seminar. If
she wasn’t in Marr’s, she may have been in Betty Ruth’s Estes seminar. She wasn’t in mine, so I can’t
claim to have had any direct influence on her or him in that regard.
McClain: I think your influence is in a lot of places, though.
Hitchens: Well, it’s surprising. I have a friend who’s on the faculty. He’s teaching graduate students in
psychology up at Antioch in Seattle. His name is Phil Cushman. He was down last week, and he brought
with him a little note. Because in the early ‘90s, I was teaching in the Great Books Program, and I had a
student in my seminar, her name was Maureen Nickerson. Turns out Phil Cushman is Maureen
Nickerson’s dissertation director/advisor at Antioch. She sent me this little thing saying, “You probably
have no idea”—she said in her note—“when I met you, I was a high school dropout, I was a street
urchin, I didn’t have much direction in my life, and you were my first college professor. You did it. It’s
all your fault.”
McClain: Now look at me!
Hitchens: Phil said he often would ask groups of students up at Antioch where they came from. Where
did you do your undergraduate work? Now and then, somebody would say, “Evergreen.” He would say,
“I’ve got a good friend down there. Do you know Dave Hitchens?” And he said, “Up until this fall, he’d
had nobody until Maureen popped up.” Apparently, they had a good time telling stories at my expense.
McClain: I don’t want to wear you further.
Hitchens: Are we getting to the stuff that you’re interested in?

McClain: I’m interested in all of what we’ve talked about. I really am. Though I would love to come
back one more time and talk to you a bit more about your teaching, and teaching philosophy, and how
that played out at Evergreen, people you taught with.
Hitchens: I’ve had the good fortune to teach with a lot of folks that, I think, are Evergreen all-stars.
McClain: But I don’t want to be imposing if this is too much.
Hitchens: This is great for me.
WOMAN: He likes to talk, can you tell? [laughter]
Hitchens: And I no longer have the podium, I no longer have the outlet.
McClain: I’m happy to be your audience.
Hitchens: I don’t want to bore you to tears.
McClain: Not at all. Not at all. Nancy Koppelman talks about it as being someone who drunk the KoolAid at Evergreen. I have a case of true believerism. I love talking about the college. I didn’t go there,
but I worked there from a young age. I started working there when I was 23. I grew up in town. I went
to St. Martin’s, but I used to gravitate over to the other side of town.
Hitchens: One of the guys who’s currently on the faculty—he’s still on the faculty at St. Martin’s—was
in my seminar group back when I got back from Australia the second time in ’79-’80, Dave Price.
McClain: Yeah, he’s very well regarded.
Hitchens: He was clearly another one of those people who students would look at and sort of pegged
him. Before the year was over with, they were calling him “Dr. Price” because of his approach to things.
After he worked with me that year, he ended up with Mark Papworth. Mark was the one that, I think,
steered him toward anthropology. But he’s had stuff published in The Nation periodically.
McClain: I don’t know if you ever knew Mike Contris.
Hitchens: Oh, yeah.
McClain: Newspaper. He was my faculty, and I worked with him his last four years he was alive.
Hitchens: He was one of the people, when I got here for the planning year, one of the things I
discovered was he was an ally of ours.
McClain: Yes, he was.
Hitchens: Publishing stuff regularly on the editorial page about his anticipation about what Evergreen
was going to like, and what it was going to bring to the community.

McClain: I think he had a lot of respect for Evergreen.
Hitchens: I was introduced to him and chatted with him several times, but I can’t say I became a friend
of his, but I knew him.
McClain: I’ve been thinking a lot about him because his wife just died. He died 26 years ago, but his
widow just died a couple weeks ago.
Hitchens: He had a son?
McClain: Several sons—five, I think, in fact. They lived over here. In fact, I think Russ Fox and Carolyn
Dobbs bought their house. Small world, small-town thing.
Hitchens: Yeah. You know Carolyn is recovering from—
McClain: Yeah. The other night I was out and I saw her, and she looked great. Talked to Russ for a
minute. I didn’t talk to her, but he says she’s going well.
Hitchens: That’s good.
McClain: She’s between treatments right now. I think I mentioned I had lunch with Rudy on Thursday,
when I saw you.
End Part 1 of 2 of Dave Hitchens on 5-28-2011
Begin Part 2 of 2 of Dave Hitchens on 5-28-2011
McClain: . . . publicity chairman for the Eugene McCarthy campaign in Congressional Districts 4 and 5 in
the State of Florida, and that made me a bit of a target, a figurehead. I have attended a KKK meeting in
my lifetime, and was horrified by what I saw there and experienced. More than once, I’ve had my
phone tapped that I know of.
When I was in Florida, because I was so well known—my name was out there publicly because
of the antiwar stuff and McCarthy campaign—I had a guy call me up, and he spent two weeks calling me
every evening between 7:00 and 7:30. He would describe what my children had worn to school that
day. He just couldn’t understand how I could be exposing my children to potential harm, all of this
communist stuff that I was involved in.
I called the police department in Winter Park and found that they had no jurisdiction. I was out
in the county. I was in Orange County. So I called the Orange County sheriff’s department and they
transferred me to a guy, who I realized I had been talking to every night for two weeks, this voice on the
other end of the phone.

McClain: This was in Florida?
Hitchens: Yeah.
McClain: Wow. That’s chilling.
Hitchens: I came out one morning about two weeks after that, and right next to the water meter in the
front yard had been burned. They’d poured a little gasoline in the shape of a cross and they burned it in
the grass in front.
McClain: Subtle.
Hitchens: Yeah. I called the FBI and they said, “Well, we’re sorry because there’s nothing we can do
until or unless you’ve experienced a direct personal threat to your well-being, or to the well-being of
your family.” I said, “What? Somebody’s got to come up and shoot me or knife me?” They said, “Well,
pretty much.” I said, “You’re no help.”
That summer, when the primary was over with, McCarthy ended up pulling 35 percent of the
vote in our two districts. Suddenly we had all these professional Democrats—who hadn’t given us the
time of day when we’d gone to them to try to start the campaign—wanting to know where we got the
money for the billboards the TV ads. We just said, “Screw you.”
I taught a summer class that summer, and at the end of the summer class, this fellow—and I’d
noticed him because he always wore a coat and a tie, and he sat kind of straight toward the back of the
room and seemed very attentive—came into my office and said, “I’m glad I caught you. I just wanted to
let you know I didn’t expect to learn as much from you as I did, and my report is going to reflect that.” I
said, “Your report?” He said, “Oh, I guess I ought to introduce myself.”
He reached into his jacket pocket and he pulled out this oblong leather case and opened it up,
and it was his U.S. Army Intelligence identification badge. He informed me that Army Intelligence and
Naval Intelligence had been dragooned in. There was so much activity around the country of people
that were being alleged to be security threats and communists and antiwar and this kind of stuff that
there weren’t enough FBI agents to go around. So people like him, he’d been assigned to take this
summer class of mine and find out who I was. He said, “Whoever figured you were a threat to the
American way of life, if I find him, I’ll thump him for you.” [laughter] And he left. I just sat there and
went “My goodness”.
WOMAN: Your story on the KKK is definitely one that needs to be shared as well. You’ve shared that
with many students over the years.

