Amherst Magazine

Charles Hathaway Trout

Charles Hathaway Trout

My father, Charles Hathaway Trout ’57, died September 27, 2006, from a rare form of blood cancer (myelodysplasia).  He was 70 years old and had been living a vigorous life, in apparently excellent health, until just a few weeks before his death.

A fine athlete and gifted student, he came to Amherst College in 1953 from Vernon Verona Sherrill Central High School just outside of Oneida, NY.

He arrived at the College with the intention of studying law, but his interests soon turned to the humanities.  He majored in English and graduated with honors in 1957, was captain of the golf team, and was active in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity.  Friends remember him as an energetic and popular colleague.

As with many of his classmates, the “new curriculum” came as a shock.  A brilliant student in English, he was nonetheless required to deal with Professor Arons and Physics I.  This never-to-be-forgotten experience certainly shaped his choice of future study, but it also helped give him many of the tools that served him so well professionally.

In his senior year at Amherst, he received one of the first post-graduate appointments as “Green Dean” in the admissions office under the influential “Bill” Wilson, which led directly to his involvement in the field of education.  He went on to receive his MA and PhD in history from Columbia University, and then to a distinguished academic career as a professor, author, and senior administrator.  He taught at the Hill School and Exeter Academy, chaired the history department at Mount Holyoke College, was provost and dean of faculty at Colgate University, president of Washington College, and finally, president of Harcum College.  In each institution, he was a champion, a founder, and the author and executor of ambitious academic, athletic, and administrative plans.  He fostered curricular relevance, racial diversity, and local and regional connectedness.  He was a social advocate and a gifted teacher.  He worked with great enthusiasm and intensity to the end of his life.

Throughout his career, he supported numerous organizations, institutions, foundations, and local groups, and was expert at conceptualizing, organizing, and executing fundraising campaigns.  Of particular interest was his work in Africa, when in his mid-60s he and his wife lived for twelve months in rural Kenya, and with the help of the regional community, managed to raise the funds from the US to build a library and additional classrooms at the boarding school where they both were teaching.  The hundreds of letters and other materials, written mostly at night by the light of a kerosene lamp, also include a draft of an unfinished book recounting his experiences.  At the time of his death, he was completing his term as chairman of the Board at World Education in Boston.

My father exuded a unique vitality, with intelligence and a sense of activism.  He was engaging, funny, and optimistic.  He threw his heart into everything he did, and had the ability to immerse himself totally in any task or activity that presented itself, whether he was running our local youth hockey association or raising money for the Schooner Sultana Floating Museum.  He was an ambitious and unflagging chef, an assiduous gardener, a passionate sports fan, an avid reader, and a fabulous golfer.  He engaged in the world at every level, but especially in the way he connected with people.  He was demanding both of himself and others, very opinionated, and delighted in lively debate and discussion.  His was a life lived largely in great enjoyment and satisfaction.

He is survived by his wife, Katherine, sons Benjamin and myself, stepdaughter Kady, cousin Ann, and five grandchildren, along with countless former students, colleagues, and friends from all over the world who grieve his passing and will remember his legacy.

—Nicholas H. Trout


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