All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for October 2003

Retired WSU professor dies

Passionate reader, poet, much-loved by students

October, 2003
Andrew Vogler
The South End Newspaper

Daniel Hughes, renowned poet and former Wayne State University professor, died at Providence Hospital in Southfield. The Detroit resident was 74 years old. He died on Oct. 7.

Dr. Hughes arrived at Wayne State in 1964 after a stint at Brown University in Providence, R.I., where he also earned his master's and doctoral degrees.

"The Romantics, that was his specialty, the 19th Century," his wife, Mary, told the Detroit Free Press. "He did a couple of very good articles on Shelley that other people referred to for quite some time."

The articles were so good, in fact, that Dr. Michael Scrivener, a professor in WSU's English department, described them as fundamental to his own dissertation: "I was so taken with his articles on Shelley that Hughes was the only critic other than my dissertation committee that I mentioned on my acknowledgement page."

Hughes also wrote and published articles on such literary giants as Blake, Tolkien, Nabakov and Bellow.

"Those articles were inspired by his interest in what he was reading at the time," his wife said.

Dr. John Reed, a distinguished professor in the English department, spoke of Hughes' strong relationship with students and prominent poets alike: "He was an outstanding teacher, much loved by his students, who kept in touch with him for years after they left Wayne. When a poet like John Berryman came to Wayne, Dan was most likely to escort him to readings, parties and so forth."

In 1963, Hughes published "Waking in a Tree," his debut poetry collection. That volume was followed by "Lost Title," "Falling" and "Spirit Traps." In 1992, Wayne State University Press released "You Are Not Stendhal," a collection of 30 years of Hughes' poetry.

Hughes battled multiple sclerosis for 40 years; it forced his 1988 retirement.

Scrivener described Hughes' fight against the disease as "heroic. He didn't become embittered, he focused on the things he loved to do and he was always generous to his friends."

In the last few years of his life, as it became progressively difficult for Hughes to leave his bed, he and his wife turned Fridays at their apartment into salon-style gatherings.

"Dan spent so much time in bed," said his wife, "but he kept a life of the mind."

Scrivener said that Hughes retained a wonderful sense of humor through his final days: "Even then, he was chuckling, making fun of Arnold Schwarzenegger."

Hughes was born in Dover, N.H., and earned his bachelor's degree from the University of New Hampshire. He interrupted work on his master's degree to serve in Army intelligence during the Korean War.

He is survived by his wife and a brother, Richard.

A memorial service was held Friday at the Spaulding and Curtin Funeral Home in Ferndale.

Copyright © 2003, The South End Newspaper