Hitchens: That was one of my teacher lectures in the spring quarter.
End Part 2 of 2 of Dave Hitchens on 5-28-2011

Dave Hitchens
Interviewed by John McLain
The Evergreen State College oral history project
June 9, 2011
Hitchens: What’s up? What did you want to do today?
McLain: I’ve been looking at your 1990 Commencement address, and I was just sort of—I don’t know if I
have a question, so it might take me a minute to get to it. We can treat this a little like seminar. I was
struck by the notion of a college, particularly that was set up like Evergreen, in which our motto was “Let
it all hang out.” And how most colleges and universities would say they’re for truth, honesty and
integrity. But at Evergreen, because of the way we set up the learning community model, the way that
we set up, at least in intention initially, huge transparencies in what we do and how we do our work.
That seems to have particular significance for Evergreen and our institution. I guess I’m just wondering
if you have any comment about that. I might be reaching a little bit.
Hitchens: This is off the record. [NOTE 00:02:01]
McLain: Should I turn the recorder off?
Hitchens: No.
McLain: But don’t quote you in the magazine.
Hitchens: Not on this one because I’m quoting Charlie McCann.
McLain: Oh, okay.
Hitchens: Charlie was a little disappointed when “Omnia Extares” turned out to be our model, because
Charlie is an old Navy man. He commanded a minesweeper in World War II. Charlie believed that the
motto of the college should be “No Chickenshit.” [laughter]
McLain: In Latin, of course.
Hitchens: In Latin. So, he didn’t grumble-grumble.
McLain: You guys took the easy way out, probably.
Hitchens: I don’t know. [laughing]
McLain: Took the less controversial.


Hitchens: But that tonality, that structure, is what we were trying to get in terms of, as you were talking
about, coordinated studies, and the kind of transparency, the openness, free exchange of ideas, helping
people to understand things better, not imposing upon them any kind of “Here’s the Truth,” capital T.
“And you better believe it or else you’re out, or you’d get a bad grade.” You know, that kind of stuff,
which, as you well know from other institutions, that kind of stuff abounds.
I took a class at the University of Wyoming my senior year in American Literature. The
professor, a fellow named Hugh Hetherington, taught a fairly interesting class. But Hetherington was
also somebody who was kind of strange about—I don’t know whether he wasn’t real comfortable and
confident in himself or not. But on written exams, if you could parrot back to him his own words, you
got not only 100, you could get plus points.
McLain: Because you must be brilliant, then, if you thought like him.
Hitchens: Of course.
Hitchens: People told me this going in, and I wasn’t too sure whether to believe it or not. I thought,
well, what the heck? I’ll give it a try. I’m pretty good at remembering what people say. On the midterm
exam, out of the possible 100, I got 115 points.
McLain: Wow. That’s good recall.
Hitchens: I quoted him, but I didn’t put the quotation marks in. And on the final, out of 100 points, I got
120. I took a class in Southern literature from him as well, and I discovered it was the same thing. I
knocked off two As. I had a very strong minor in literature.
McLain: This is your undergraduate?
Hitchens: Yeah. I was four semester-hours short of a double major. I could have had a double major in
history and literature.
McLain: Was that troubling at all at the time?
Hitchens: At the time, I thought that was playing the game. But I often wondered how somebody
would get by if they weren’t able to do that. It wasn’t that I had Hugh Hetherington bouncing in the
back of my brain, but I had encountered other people who were teaching introductory classes. The guy
I had to take introductory botany from at Wyoming had written the textbook that they were using. All
you had to do was go through at the end of each chapter, run through the review questions—study the
review questions—you could go on and you could pass the test. You weren’t doing anything other than
re-reading things out of his textbook and reorganizing the exams based upon the review questions, and

that was it. But how honest is that? Somebody’s paying for this. He’s being paid by the State of
Wyoming to offer some sort of quality education to students who come in and take classes.
So it raised certain kinds of issues, and one of the things we thought we were going to avoid by
getting rid of academic rank and those kinds of distinctions, and having faculty seminars—where we
helped each other understand the core material better so we could take it into the seminars and help
students understand it better—that we could avoid having people die intellectually from the neck up;
that we would always have a kind of—we hoped, at least that was my hope for sure—an active,
inquiring, curious fun kind of faculty, where you’re constantly trading new things and new ideas that
you’ve encountered, or you run across.
I just had a conversation yesterday with Charlie McCann. He called up and he said, “You’ll enjoy
this. I just reread The Iliad. But I was troubled by something.” In rereading The Iliad, he got worried
about what happened when they were holding the funeral games for people who had fallen in battle,
and the kind of—as he saw it now—adolescent approach by these Greek soldiers to what was going on.
Then he calmly and quietly said, “But it’s still very good.” [laughter] I said, “Yeah.” I raised a couple of
things about why it is it endures, and how important it is to keep reading it.
I asked him which translation he’d read, and he had re-read the Fitzgerald translation. This was
41 years down the road from meeting him, and in the course of him calling up to say, “How are you
doing?” he popped up with what he’s been reading and thinking about, seeking my response and my
opinion. That’s the kind of thing that I thought we were constructing, and that’s what I wanted to be a
part of constructing.
The faculty would always provide interesting stuff for students. We wouldn’t have people that
you could easily pigeonhole. We wouldn’t have old Professor Yellow Notes, a joke that I picked up from
the guy that directed my doctoral dissertation. Old Professor Yellow Notes was a fellow who’d been
around so long that the notes that he had originally written for his lectures had turned yellow. He
would come in and he would open up his notes on the podium, and he would start talking.
He was carrying on one day and said, “And each year, tons and tons come down the Mississippi
River.” A little fellow in the back raised his hand and said, “Excuse me, Professor, but tons and tons of
what come down the Mississippi River?” [laughter] Professor Yellow Notes thumbs through the pages
before and after, and finally stopped, looks up, and says, “It doesn’t say.” [laughter] Well, that’s the
kind of thing we were trying to avoid, right there; that we wouldn’t have Professor Yellow Notes
wandering around the campus.

