January 20, 2022
Dear Members of the Connecticut College Community,
It is with sadness that I write to inform you that Charles Barton Luce Sr., professor emeritus of physical education at Connecticut College, passed away at his home on January 5th. It was one day after his 93rd birthday.
Charles—or Charlie, as everyone called him—was a treasure. An accomplished coach and administrator, he led men’s basketball and served as director of athletics at the College for 18 critical years between 1974-92. During this time he not only elevated athletics but he also, quite literally, built the foundation on which our program rests today.
Born in 1929 in Peoria, Ill., Charlie attended Boston University, where he majored in physical education and played Division I basketball. After graduating, he coached high school in New York and Connecticut, including eight years at Greenwich High, before returning to BU in 1967 to become head men’s basketball coach and later assistant director of athletics.
In 1974, he came to Conn to direct physical education, coach basketball, and, most importantly, develop a new varsity athletics program. It was just five years after the College had embraced co-education, and there was much to do. And so he set out to create a whole new set of competitive athletic offerings for both women and men. He more than doubled the number of sports, adding men’s ice hockey, men’s lacrosse, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s crew, and ultimately redefined the meaning of athletic engagement, with as many as 75 percent of the student body participating at one point in varsity, club, and intramural sports. Through his persistence and zeal, he created a modern department of athletics aligned with the College’s mission.
The growing program required new facilities and Charlie was, once again, instrumental in shaping the vision. He helped oversee the planning and construction of Dayton Arena in 1979, Dawley Field in 1986, and what would later become the Lyn and David Silfen Track and Field in 1996. On his retirement in 1992, the main department building was renamed The Charles B. Luce Field House in his honor.
Beyond these notable—and visible—achievements, perhaps the greatest legacy he left was his orchestration of Connecticut College’s entry into the New England Small College Athletics Conference (NESCAC). This was in 1982. Under then-President Oakes Ames, Luce took the steps that allowed the College to join what would soon be known as the most elite Division III conference in the country. We are thrilled that Charlie lived to see the day that his beloved Camels not only prevailed in the NESCAC but also won national recognition with their first ever NCAA championship.
Luce stepped down as athletic director in 1992 but remained with the College as an advancement officer for two more years. In 1996, he was inducted into the Connecticut College Athletic Hall of Fame, and, in 2000, received the College Medal in recognition of two decades of transformative leadership.
With his institutional vision and deep compassion, Charles Luce left his mark on generations of Connecticut College students. It is fitting, then, that he would also create the College’s very first award for a scholar-athlete, the Brown-Brooks Award, named after its first recipients, James Brooks ’84 and Tammy Brown ’84. The award recognizes those students who reflect the highest ideals of citizenship and success on the field and beyond—values that were central to Luce’s own character. In Tammy’s words, “Charlie had such a gentle and caring spirit and a way of bringing out the best in you. You left his presence feeling uplifted. He will always be a part of my wonderful Conn College memories.”
Debo P. Adegbile ’91, chair of the Board of Trustees, said of Luce: “He was not only an architect of the athletics program at our College, but also an embodiment of the way in which we value, in equal measure, dedication and excellence in competition and character and personal growth. Charlie knew that our athletics program was a training ground for personal and professional success in life, and, at Conn College, he experienced both.”
A memorial gathering is being planned for Sunday, June 5, during Reunion Weekend, to allow alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends the opportunity to celebrate Charlie’s life. Information about that event will be shared as soon as it is available. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts in his memory be made to the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society or to Connecticut College, directed toward student financial aid.
The patriarch of a true multi-generational Camel family, Charles was predeceased by his first wife, Gay Devine Luce, mother of his four sons: Chuck P’97; Mike; Tim ’79, P’11; and Bill ’81 P ’14. I ask you to join me in extending our deepest condolences to his sons; his wife, Margery; his sister Claire; his stepson Bill and stepdaughter Heather; his 12 grandchildren, including fellow Camels Emily ’97, Erin ’11, and Nick ’14; and his three great-grandchildren.