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Paul Lewis Hughes

Distinguished Alumnus December 2018

Paul Lewis Hughes started Polk State on a vocal scholarship. After trying out for a part in the College’s Theatre Program, he ended up performing six different roles in his first play. This led to an unexpected change in majors and a 43-year career as both a performer and director.

Upon graduating Polk State in 1976, Hughes continued his studies. During his junior year, he joined a Shakespearian repertory group, serving as both musical director and cast member. He graduated cum laude from St. Leo University’s Theatre Program and began working with Polk County Public Schools, also serving as Artistic Director with the Lakeland Pied Piper Players. He co-founded the Harrison School for the Arts Theatre Program and a theatre program at All Saints Academy, writing the curriculum, as well as acting and directing. In both 2001 and 2012, he and his students were selected to represent the U.S. at the American High School Theatre Festival at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. Many of his former students have performed lead roles on Broadway and within touring companies, and Hughes has lent his directorial and performance skills to productions in the Czech Republic, Italy, Japan, Scotland, and Sweden.

In addition to his work in education, Hughes has directed over 400 productions, developed workshops, and served as the Programming Director for Polk Theatre’s renowned Fine Arts Series. For a decade, he served as a grant panelist for the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

Hughes has received numerous recognitions, including Harrison School for the Arts Teacher of the Year, and a Disney Community Service Award. He has been inducted into the Polk County Public Schools Hall of Fame, and received a Distinguished Career Award in Secondary Theatre Education for the State of Florida by the Florida Theatre Conference. In 2013, Hughes was awarded The Ledger’s Golden Garland for his lifetime contributions to The Arts in Polk County. In 2016, Harrison School for the Arts inducted Hughes as a member of its Hall of Fame for the legacy built during his 16 years of service.

Sadly, Paul Hughes passed away in 2019.