Hitchens: Ed Kormondy came to the meeting, and when he heard about the scholarship to honor my
mother, he pledged 500 bucks right on the spot.
McLain: That’s great.
Hitchens: What’s nice about that is we’ve also got the matching funds from the Gates Foundation.
Suddenly, here’s 1,000 bucks added to—just bang!
McLain: You’re going to have your endowment in no time.
Hitchens: Wow, it’s kind of stunning.
McLain: That’s great. By the way, Bill Ransom wanted me to tell you hello.
Hitchens: Oh, okay. What’s he up to? Is he getting ready to step down?
McLain: I think he’s going to stay through one more year. I’m not sure he’s excited about that.
Hitchens: My sense is it’s been a tough year for him.
McLain: Yeah, he’s had a rough personal situation with a divorce and things.
Hitchens: Oh, I had no idea of that. That’s not good.
McLain: No, so it’s been a hard time.
Hitchens: I was thinking with the budget cuts and all of that kind of stuff.
McLain: Yeah, and that’s just demoralizing all the way around.
Hitchens: It doesn’t have to be. They cut our budget before we even opened, before the buildings were
finished. January 1971, the budget was slashed. Oh, god what are we going to do? We said, “Great.”
Growing to 25,000 students by 1984 seemed like a monumental task. This way we don’t have to
worry about it. We can be focused, we can stay lean and mean. We’ve got a curricular model that can
adjust to whatever is necessary—five faculty, 100 students, and various permutations underneath that.
Here’s our chance. We can jump in and actually make it work, and we might do it better because we
don’t have to worry about expansion. It’s the thing of making lemonade.
McLain: Yeah, I know. I’ve often thought that it’s an opportunity for us to remember the core things
that we’re there to do and do those things.
Hitchens: Any suspicion of significant change coming out of rethinking teaching and learning at


McLain: There’s a bunch of e-mail exchanges going from what they call the Cadillac version to the
Subaru version to the Volkswagen version to the scooter version. I don’t know if they’re going to get
anything out of it. Just this whole thing of whether they’re going to do some kind of midpoint and
endpoint summative evaluation by students—a reflection piece—and how that work was going to be
done, and who was going to do it.
Hitchens: How did we get from rethinking teaching and learning to a summative evaluation?
McLain: I don’t know, but the thing about the whole proposal has been that it’s tried to solve too many
different perceived problems with one swoop. They want to fix advising, they want to fix the
transcript—I say “fixed” loosely—and they want somehow for this to help make more sense for students
about the Pathway through their curriculum. So, I don’t know.
Hitchens: My question—and the question that somebody maybe should ask—is, is there a problem? If
so, whose problem is it?
McLain: I think that’s exactly right. Is this a solution in search of a problem?
Hitchens: Yeah.
McLain: There was a very interesting piece in The New York Times a week or two ago about sort of a
bromide to all the rah-rah graduation speeches you get this time of year, where people say, “You can do
whatever you want. Follow your bliss.” What it says instead is that what we’ve done is we’ve taken a
group of people—of course, he’s not talking about Evergreen—who have been the most supervised
generation in history in terms of helicopter parents and somebody making everything okay for them all
the way along the road. Then we throw them out into a world where it’s chaotic and uncertain, and
they’re going to have five different jobs in the next 10 years, and at 15 years, many of them will work in
jobs that don’t exist today. He says, “We don’t prepare people to do this well.” I began to look at
Evergreen and I said, “Maybe it’s kind of a good thing that students come here and they have to figure
this place out.”
Hitchens: That’s what we’ve always been about. We said to students, especially students right out of
high school, “You come here, we’re going to treat you like an adult because we think you’re an adult.
We’re going to pose adult questions to you and you’re going to have to figure things out. We’ll help
you, but we’re not setting up a path that says, ‘You go A to B to C to D to E and then you get out and you
get that good job at 100 grand a year, and there you go.’”
McLain: Yeah. [laughing]


Hitchens: Which is what is being offered implicitly at other institutions these days. The more the
corporate masters convince higher education “You’re not training people for our needs.” And the
higher ed goes, “What do we do?” This last announcement that Boeing and Microsoft are going to each
put in $25 million to this new opportunity fund thing.
McLain: For science, technology and engineering.
Hitchens: Yeah. Right. Okay, but what’s going to happen? We need philosophers, we need people
who can step to the side and say, “Wait just a damn minute here. This makes no sense. You engineers
are doing X over here, and you scientists are doing Y over here, and you’re not talking to each other.”
We need people who have that ability to do a holistic sense of things, which is, again, one of the things
that I thought we were always about. We put out people who can sit around and go “Wait a minute.
Here’s a significant problem, and here’s a possible solution.”
If we’ve got people who have the confidence to roll with the punches and solve problems on
their feet, that’s been the strength of our graduates as they’ve gone out into this chaotic world. They go
to work for various outfits who end up loving them because they have the ability to do that. If we
increasingly compartmentalize and increasingly specialize within our curriculum, how are we going to
produce those people that have the ability to be thinking from taking elements of the sciences and
elements of economics and what have you and putting them together and saying, “Wait a second. This
doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me and here’s why.” Or, “If we did it all this way, it would make
better sense, don’t you think?” That kind of stuff.
McLain: One of the things that I found particularly disheartening when I worked at the HEC Board is,
first, when we shifted from thinking more away from enrollment to degrees being produced, we
changed the emphasis in our thinking about what our objective was; that it was always about this
certain end product. Then we stopped talking about students as human beings and started talking
about them simply as degrees being produced.
Hitchens: As product.
McLain: As product.
Hitchens: Yeah, raw material for product.
McLain: Exactly, and I just felt like there’s something very wrong here. It was always high-demand this
and high-demand that.


Hitchens: But that so-called high demand fluctuates. One of the things, we had figures—in the planning
year particularly—that indicated that only three percent of people who majored in a particular area
would end up actually working in the area of their major. Three percent. Ninety-seven percent were
going to be doing something that maybe had no direct connection to what they had majored in when
they went to college. If that was the reality, we said, let’s just train them to be problem-solvers, and be
able to spot things, and go from there.
McLain: Yeah, this column I was telling you about was interesting, because he was saying he didn’t think
that people formed these perfect selves, and then went off and followed their bliss. He felt that people
were called by a problem and responded to whatever problem there was. Maybe it was a family
member who had Alzheimer’s, or seeing a need for education for low-income people, and they built
their lives around how they responded to that problem. I just thought that was such an interesting way,
because it speaks very much to my own path. The plans I made didn’t mean much. And having a major
at a college like Saint Martin’s meant that I had a much harder time letting go of my plans, because
you’ve committed down a pathway at that point. Enough about me and what I think.
Hitchens: No, but that cycles back to your interest and concern about fundamental principles that
we’ve tried to follow all the time, and still echo, that hover around maybe. Increasingly ghostly yet out
there on the ranch, but maybe not. Every opportunity that has popped up when people have come
along to try to—
The most famous one that I can recall just off the top of my head was Olander’s effort to kind of
undercut the curriculum, where people just turned and said, “Nothing doing.” He was talking about
strategic planning, and he set up this strategic planning DTF. The DTF went in, did its work, and came
back and reaffirmed all the founding principles of the institution. I think that just pissed him off, and he
was really puzzled by all of that because he thought he’d schmoozed and made enough promises here
and there to get allies who would back him up, which indicated he never really understood the nature of
the institution. And did what he always did—in terms of what I could tell from his career—he just went
in and sucked the opportunities that would aggrandize himself, and then moved on. It was all about
him, and he didn’t really even care, which is sad.
But we’ve been vulnerable to that. There have been people who have moved in and out, who
haven’t stayed very long. We had a guy who was fulltime on our faculty here teaching in a fulltime
coordinated studies program, while he was also a fulltime student in law school at the University of


