Hubbard uses language to find solace

ORANGE CITY, Iowa – Robert Hubbard ’91 has always found a calling to express himself creatively.

When his youngest son, Auggie, took his life at the age of 19 after a long battle with clinical depression, he found it cathartic to write a book ‘Scenes with My Son: Love and Grief in the Wake of Suicide.’

“I think that some of us are made in different ways, and I was made with an artist's temperament and sensibility,” he said. “When I wasn’t acting in plays, I was writing them. If I wasn’t going to the movies, I was writing about the movies. I think I’m called to it, to express myself through language.”

Through his writing, Hubbard was able to express all the highs and lows of Auggie’s story. He structured his book into three sections.

“Act I, entitled ‘Beautiful Boy,’ shares stories from Auggie’s joy-filled if eccentric early childhood. Act II, ‘The Family Monsters,’ chronicles his battle with clinical depression emerging during adolescence. Act III, ‘The Life After,’ shares tender and harrowing stories from the days and months following Auggie’s death,” he said.

Through his process, Hubbard found the true reasons why he wanted to write Auggie’s story.

“I wrote it because I felt called to celebrate the life of my son and to let other people know about him,” Hubbard said. “I also hope the book is helpful both to people who have experienced great loss and difficulty, as well as to those who haven’t but who would like to understand more of what it’s like to endure suicide.

“The person who wrote the introduction, Nicholas Wolterstorff, is a wonderful aesthetic philosopher from Yale. He said that he ‘believes this book will be a balm to people who have experienced similar loss;’ I know when I was enduring the early ravages of grief, I found myself drawn to similar stories.”

Although his writing was primarily a way for Hubbard to convey his feelings, he discovered the healing powers of a community and found solace.

“I found comfort in reading the stories of other people who had gone through similar experiences,” he said. “I think it’s really useful for us to read stories like this because it will give us more empathy and understanding of what people are going through.”

Most importantly to Hubbard, his book depicts not just the version of Auggie that is gone, but the version of Auggie that lives on in Hubbard’s memories. A way to share with his community how he will always remember his son.

“The last reason I wrote it is probably less important but more important to me,” Hubbard said. “Everybody thinks that their kids are amazing and outstanding, but my son Auggie truly was just a remarkable, colorful character. The book isn’t just about his suicide. It’s about his early life and battle with depression. I wanted people to get to know him and celebrate him and love him.

“So, I wrote it so that others could get to know my son since he’s not here anymore, and it was a way to kind of keep him alive and celebrate his life. I tried to dedicate my life to telling stories and doing it in a way that sheds light on things that need to be talked about.”

In Hubbard’s own story, his first chapter was Minot State.

“I love MSU. It employed and educated nearly everyone in my family,” Hubbard said. “I grew up in Minot. My dad, also Robert Hubbard, used to be a professor in the Criminal Justice Department. My stepdad, George Slanger, was Chairman of the Humanities Division for many years.”

Hubbard double majored in English and Theater at Minot State. While cultivating his love for theater arts, he also found the love of his life. Hubbard met his wife, April (Blomquist) Hubbard ’90, acting alongside her in the theater program at MSU.

While his world of theater arts grew, so did his literary skills.

“My experience in the English Department helped develop my skills as a writer, especially courses from (Professor Emeritus) Dave Gresham, who was an amazing creative writing professor,” he said. “Several other professors kind of seduced me to not just stay in the theater but also to get into the English area. I wrote for the Red & Green and was the arts and entertainment editor for two years. I wrote play and film reviews.”

Continuing his education at Bowling Green State University, he obtained his doctorate in Theatre. Since 2002, Hubbard has been teaching in the theater department at Northwestern College while also serving as department chair. For his contributions to academia, Minot State inducted Hubbard into the Academic Hall of Fame in 2014.

Hubbard has directed countless productions and taken the stage as a solo performer all over the Midwest. He kept pursuing writing by regularly publishing articles and reviews in academic publications, while also writing autobiographical scripts for his performances.

By making the theater a family affair, Hubbard stays connected with Auggie and his other sons, Charlie and George.

“We would put our kids in our plays, made babysitters less expensive,” he joked.

To this day, his son, Charlie, is still acting in his local community theater in Des Moines. Hubbard and his wife play a part at the MSU Summer Theatre.

“The past two summers, I have enjoyed coming back home as an actor and director for MSU Summer Theatre,” Hubbard said. “We enjoy going back to Minot and hanging out for a while. It’s a beautiful place in the summer, and we like the nostalgia of going back there.

“If they can use us, we will certainly consider at least one of us coming next summer.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 02/13/24   

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