Charles Shain, Former President Of Conn, Dies
Also A Day Trustee, He Led Both Organizations Through Big Changes
Reprinted with permission from The Day Publishing Company
By Gladys Alcedo, Day Staff Writer
Published April 14, 2003
Charles E. Shain, president emeritus of Connecticut College and a former director and trustee of The Day Publishing Co., died Sunday in Maine of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 87.
His friends in southeastern Connecticut were taken aback by Shain's death even though many knew of his failing health.
“It disturbed us greatly because we thought the world of him,” said Deane C. Avery, former co-publisher of The Day.
“He never seemed old enough to be dying,” added Alice Johnson, former dean of freshman and dean of the college at Conn. She last saw Shain last year when she visited him in Brunswick, Maine, where he had lived with his wife of 19 years, Samuella Etnier.
Shain, the namesake of Conn's library, served as president of the college from 1962 to 1974. He served as a trustee of The Day from 1969 to 1990.
Many credited Shain for leading Conn through a smooth transition from a woman's college to a coeducational institution in 1969 and for establishing one of the first Chinese departments and Asian programs at a liberal arts college in the 1960s.
“He was the right leader at the right time,” said Mario Doro, the Lucy Marsh Haskell professor emeritus of government. “He was really responsible for moving the college to coeducation. I think he was very successful at it. He was mindful of the feelings of the older faculty who were committed to the woman's college but managed to present this transition in a way that was acceptable.”
At The Day, the directors at the time credited him for helping “to guide the newspaper during periods of great change in the same steady, reassuring way he directed Connecticut College.” Shain fought in court to preserve The Day Trust and provided support and guidance as the newspaper launched a Sunday edition, bought a new press and converted to morning publication, according to the board at the time Shain stepped down as trustee.
“He helped steer us right,” Avery said.
Shain was born June 3, 1915, in Tamaqua, Pa., to Charles and Emma Fey Shain. He graduated from Princeton University in 1936, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
A Mahey Fellowship from Princeton enabled him to study for a year at King's College in Cambridge, England. He also earned graduate degrees in American literature at Princeton, where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and Scribner Fellow.
He taught at Princeton; the Los Alamos Ranch School in New Mexico, where the first atomic bomb was later created; Milton Academy in Milton, Mass.; and Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. He received honorary degrees from Princeton, Wesleyan University and Emerson College.
He was the author of several scholarly publications in the field of American literature. His biographical and critical examination of F. Scott Fitzgerald, published by the University of Minnesota in 1961, has been translated into many languages and is still in print. He co-edited with his wife two Maine anthologies, The Maine Reader and Growing Up in Maine, both published in 1991.
He served in World War II as a combat intelligence officer, attaining the rank of major in the Army Air Force. He was stationed in Guam and received the Asiatic Pacific Service medal, the World War II Victory medal and a Bronze Star.
At Conn, Shain was popular and respected among faculty and students, colleagues said. His full-time administrative duties didn't stop him from occasionally visiting classrooms to teach American literature.
“He built a sense of community at the college and he was very much a people person,” said Jane Bredeson, secretary of the college emeritus. “He enjoyed knowing everyone on campus and really helped us support one another from office to office.
“He was courageous,” Bredeson said. “The students during the Vietnam War wanted to strike. He not only went to Washington with them, he also helped them with the teach-in."
Ernest C. Schlesinger, a retired professor, remembered that Shain made it possible for him to take time off from the school at the last minute so he could become a visiting professor in Ireland under the Fulbright program.
"He was always helpful with everybody," said Johnson, the former dean. “He enjoyed being president and he had a great sense of humor and that was a big help because he could get people laughing so they wouldn't start crying or be mad."
Charles Chu, an artist and founder of the Chinese department at the college, said his career at the institution was “in honor of” Shain.
After his tenure, Shain worked with the Cooperative Education Program at Northeastern University in Boston. He moved to Georgetown, Maine, in 1976, where he stayed active in the community, serving on the school committee and chairing the local Democratic Party.
Shain was predeceased by his parents, his three siblings and his first wife, the former Josephine Hooker. Aside from his second wife, he is survived by his three nephews, a stepdaughter, two stepsons, six step-grandchildren and five step-great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Robinhood Free Meeting House in Georgetown, Maine.
Memorial donations may be made to the Charles Shain Library at Conn or to another charity of the donor's choice.