Puget Sound Law School, before they sold it to Seattle U. When he finished his law degree, he said,
“’Bye-bye. Thank you very much.” In effect, “Goodbye and thanks for all the fish,” and took off.
McLain: Right. That was a student job.
Hitchens: Right, and yet with somebody else, he was allegedly fulltime on the faculty for a couple of
years. He was also the fulltime organist at the Kingdome. He was up there playing the organ more than
he was down here.
McLain: For the football and baseball seasons?
Hitchens: Right. So, we’ve been a little vulnerable to some of those kinds of things.
McLain: Saint Martin’s was one of the places where the Great Imposter worked that Tony Curtis played
in the movie. They had their own problems with a highly regarded faculty member not even having the
bachelor’s degree she said she had.
This area of truth and this challenge we have sort of sets up an interesting tension. In your
commencement speech, you mentioned that the founders didn’t actually have unanimity on a single
Hitchens: No. When I was explaining to you why we ended up trusting consensus, that gave us ways
that somebody who really disagreed could still say, “Okay, I see out of the 17 of us who are here today,
only a couple people really agreed with me, so I can back off.” We didn’t take votes on things. For the
most part it was “Let’s put that aside and until we’re ready to come back to it. We’ve got other things,
we’ve got a problem here and we can’t quite get consensus today, so we’ll just put it aside. We’ll pick
this up and deal with what we can and come back to it later on.”
McLain: On the one hand, I get a strong sense that there seemed to be something really solid and stable
that emerged in the planning year and the early years of the college that just gelled and took hold. Sort
of truth with a capital T, I guess I would say.
Hitchens: Or very, very strong small t truth in italics, which is good enough in most instances because
truth with a capital T really doesn’t exist unless you’re Plato and you have this idea of the forms.
McLain: Right, that’s what I was thinking. When we want students to do when we say, “Truth, honesty,
integrity,” is to be committed to the italics with a t, and to be open to the fact that they can’t possess—
to be truthful means that no one possesses the big T.
Hitchens: Yeah, and understanding that opens up lots of possibilities. There are things that work for a
time, and then you discover they don’t work, or they’ve been superseded in some way or another. And

to hang on to something that’s been superseded or outmoded or just proven doesn’t exist . . . When I
was born, that was the year that Pluto was discovered, and that was the ninth planet. In my lifetime,
Pluto’s gone. It’s no longer a planet. Whatever it is, it’s not that.
That’s one of those truths that no longer exist. If you insist on hanging on—like the Flat Earth
Society was, to hang on to the idea that the Earth is really flat—where does that get you in the long run?
Makes you odd. It shoves you to the side of general exchange and discourse. People begin to shun you
because you’re that weird guy wearing the aluminum on your head to keep the aliens, or GPS, from
finding out where you are.
McLain: There used to be a guy in Olympia, the Tin Man.
Hitchens: Yeah, Rocket Man. Pulled his wagon. Apparently, his house was completely lined with . . .
McLain: I’m thinking about this other phrase that’s been kicking through my head since the last time we
talked, and that’s something Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said: “Everyone is entitled to his own
opinion, but he is not entitled to his own facts.” When I think about this truth, this notion, you’re not
saying give up on the quest because everything’s relative.
Hitchens: No, of course not.
McLain: You’re saying you have to be constantly open to new experience and new evidence.
Hitchens: Things can change. There will be new evidence that comes along and says, wait a second. It
was nice to think this way for a while, but this is different than you thought. And if you hang on to the
old way, it’s not going to do you much good. You can hang on to things preliminarily. You can say, “This
is what makes sense to me right now.” That will stand you pretty well until or unless something else
pops up and says, “Hey, it’s different than you thought.” Or, “Things have really changed, and we’re no
longer going to focus and say, ‘This is how to define this, A, B, and C.’ We’ve figured out a different way,
or we see it differently and understand it differently or better because of this new information, this new
material that allows us to see it differently.” If you’re not awake to that—and that requires an honest
commitment to openness, and if you are carrying on things with as much integrity as possible, you’ll be
ready to say, “Wow, I was wrong.” Or, “This is exciting. This is a new and different direction to take.
I’m open to it. Let’s go. Let’s see where it takes us.”
You roll with the punches better. It makes you a better citizen in the long run. It helps you
when you’re ready to cast a ballot. It helps you detect when people are lying to you—and politicians


love to lie because they figure the public probably don’t know shit, so we’ll just feed it to them and
they’ll love it.
McLain: They’ll eat it up.
Hitchens: Yeah. Which means that learning—if you find yourself committed to these elements—it’s a
lifetime experience. You don’t just learn up to noon on June 15, 2011 and that’s it, get your degree and
away you go. Life is full of things out there that are in existence today that did not exist back when we
founded the college. The iPad, for example. If you’re going to work with computers in those days, they
actually had typing keys on them, and they had keyboards, and they acted like teletype machines.
McLain: They didn’t have screens, most of them.
Hitchens: No, it all typed out like you were in a Western Union office and Western Union telegrams
were coming in being typed out and then pasted onto the surface of something.
McLain: Funny you mentioned Charlie McCann earlier today and reading The Iliad. That’s a story of
craft, probably written several hundred years after events that it was trying to capture, I imagine. In
your faculty interview on the Web site, you said that the distinction between what is myth—I guess I’m
shifting gears here a little bit, but I’m still gravitating around this bigger question of truth—and what is
history, and increasingly even the accuracy of history, is less important in terms of culture than the
lessons that might be drawn from how the story gets told. Could you unpack that a little bit for me? Or,
is that an unfair question to ask you on a warm afternoon?
Hitchens: I’m going to come at it in a roundabout way, but this is the way my brain operates
sometimes. Joseph Goebbels said, “If you tell the lie often enough, it becomes truth.” So, if you take
the myths that people have—it started out trying to produce instant mythology for America at its
founding, so he hocused up these things about George Washington—the cherry tree and “I cannot tell a
lie.” Or, that he threw a silver dollar across the Potomac in a year when silver dollars didn’t exist.
Telling those stories, he thought, would elevate us quickly to a more equal status with the older
cultures/civilizations of Europe. They all had their tales and stories, so I think in his mind, he was trying
to elevate Washington to the status of, say, somebody like Charlemagne. There are a lot of stories,
there’s a lot of this mythology about him, which is separate from the reality of who he was, and what he
actually did, and how he could actually do it.
If you seize control of the structure of the myth and tweak it the way you want to, you can turn
it into anything, and you can convince people, for example, that Sarah Palin is qualified to be President
of the United States. Because the facts of her existence have gotten stomped by the emotion of the

