The silence that crept upon Drake University last year has vanished thanks to the return of Harold Dudley.
The Des Moines native is known around campus for his jolly chuckle and public opera singing. While many students recognize his voice, not all know why Dudley was silenced last year.
Dudley joined the Iowa Army National Guard before coming to Drake. At the beginning of August 2010, Dudley was deployed to Afghanistan.
“You choose to give your life away,” Dudley said. “That’s a real choice.”
Dudley served for one year in Afghanistan before returning to Drake for this school year.
Brad Harris, a senior history major from Spring Hill, Iowa, noticed the disappearance of Dudley. He was happy to hear the return of Dudley’s voice at the beginning of the school year.
“At the return of this school year, I wasn’t fully aware that he would be back,” Harris, 22, said. “But the moment I heard his voice, which you can distinguish just about everywhere, I knew he was back. It was a happy moment for me because it was something that I had heard everyday during my freshman and sophomore years.”
Last year, a First-Year Seminar class called “Finding your Place at Drake” did a service project around Dudley. The students sent Dudley a care package to show him that his presence at Drake was missed, but that they supported what he was doing overseas.
Amanda Wagner, a 20-year-old sophomore from Sussex, Wis., was in this FYS class. The actuarial science major recalled how well known Dudley was on campus.
“Over 100 personal notes to Harold written by staff and students were included in the care package,” Wagner said. “It became aware to me that even though many people may not know Harold personally, his personality and jolly singing around campus is recognized by almost all Drake students. It brightens people’s days.”
Dudley said his public singing is not just specialized to Drake. He publicly sang while he was in Afghanistan and even sang the national anthem to President Obama during his time there.
The 24-year-old fifth-year vocal performance major said that his mom and sister inspire his public singing. He said that they would sing wherever they went to get through hard times and bring themselves happiness. Yet, Dudley never realized the impact his singing had on others. Recently, while eating ice cream at a Coldstone Creamery, Dudley caught recognition of the impact of his singing.
“I sang opera to the girl I was with, and one of the Coldstone girls behind he counter started crying. I had no idea how much it would affect her,” Dudley said.
Dudley’s voice can also be heard in the Drake Community Choir. The choir is compromised of students, alumni and community members.
Becca Lewis, who hails from Andover, Minn., joined choir for the joy of making beautiful music. The pre-pharmacy sophomore said that Dudley stands out in the choir because of the effect he has on others.
“His laugh carries and it makes everyone smile,” Lewis, 19, said. “It’s rare to see him without a smile on his face, showing how much he enjoys what he does. I can’t imagine how his singing could not brighten anyone’s day.”
There is a Facebook group dedicated to Dudley’s voice. The group is titled “Everything was going wrong. Then I heard Harold sing.” Over 350 people have “liked” the group.
Whether he is serving overseas, singing in the choir or just bringing a smile to someone’s face, Dudley said that he always does what he believes is right.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as holding the door, sometimes it’s as simple as walking with somebody to talk with them and see how they’re doing, sometimes it’s taking somebody by the hand and dancing with them in the street,” Dudley said. “It’s the small things.”
Dudley’s close friend Kristen Hemmings said that Dudley brings “pure joy and comfort” to the people on Drake’s campus. The senior public relations major said that she tries to follow Dudley’s example.
“I try to follow Harold’s examples by leading my life more like his,” Hemmings said. “He lives in the moment and takes time to listen to and understand people.”
Wagner said she thinks Dudley’s actions should be recognized.
“Harold deserves recognition for his honor, courage, service and commitment,” Wagner said. “Harold is the kind of person that isn’t acting for his own accord, but for the sake that it is what he knows is right.”
Dudley said he would continue to sing wherever he goes, even though sometimes he develops a fear because he knows his public singing can make some people uncomfortable.
“It is when we feel fear that we have to push past it,” Dudley said.
Dudley added that every once in a while he does get a “thank you” for his singing, and he said that it is much appreciated.