Tribute to Charles Shain by George Willauer
Professor of English Emeritus and Charles J. MacCurdy Professor Emeritus of American Studies
Former College Marshal
Charles Shain and I arrived here at the same time, in 1962, and we shared a number of affinities. Both of us were from Pennsylvania, both were students and teachers of American literature, both with a love of Maine. Although he didn't’t know it, Charlie was a mentor of mine, I learned much from him, and I treasure our friendship.
The task of saying something significant in four minutes is almost impossible. Faulkner could make one sentence last for four minutes! So for efficiency I turn to your imaginations. Favoring vision over sound, I ask you to hold up imaginary stereopticons and look at some pictures with me. At the end maybe a larger picture of our friend will emerge.
- Click. September, 1962, in Palmer Auditorium President Shain is introduced to the student body amid thunderous standing applause, and ecstatic shrieks in the upper registers.
- Click. Patient, calm, gentle, President Shain at faculty meetings on subjects ranging from coeducation to no grades following the 1970 student strike, despite total confusion about Robert’s Rules and whether the motion was a substitute motion or a new motion.
- Click. Charlie in whites playing tennis with Bill McCloy on Saturday afternoon.
- Click. As a guest instructor, our friend leading a spirited English class about the joys of reading Fitzgerald.
- Click. President Shain assuring proper curricular revision by presiding at endless Instruction Committee meetings on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings.
- Click. Dressed in tweed jacket, white shirt, paisley tie, gray slacks and loafers and with cheerful smile and easy conversation, Charlie walking through the halls of Fanning greeting faculty, students, and staff with equal pleasure.
- Click. Ever loyal to her husband and the college and with traces of her Boston heritage in every vowel sound, Jo Shain with Sophie walking across the campus.
- Click. On a Saturday afternoon in Lyme, Charlie showing a junior faculty member how to use a chain saw.
- Click. The Shains and their friends singing the opening lines of “The Canterbury Tales” to the tune of "April Showers."
- Click. The president negotiating with the town fathers to remove the reservoir behind Palmer in return for college payments in lieu of taxes.
- Click. At a large college reception and after high praise from a student’s mother for his leadership, Mr. Shain’s dismissal of the praise, remarking to friends that the praise was for his title as president, not for him.
So now you are thinking: color, what about color for these pictures? Yes. Blue. Blue is for the blue sky, the blue sky of Maine, and for optimism and the positive side of things. Red. Red is for passion for the life of the mind and higher education. Red is also for passion for people, all kinds of people. Green. Green is for the natural beauty of this campus Charlie loved so much. Orange. Orange is for Princeton. Yellow. Yellow is for the Chinese witch hazel blooming in March outside Charlie’s office, foreshadowing spring and the success of his vision and achievements which contributed so much to the college we love.
I hope these momentary pictures have elicited a large picture or montage, full of color, bringing to life the remarkable qualities of the friend and leader we remember so fondly today.