mythology—“This poor little girl out of Wasilla, Alaska, trying to be Miss America. By golly, there she is.
She’s just like all the rest of us.” “George Bush—by gawd, I think he’s dumber than a stump but I can
have a beer with him, so, by gawd, I’m going to vote for him.”
McLain: Washington is somebody with common sense.
Hitchens: Exactly, and her ability to pooh-pooh facts, well, it goes back to Reagan.
McLain: There you go.
Hitchens: Facts are slippery things, and somehow, that stuck. That’s part of what informed my
comment there about if you seize the myth, and tell the story in the way that you have decided it needs
to go, you can control it and control its impact.
McLain: On the other hand, if you can find a way to avoid the myth—for instance, give people back
their humanity, in the case of Washington—you end up with something much richer and more complex,
and ultimately more edifying.
Hitchens: But it’s so sticky because he owned slaves. Same thing with Jefferson. Texas has decided that
the way they’re going to deal with Jefferson, they’re just going to write him out of all the textbooks
because he was a slaveowner, and they don’t even want to talk about slavery. You’ve got to deal with it,
warts and all. Maybe warts are more interesting ultimately, and more important in the long run, than
anything else. That’s what I’ve always tried to do with my work, get people thinking about, well, this
sounds pretty good, so what’s the problem? Is it too good? Is it too slick? If it is, then it’s probably not
very real, and if it’s not very real, you’ve got to be suspicious of it. You want leadership that will just flat
out lie to you?
As I think I mentioned, when John Stewart was talking about that he’d interviewed Donald
Rumsfeld, and he was talking about how the whole WMD business had gotten sold to the American
people; that Iraq represented a danger because of this whole story, and how it was sold. Rumsfeld said,
“No, not sold. Presented.” Presentation—I hate to say, “Gawd, Rumsfeld and I agree about something.”
That’s the same point that’s embedded there, impacted in my commentary. That was a few years
before Rummy started running things. People forget that these folks were all connected. Rummy and
Cheney. They all go back to Nixon and managed to resurrect themselves when Reagan got into office.
Boy, they just moved right in and started elbowing their way through, and there they are.
McLain: It seems that the main driving myth through American history has been, I guess what I would
call the myth of American exceptionalism.


Hitchens: It’s a belief more than a myth. When the Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, arriving with
their tails tucked between their legs, the leadership said, “Wait a second. Here’s our opportunity.”
McLain: To make it all up.
Hitchens: “Here’s our chance to construct life the way we’ve been talking about, and we can show
everybody back in England how to do it. Here we go.” They had no idea that things were going to
change, and there was going to be a revolution, and Cromwell was going to come in. That also cut, for a
significant amount of time, very clear communication between North America and England, leaving the
folks in and around Massachusetts Bay on their own, and increasingly having to sort out how to deal
with their neighbors. Out of that emerged the sort of Puritanism that we associate with the Salem witch
trials and Cotton Mather, and all those folks.
McLain: “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.”
Hitchens: But it’s all based upon the exceptionalism that is inherent in Calvinism. If you are of the elect,
there’s nothing you can do that will deny you a spot in heaven. You’re predestined, from before you
were born, from the day God created the Earth, when your time comes and you’ve lived out your span,
you go directly to the Pearly Gates and collect your halo, and you get the other stuff that you get when
they equip you, and away you go.
One of the things that happened was people went “Oh, then we can do anything we want to.”
Calvin said, “No, no. That’s not what I meant. That’s not what’s embedded in this. If you are of the
elect, and predestined for heaven, you will be consumed with a fiery driving energy to do good and be
good. As a consequence, God will reward you. You will have a comfortable existence in this life before
you move on to the next.”
So, Puritans began to make money and they said, “Ah, this is evidence of God’s favor. We’re
going to make it. Here we go.” No Puritan, other than John Calvin—and maybe Cotton Mather,
although there’s some indication after he had been one of the judges in the Salem witch trials, he went
back and said, “We made some mistakes”—the only Puritan who ever knew for sure that he was 100
percent right in his conviction and his understanding was John Calvin, who, when he ran the Republic of
Virtue in Geneva—and people were condemned to die, to be burnt at the stake as heretics—would
stand there and pray that God would heat the fire hotter and hotter so that they would have a sense of
the terrible flames they were going to experience when they hit hell. Really nice guy.
He also said, “The important thing is that you can’t trust people, because they don’t know for
sure, so you’ve got to have good institutions to control them”—to control their appetites, to control

their desires, their wants, their needs. That created, for example, in Connecticut, there was as late as
1958—maybe a little later—I don’t know if it’s still on the books because I’ve never taken the time to try
to look it up—there was a law on the books that if you were a recalcitrant teenager and refused to obey
your parents three times, you could be put to death after the third time.
McLain: Pretty draconian.
Hitchens: You bet. But that was how they had laws to control people.
McLain: Are they the same impulses that influenced the creation of divided government, in terms of
power not being concentrated in the hands of any one institution, or is that a different political
philosophy coming through?
Hitchens: It’s a different political philosophy because it’s based upon the idea of the social contract.
The contract theory of government is fundamentally different because it says that a legitimate
government draws its legitimacy from the people who have willingly entered into the contract. At some
point in our past, we agreed we would, in exchange for security—Hobbs believed it was security to begin
with—we would obey the law. We would give our collective power these authorities.
McLain: It required an individual’s assent to the contract in that regard.
Hitchens: If you look at the American Revolution, the fundamental thing that seemed to be there was
the colonies got together and they elected a representative body from their own ranks, which becomes
the First Continental Congress, and they talked through. When what they came up with in the First and
Second Continental Congress wasn’t working under the Articles of Confederation, they consciously
shifted gears, sent people to Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to create the Constitution. The
Preamble to the Constitution lays it all out: “We, the people of the United States”—this is our
purpose—“in order to form a more perfect union, to provide for the common defense, and to secure
the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do hereby decree and ordain this Constitution of
the United States.”
That’s an amazingly open, clear document. That’s the kind of openness and clarity, I think, at
least for me, was behind what I thought we were doing when we constructed Evergreen. We made
conscious decisions, we created an institution that would function and would challenge us to produce
the best of our abilities and made certain promises. You wouldn’t have to worry about the same kinds
of things you worried about if you were at Brand X.


