R.I.P. Author E. Hughes

Author “Art” E. Hughes, PhD, whose 24 years as the University of San Diego’s first president was highlighted by his leadership during a 1972 merger that created USD, passed away on Sept. 6, 2015, after a brief illness. He was 85. His solid leadership, genuine dedication to the university and the great value and care he showed for all people, especially students, made him much beloved. Hughes’ passing is a significant loss for the university family and higher education community. Following are some heartfelt thoughts about the man and his legacy.

Leader, Mentor and Friend

From the first letter that San Diego Bishop Charles Francis Buddy wrote in 1942 to Reverend Mother Rosalie Clifton Hill, vicar of the Western Vicariate of the Society of the Sacred Heart, a seven-year journey followed. Nurturing their dreams into reality required planning, negotiating and designing what would ultimately become the San Diego College for Women and the San Diego College for Men and School of Law.

After a reciprocal course agreement between the schools was signed in 1967 — encouraged by Vatican II’s position on mutual sharing efforts — the ‘70s saw the birth of a new entity: The University of San Diego, organized much as we know it today. To lead this newly merged institution into the next decade, from a field of 237 applicants the Board of Trustees selected a 43- year-old provost from Northern Arizona University: one Author E. Hughes.

As the new leader of USD, Dr. Hughes was quick to emphasize a values-oriented approach to education that recognized the primacy of the university’s intellectual mission; namely a belief in God and the dignity of the human being, as well as concern for the complex and abstract concepts of loyalty, justice, freedom and fairness. Both Bishop Buddy and Reverend Mother Hill would have enthusiastically endorsed this path because it exemplified what both had envisioned as the most important mission and byproduct of a Catholic education. To the end of his life, Art believed this was his greatest contribution to our university.

Throughout his distinguished career, Art received many awards and accolades. He was deeply touched when the USD Alumni Association established the Author E. Hughes Career Achievement Awards on the occasion of his retirement 20 years ago. That annual event has now honored some 117 alumni who have achieved distinction in their careers, all in Art’s name.

When we remember our leader, our mentor and our friend, it is fitting to recall what made Art Hughes so unique among his peers. He was a man of great vision, compassion, warmth, humility and faith. And you have to admit that he really looked like a university president. In fact, one of my counterparts from SDSU once told me that they referred to him as “the president from central casting.”

In the many years that I worked with Art, I observed him in countless social situations. He had the unique quality of engaging you in conversation at a huge event that he and his wife, Marge, were likely hosting, and managed to make you feel like you were the most important person in the room. Whether he was addressing the Board of Trustees or a group of undergrads, Art’s vision for USD always took center stage. He was a man of great humility. So much so that when Art would cash a check at the USD cashier window, he always dutifully showed his photo ID. Somehow I think the clerk knew who he was.

Bernard d’Chartres said we are dwarfs who stand on the shoulders of giants. We may see farther than they did, but only because they have lent us their height. For 24 years, Author E. Hughes lent us his majestic height. And because he did, all of us who knew him, worked with him, or benefitted from his tenure here, can indeed see farther. Farewell good and faithful friend. — John Trifiletti ’78 (Excerpted from a eulogy delivered at Dr. Hughes’ memorial service.)

A Man of Faith

I first met Dr. Author Hughes when he arrived on campus with his family 43 years ago. Though I did not reside in San Diego while he was president of USD, during the past 19 years I had opportunities to be with Dr. Hughes on numerous occasions. One of the most recent was for a video taping regarding the university’s early history, during which he shared his thoughts on his presidency and the challenges and opportunities it presented.

Dr. Hughes served as the first president of the university for 24 years, a time of tremendous transition. As the new leader of USD, Dr. Hughes exemplified what Bishop Buddy and Mother Hill envisioned for a Catholic university in San Diego. With great leadership and courage he shaped this merged institution into a new entity.

Dr. Hughes had a particular style. He was above all a humble leader — a man of character, values and integrity. At his funeral, his son, Tim, spoke of three aspects of his father, which I think captured him well: faith, which defined the foundation of his character; friends, who formed the foundation of his community; and family, who provided true substance to his life.

These were all true. I found Art to be a man of faith, using all his gifts and talents to administer well, but trusting in God to show the way. He was steadfast in his beliefs, but flexible and ready to listen. He respected others, and others respected him. Easily approachable and at ease with everyone, he was, indeed, much regarded and loved by colleagues and friends.

All this was not without humor. He could easily laugh at the complications and challenges of the early years. Later in his life he enjoyed how he and the early administrators had to forge seemingly insurmountable obstacles and make limited resources go a long way. In retirement he could hold things lightly, offering credit to others. We were indeed fortunate to have Dr. Author Hughes as the first president of the University of San Diego, and surely his treasured legacy continues to live in the university today. — Virginia Rodee, ‘57, ‘74 (MA) RSCJ

Stellar Sense of Humor

We were good friends with the Hughes family, so we knew that Art could be very warm, friendly and funny in addition to his professional demeanor.

We traveled together in Spain in the summer of 1978 when my daughter Kristin was six and his daughter Susan was eight. Because Dr. Hughes was president of USD, we were able to visit the archeological site under the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (St. James) and climb some stairs down to the first century. We then traveled to the south of Spain and visited Tangiers. Marge and I rode on camels while our husbands laughed. The boat crossing the Strait of Gibraltar broke down on the way back so we were adrift for several hours, but Art never lost his sense of humor.

He was a terrific role model as a president, husband and father. — History Professor Iris Engstrand