Henry Hughes to be this year's Opperman Lecture

Monday, September 9, 2013

It was an entirely different atmosphere when Henry Hughes attended Dakota Wesleyan University in the ’80s.

Some might remember him as Henry on the “Birch and Henry” show at DWU – a student-produced “talk show” that was hosted within the campus center with its own live audience, discussing hot topics.

“As a young man, I challenged and debated issues regarding politics, religion, sex, even marijuana and alcohol use,” Hughes said. “My teachers were tolerant but also offered solid guidance. Literature, such as works by Henry Thoreau, Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson, which I read deeply at Wesleyan, helped me form an open-minded view of religion and humanity. With DWU’s great teachers and a rich liberal arts curriculum, I really found my way into the world.”

Hughes will give this year’s Opperman Lecture, “My Time at DWU – Transition and Transformation,” at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 17, in the Sherman Center. This event is free and open to the public. The Opperman Lecture series began 18 years ago with an endowment by Dwight Opperman, who attended DWU in 1947-48. He funded the lecture to bring distinguished alumni back to DWU to share their experiences with students.

Hughes grew up on Long Island, N.Y., coming to DWU in 1983 and graduating in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a minor in biology. He completed his Master of Arts degree in poetry writing at Purdue University, where he founded the literacy magazine, Sycamore Review.

He taught English in Niigata, Japan from 1991-1994, through the JET Program and continued to travel around Asia and write and publish on various subjects. In 1994, he moved to China and was a foreign expert in English at Beijing Foreign Studies University. In 1997, he returned to Purdue to complete his Ph.D. in American literature and publish a number of poems and essays.

During his years at Dakota Wesleyan, Hughes was one part of the Birch and Henry Show on campus, a late-night talk show of sorts that convened in the campus center several times a semester with more than 200 students, faculty and staff to listen and laugh along. Birch Hilton, his coconspirator and friend, was a psychology major from White Lake who starred on the football team and later completed his master’s degree in counseling and became a teacher and counselor for the developmentally disabled in Denver. The show took one semester off in fall 1985 and resumed in spring 1986, ending that May when Hilton graduated.

“While not professional in the strictest sense of the word, the Birch and Henry Show was a rollicking good time, with just the right amount of bawdy jokes and bad talent to make it worthwhile,” quoted the Dakota Wesleyan Memory Book.

Hughes is now a professor of English and writing at Western Oregon University and the author of three books of poems, including “Men Holding Eggs,” which received the 2004 Oregon Book Award. He is the editor of two anthologies, “The Art of Angling: Poems about Fishing” and “Fishing Stories,” both published in the distinguished Everyman Library Series.

Hughes reviews new poetry and nonfiction regularly for Harvard Review. He is married and lives in Oregon.

Categories: News
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