We’d be open about helping each other try to become better teachers. How do we do that?
We evaluated each other. We spent a year in one program, having faculty seminars, and experiencing
learning from each other. I can’t speak for everybody’s that’s been on the faculty, but it really worked
for me. I milked my colleagues. I learned all sorts of stuff from them that I never would have been able
to do or would have achieved in terms of understanding the fundamentals of how economists really
think and operate, and what people are onto when they’re studying anthropology, what anthropologists
are doing, and the different kinds of things that anthropologists actually do. Coming to understand
relativity better because I had the chance to work with Tom Grissom. I learned from one of the best
minds I’ve ever encountered in my life as a consequence.
Those things, that’s what we were hoping for. That’s what I ended up milking—maybe very
selfishly on some levels—my opportunities because of what I realized I could learn from my colleagues.
I hoped that I was, in turn, giving them things that would be useful and important to them. And taking
this new knowledge and looking at things from different ways—looking at things from an
anthropological point of view, or an economist’s point of view.
As I looked back at what I thought I understood about our history, it helped me to see that
differently, or helped me to suddenly say, “Ah, wait a minute. Here’s something I can put this together
and this together and present it to students and say, ‘Think about this. You don’t have to buy this. You
can reject it, but you’re going to have to think about it, you’re going to have to mull it over, you’re going
to have to see whether or not it makes sense to you, because here’s how it’s different than this. You
can read this book and this book and this book, and they’re going to tell you the same things. But you
look at it from this point of view and you add this stuff and it looks like this over here. What makes
sense to you? You make that decision. I don’t make that decision. I’ve already made certain decisions,
and I’m presenting things in this way, and I’m doing it openly. I’m not saying you have to buy this. You
can’t mindlessly accept what I tell you because I might be lying to you.’”
McLain: And I’m not going to give you a good grade if you just parrot back what I said.
Hitchens: Exactly. You don’t get plus points.
McLain: You had a lot of chances over 41 years to work with a lot of great colleagues. But it seemed
like you had a handful that you really built a longstanding collegial relationship with. Cross disciplines.
Hitchens: I suspect I’m not that unusual among the faculty. I suspect that there are folks who have
worked with other people and developed significant relationships, both intellectually and on outright
friendship basis.

McLain: But there’s something really special about being able to do that that you’d never get at a
regular university.
Hitchens: No, because at a university, you’re solo all the time. You’re inside your department. But
you’re the early twentieth century man, or you’re the French historian, or you’re the ancient classicist of
whatever. Nobody challenges you. They might come to you and seek your insight on something, but
they’re not going to say, “Wait a minute. Is this the only way to look at this?”
The idea that somebody trained in history could learn something useful from reading The Iliad
because it abounds with material that helps you better understand what Greek society was all about,
and what the Greeks were concerned with in terms of how to do the good, that’s what literary folks do.
McLain: That’s the approach I took when I was going my master’s degree in the New Testament. I’m
reading the Gospel of Mark as a work of literature and saying, “This is a document that was crafted in a
time in history. What does it tell us about these human beings at this time? It’s not what it tells us
ostensibly about God or Jesus or not, but what does it tell us about these human beings who had these
experiences or these beliefs?”
Hitchens: Or, how they reacted to what they were hearing.
McLain: Or, how one person chose to represent that myth, and put that myth forward. Very
Hitchens: Because what the first Gospel appears about 100 years after.
McLain: More like 40 or 50.
Hitchens: Oh, is it that close?
McLain: We have Paul who appears within about 15 years of Jesus dying, maybe 20. Then Mark I think
between 65 and 70. It’s still long enough, and in those days, there was no recording equipment, so it’s a
little bit like trying to figure out what happened in an auto accident 40 years later. You’ve got one story
here, one story there.
Hitchens: And you’re at the mercy of the memory, if there is—
McLain: And the telephoning that goes on as the stories get passed.
Hitchens: That’s one reason why something like The Iliad is interesting, because when Homer—or
whichever blind poet—arrived in town to sing it, it ran five days. It ran a full week.
McLain: It’s like committing to the Ring Cycle or something.


Hitchens: Yeah, and it was a community experience because they were there to learn and to hear how
the story reinforced how to do the good, and what you’re supposed to do in relative terms, where anger
can lead you if you’re not careful. And that you’d better watch out for the gods because they play with
you. You can’t always trust them, because look what happened. The gods ended up on the battlefield
literally fighting each other physically because they had taken sides over what was going on around
There’s another thing Charlie McCann raised. He said, “Why did they do that?” [laughter] Or,
“Why is Homer having them do that?” I said, “Because it was a complicated issue, and this is one way
that he reminded people that it can be so complicated that the very gods themselves choose up sides,
and that leads them to being dumbass humans.”
McLain: There’s that great line in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural—you can tell I’m a little bit of a Lincolnphile—where he talked about “both pray to the same God and invoke his hate against the other.” That
complicated little war.
Hitchens: Same thing, one of the things they did in The Longest Day at the beginning when the Germans
are waking up to find that the fleet’s there, this one German says, “Whose side is God on?” Because
they had God vigilance. At that point, he’s now completely puzzled. I thought that was kind of an
interesting little thing to appear at the beginning of this effort.
McLain: I haven’t seen that movie in a long time. I did watch Saving Private Ryan recently again.
Hitchens: What did you think after?
McLain: It’s mostly an endurance contest, but I thought it was the most realistic war movie I’d ever seen
in terms of battle sequences. I think there are stronger movies that take a more neutral stance on war
and the “Whose side is God on?” I definitely felt like there was a good guys/bad guys feel to this whole
thing. What did you think of it?
Hitchens: I felt like Hanks’s involvement in Band of Brothers and The Pacific produced better overall
things. For example, in one of the segments of Band of Brothers, they literally recreate an assault that
this sergeant put together on a German position that is still being taught by the Army War College. It
became a classic, and they recreated that. Then they talked about it a little bit later on. You could
actually look at it and say, “Wait a minute. What else were they true to in terms of demonstrating
things?” They also showed how the campaigns had worn on the people themselves. The guy that’s such
a drunk, and he gets worse and worse.


McLain: You get more of a sense of the long-term cost.
Hitchens: Yes, and if you watched The Pacific, by focusing on the three memoirs that they did, they
could focus on three lives, but place them in those situations that they had experienced that were real.
Also show how people around them were affected. Whathisname, who was Leckie, they put him in with
the crazies to show him he ain’t crazy and they know that. Then he realizes “I’ve got to get out of here.”
But he bumps into people that he knows who have crossed over. The guy who wins the Medal
of Honor has to go back and ends up dying on Iwo Jima, knowing that that was going to happen to him,
but he couldn’t go run around selling War Bonds. He’d fallen in love. I thought that that’s the thing. By
focusing on the reality of the lives of people who were survivors provides a dimension that Saving
Private Ryan cannot. It can give you moments where you get a hint of things, but that’s different from
seeing one guy who’s getting ready to give in to the urge to pull gold out of the mouths of dead
Japanese, and the guy who’s sitting up there saying, “Don’t do it. I’ve done it and the doc told us you
can get infections and your arm will rot off and things like that.”
There’s a moment when one of the guys in Saving Private Ryan is doing hand-to-hand combat
and he’s losing, and the German’s got him with the bayonet—the German’s going “Shhhh.” That
touches on some of that humanity. It’s a peek, it’s a hint, but when you’ve got a guy peeing in the open
skull of a dead Japanese soldier, that’s a whole different [thing].
McLain: These are HBO series?
Hitchens: Yeah.
McLain: I’m going to have to check those out.
Hitchens: You can get them on Netflix. Do you have Comcast?
McLain: I do have Comcast.
Hitchens: Check their On Demand. They sometimes have those sitting there. I did see that The Pacific
is going to be for sale on Blu-Ray and DVD here around Father’s Day. It’s powerful. This year, we used
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa—I just blocked his name, Marine Corps veteran, Eugene
Sledge, as one of the memoirs used in The Pacific. It went over real well. Up to this year, we’d used
Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, which is stark enough in lots of ways.
McLain: That’s the one where the publishers made him change “fuck’” to “fug.”


