From The Olio
CHARLES CHASINS GORDON
5704 Cross Country Blvd.,Baltimore, Maryland
Prepared at Park School
Blood Drive, Harlan Fiske Stone Law Society
Managerial Association, WAMF
Charles Chasins (Charlie) Gordon '62 died September 27, 2004.
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From Our Reunion Book
Charles Gordon was born July 27, 1940 in New York City. His mother died when he was 2 years old, and after World War II his father and he moved to Denver. In 1948 our father remarried and in 1949 I, his little sister, was born. We moved to Baltimore in 1951.
Charlie always loved sports, especially basketball, and was also an avid reader. He had a photographic memory and inhaled information rapidly. He attended Park School, a small private school in Baltimore, graduating in 1958. Editor of the school yearbook, and a member of the basketball team, he had a warm group of friends and attended many reunions over the years, renewing those more innocent times.
Along came Amherst… a hard transition from a small, protected environment, but then that is what the college experience is about… transitions.
Charlie majored in American Studies. After his graduation he began graduate school in sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In 1967, without his Ph.D., he was hired by Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario.
Carleton University was patient with him: he taught, he lectured, attended conferences and advised students. Then one day they lost patience with him because he had not yet completed his Ph.D. His intellectual curiosity had taken him well beyond his original Ph.D. studies, but he dutifully completed his degree, and upon completion, said to our parents, “Your son, the doctor.” (Our father was a physician)
Charlie spent 37 years as a professor at Carleton University and was as unique as a professor as he was unique as an individual. He did not publish frequently. He did not color within the lines. He was, however, promoted to chair of the Sociology/Anthropology Department. He used to describe himself as an overstuffed chair.
My big brother thrived on thinking and acting out of the box. He loved mentoring others. His capacity to actively engage students and colleagues and the administration in discussion and lead them in directions that had not been thought about was classic Charlie. He did not believe in rules or boundaries or a structured approach. As far as he was concerned, these things held him back and were best ignored.
Charlie was the Associate Director of Interdisciplinary Studies. He taught in the Department of Architecture. He combined academic disciplines the way people blend families: not always with smooth transitions, but with the right values at the core.
Charlie’s intellectual zeal and quest for knowledge drove him professionally and personally. He loved doing crossword puzzles and playing Scrabble. When he came to visit we would always go to bookstores, leaving with stacks of books. One of his favorites was The Hungry Mind, which very much described Charlie!
His friends and colleagues were amused by him. He made puns and loved the absurd. He traveled and spent sabbaticals in London and Palo Alto. He delivered papers at conferences and enjoyed networking with his colleagues. He was a cook, a lover of restaurants, single malt scotch, and a collector of pipes. He had eclectic tastes in music.
Basketball and Charlie were one. He was a huge, in-your-face fan of the Carleton University Ravens and had tickets for both the men’s and women’s teams. (note from Charlie’s colleague at Carleton: His season’s ticket seat was Section C, Row G, seat 1 – his initials and his status as Carleton’s #1 fan). He watched so much college and professional basketball on television that he said he should have plumbing installed on his recliner chair.
Charlie’s demeanor was quiet and thoughtful. Basketball games and politics were the only things that got him outwardly riled. The politics of the university’s administrative professional meetings taxed him more than some because this required him to rein in his out-of-the-box way of operating.
When my son was 2, Charlie came to visit. I asked Josh: Would you like to call him Uncle Charlie or Charlie. Looking up at Charlie from his perspective on the floor, he said, “Charlie Straight-Up.” This became his name to his adored nephew.
Charlie was married in 1965 and divorced five years later. He did not remarry and had no children.
In 1989, at the age of 49, Charlie developed kidney cancer. He lived for another fifteen years after surgery and additional treatments, or as he put it, his annual lube and oil change. Charles Chasins Gordon died on September 27, 2004 at the age of 64.
Now you know why his little sister has written this bio. My mom and I spent 5 weeks with him in Ottawa when he was in hospice. During those 5 weeks I learned more about this wonderful, unique man than I had ever known. In that time in hospice he came to understand what his friends and colleagues had always known: that he made a huge difference in the lives of thousands of people. Many of them visited him, sometimes bringing presents, but more importantly their presence. Carleton University honored him with an annual lecture in his name and placed a brass plaque on set CG1 in the Ravens’ arena.
My big brother was a humble, gracious, kindhearted, gentle man who lived his life on his own terms. Our family and his wonderful friends and colleagues deeply miss him.
----- Debby Gordon Evans
A Brother Sister Team