Hitchens: Yeah. He got introduced to Tallulah Bankhead at a cocktail party. “Miss Bankhead, this is
Norman Mailer, the author of The Naked and the Dead.” She looked at him and she said, “Oh, you’re
that young man who can’t spell fuck properly.” [laughter]
McLain: That’s great. I’m wondering, do you have any heroes?
Hitchens: Do I have heroes? I think maybe as a trained historian, I’ve seen and I’ve come to understand
something about the careers of some of the people that have preceded me that I’ve come to admire
aspects of them. Charles Beard, when he raised the issues when he wrote An Economic Interpretation of
the Constitution, pointed out that these were rich guys who all had a general bank balance of about five
grand at a time when that meant a whole lot. He ends up losing his position at Columbia because
people are just aghast. He laid things out. He said, “If you don’t believe me, here are the sources. Go
look at them yourself and see if you don’t reach the same conclusion.”
McLain: He took on the myth.
Hitchens: Well, some of those folks. But I guess my major hero as a historian is Thucydides, who’s
generally accorded to be the father of real history. Herodotus collected stories and things, but
Herodotus wasn’t real careful about [his sources]—he bought just what they told him. “This is what the
Egyptians told me about this, that and the other.”
McLain: He didn’t check his facts.
Hitchens: No. But Thucydides is a cashiered general. He had lost his position as a leader of men and
was washed out. The Peloponnesian War is still going on, and Thucydides is sitting there looking at his
society, looking at his beloved city state, and saying, “We’re losing. What happened, and why? What
kind of mistakes have we made?” Because he had the idea—as so many Athenians had—that they were
superior to other folks who were nominally Greek, but they weren’t Athenian. Spartans, they’re kind of
an embarrassment and they do things completely differently, and here they are kicking our ass in the
Peloponnesian War. How can that be?
So, Thucydides sat down and said, “We need to understand the nature of the mistakes that
we’re living with the consequences of. Where did they come from? How did they get made? What
kinds of decisions got made? What can we learn from this? If we understand the story clearly, based on
the best evidence that we have, and it tells us how things happened, we can avoid those mistakes in the
future. We may make different mistakes.”


He didn’t have the idea that you could work out laws of history that would help prevent you
from doing dumbass things. But his major thing was we can learn from these mistakes, we can learn
from the past, and if we make other mistakes, they will be different mistakes. They won’t be the same
mistakes that got us into this problem in the first place. Hence, that was his approach. That’s why he
told the story of the Peloponnesian War the way he did, and in effect, set up a model that I think is still
good for anybody who wants to study and understand history. Find out what the mistakes were, what
they consisted of, how decisions that got made that produced those mistakes, and then try not to do
them again. Ho ho ho.
We live in a society that doesn’t pay attention to its history. Because we don’t pay attention to
our history, we keep making the same mistakes over and over again, thinking we’re doing things
differently because we’re exceptional. We’re going to show those folks over there across the waters
this “shining city on the hill.” What becomes a belief has morphed into a kind of mythology about
American exceptionalism, and that doesn’t help us if it’s going to get us stuck in constantly, like a broken
record . . . We don’t have broken records any longer. [laughter]
McLain: You dated yourself now, but I think the metaphor still holds.
Hitchens: There’s still that click click click. We could sit around and scratch our heads and say, “We did
this, and we did that, just like we did here.” Or, that statement that I heard at the beginning of when
troops were committed to Iraq, “This is not going to be like Vietnam.” No, of course not. It couldn’t be
because the climate is completely different, the landscape is completely different.
McLain: The culture on the ground is completely different.
Hitchens: Yeah, and there’s a religious element there lurking in the background that wasn’t there so
much with Vietnam. But it’s just like Vietnam because we got sucked into this quagmire of things for all
the wrong reasons, and we got lied to in the same way that we got lied to about the Bay of Pigs, or we
got lied to about the Gulf of Tonkin, and the vestiges of the Cold War and they mythology that emerged
from that. We say, “How come we’re still . . .? Golly.” And we’ve committed how many zillion dollars
since 2003?
McLain: I don’t know. It’s a lot.
Hitchens: It’s a lot. It’s enough to the point where we’re broke.


McLain: The other day at the campus, in preparation for Memorial Day, they staged a reading of all of
the names of American servicepeople who were killed since 2003. They started at 7:30 and it took them
until quarter to 6:00 in the evening to finish. Nonstop.
Hitchens: That reminds me. When people were carrying the candles walking in front of the White
House when Nixon was there, they walked by and called out the name of one individual who died in
McLain: As I was hearing the names, for some reason what was coming to mind was a different house
for each person where there was a different family that they each came from.
Hitchens: Yes, of course.
McLain: Different circumstances, different towns.
Hitchens: And relatives that are still being affected by their loss. There was an interesting thing that
Kevin Bacon did for HBO. It was about escorting a dead Marine home—coming back from Iraq or
Afghanistan, I’m not sure which—and escorting the body to his hometown. I’m trying to remember the
[name]. It was out a couple years back. It’ll come to me at 3:00 in the morning. I’ll try to get word to
you so you can know. It’s a short title. [transcriber found Taking Chance]
But Bacon plays either a major or a lieutenant colonel who steps in. He made it through Desert
Storm and he’s back. He’s now in an office, flying a desk, and decides to volunteer for escort duty to
escort this young, dead Marine back to his family in Montana. Very interesting. Nicely done.
McLain: Do you have any feelings about being an emeritus faculty member? It’s probably all over but
the shouting at this point.
Hitchens: I guess it’s too early to have sunk in. I’m kind of humbled by it all. I wrote up a little thing
that I gave to Tom Rainey to read on my behalf to the Trustees. Very short. This may surprise you, but
the thing that I found myself pondering, and hoping that the answers to questions around it would be
positive, was a thing that I never have forgotten. I was hired by the taxpayers of the State of
Washington to provide something to their children. I’ve always had a sense that somewhere in the back
of what’s going on is somebody’s paying for this, so the taxpayers of Washington, in their wisdom,
create a State government that decided to provide State funding for education at all levels—this
happens to be higher learning. So, I’ve had a responsibility to the taxpayers of Washington to turn out
to be a good investment for them. I hope I have been. I hope that I have fulfilled my side of the
contract, just as the State of Washington has fulfilled its side of the contract with me.


As a consequence, as I’m headed out the door, I’m very humbled because the Trustees have
decided to accept the recommendation of my colleagues that I should have emeritus status. I hope I’ve
earned it.
McLain: I’m pretty sure you have.
Hitchens: Well, as you may have figured out by now, I’m not a personal drumbeater.
McLain: I’ve noticed.
Hitchens: I’m much happier to see former students having good success, because I’ve already had mine.
I got to somehow or another live a life of the mind that got triggered, in terms of my love of history, by
that moment in the library of the University of Tulsa the week after I had turned 17, in the fall of 1956.
Wow! How many people can say that? I suspect not too many.
I’ve gotten paid, after a while, to do the thing that I love, perhaps most in all the world. I don’t
how else to express it. I’m really grateful for that opportunity. As I said, I like to think that it was a twoway street, and that I returned good value for the investment that [unintelligible 01:24:31] made in me,
and that I’m leaving something behind that also has continued value and importance into the future.
Because Evergreen is going to continue to exist. I don’t think it will ever completely blow away its
founding principles, probably because they’re complicated enough that not everybody understands
them. [laughter]
McLain: And they have their own momentum. That’s a beautiful thing.
Hitchens: Yeah. It’s a place where people can arrive and look around and go “What? Wow! Look at
that. Imagine this. I had no idea.” That feels pretty good.
I hope I’ve also done my colleagues on the planning faculty proud, because I got to work with
some fascinating brains, and got to participate in helping shape something that I wasn’t so sure was
going to work. We sort of put it out there and waited.
McLain: You strike me as one of the more—how do I want to put this?—I’ll just lay it out—one of the
more normal ones. It was quite an eccentric group of guys that got together—personalities, interests.
Hitchens: Yeah, we were very diverse. From where I sit, the most normal of us was Byron Youtz.
McLain: Yeah.
Hitchens: Which is kind of interesting, because I think Youtz is one of the preachers’ kids.
McLain: There were a few of those.


Hitchens: Rudy Martin was a preacher’s kid.
McLain: Yeah.
Hitchens: Merv Cadwallader was a preacher’s kid.
McLain: Rainey wasn’t a planning faculty, but he came and he was a preacher’s kid, wasn’t he?
Hitchens: No, he wasn’t a preacher’s kid. He had heavy-duty religionists in his family.
McLain: Maybe that’s what I was thinking of. But there were a lot of preachers’ kids among you guys.
Hitchens: But we also had a couple of misfits, and I don’t know how they survived the planning year.
They survived on into the early stages but didn’t stick around. It was weird.
McLain: They never quite gelled.
Hitchens: Bob Barnard and Jack Webb are the two that I’m thinking of who just didn’t—as I mentioned
about Barnard, because he’d won some national award as a Educator of the Year in chemistry—decided
he was going to move into multimedia things about chemistry. He was busy wanting to order a quarter
of a million dollars’ worth of equipment and build his own empire. He just didn’t have that sense of
Jack Webb was my officemate in the planning year. I think he was a preacher’s kid. I’m not
positive, but I think there was something there, or he had studied in the seminary for a while or
something. I don’t know what it was exactly. He had this kind of weird laugh, and his efforts at humor
were always to the side of whatever else was going on. He just ended up irritating people, so people
wouldn’t pay attention to him. We would sit and we would talk about things in the office. I tried to help
him see things. But then what happened was his wife, Mary, developed a brain tumor and she ended up
dying. That spun him out into directions that he couldn’t come back from, so he left.
Fred Young, who was very interesting, was older. He was maybe the oldest of the planning
faculty. Mathematician. He had some really interesting ideas about how to try to meld mathematics in
with the humanities and social sciences, and may have been a more significant contributor in the early
days, except during our second year—our first year with students—he was on sabbatical, and he died of
a heart attack suddenly. So, he’s the forgotten member of the planning faculty.
Fred Tabbutt was only quarter time. He gets credit for being on the planning faculty, but he
wasn’t here when we were doing the 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. meeting days and things like that. I suspect
if he was to sit down and to write a reflection or something about the planning year, it would sound very
different from mine or Rudy’s or anybody who was right here on the ground doing everything that we

had to do. While we were doing that, we also went through 15,000 applications for the next 45 faculty
positions for people to join us.
McLain: Fifteen thousand? Wow.
Hitchens: Fifteen thousand. There were 4,000 applications for the planning faculty and 15,000 for our
opening year with students. We also helped Admissions go through student applications as well. So,
when we weren’t out on the road recruiting students, we were in reading faculty files and student
essays, things of that sort, to try to help put the school together so we’d have a range of folks in the
student body to help make it work, because we had to have students. But we were interested in
students who could have graduated last in their class, [but] if they had good letters of support for why
they deserved a chance, we’d look very closely at them. We let two or three in who were wildly
And we had people who had been at four or five different institutions and hadn’t been satisfied
with their experience to that point, who ended up applying and getting accepted to be part of the first
batch of students.
McLain: Especially in those early years, the students brought a kind of maturity in years even. There
were a lot of folks who were older. The average age was quite high for an undergraduate institution.
Hitchens: One individual who represents that very well is Rita Pougiales.
McLain: Yeah.
Hitchens: She was in my first program. I think she was in Dave Marr’s seminar, either Dave Marr or
Betty Ruth Estes. She wasn’t in my group or Kirk’s Thompson’s group, as I recall. She’d been at several
other places. Found a home here, and then went to graduate school.
McLain: Came back.
Hitchens: She’s been here ever since.
McLain: Was she one of the first to do that?
Hitchens: Yeah. Tom Womeldorff is another one who went off and managed to get back.
McLain: Nancy Koppelman.
Hitchens: Yeah. Nancy worked as Gail Martin’s secretary, and I guess was taking work on the side,
taking advantage of the staff tuition waiver for up to eight hours per quarter and earn credit. She was
able to use that.


McLain: She also got an MA in history, I think, while she was working with Gail.
Hitchens: Yeah.
McLain: Up at the UW.
Hitchens: Then earned her doctorate in American studies.
McLain: Dave, you’ve been very generous with me. Thank you.
Hitchens: You think you got enough?
McLain: I think I have a lot. [laughing] I’m not sure where we would go from here, but if something
came up, could I call you?
Hitchens: You bet. I was just about to tell you if, as you’re sitting down and organizing things, if
something pops up, you may call, I’ll do my best.
McLain: And you let me know how you’re feeling physically, too, so there’s nothing urgent or anything
on my part. If you’re not feeling well, just tell me.