Alumni Remember Charles Chu
Sketching with an Imaginary Brush
— Lois Webster Ricklin ’44 and Saul Ricklin
We had the good fortune to have Charles Chu as a friend and to have traveled to China with him on his first return there in 1980 and again in 1988. We have fond memories of being on a Yangtze River cruise with him and watching him sketch the mountain scenery with an imaginary brush in his hand, to be put to paper later from his memory. And trying to see who could put away more mao tais in order to keep warm in a freezing Chinese restaurant. And of course the great Chinese meals he cooked for us on his frequent visits to our home in Bristol, R.I. He is unforgettable!
We wrote this for the surprise 80th birthday party for Charles, Oct. 4, 1998, and we read it to him and the group in the Palmer Room in Shain Library.
In China we did celebrate
Your birthday in eighty-eight
That was three score and ten
Perhaps it seemed a lot then
But now you are eighty years young
So here’s to “Chu Chi-jung”
“Continuing Glory” is your name
You have lived up to it with much fame
But you have another seal
That shows your classic ideal
“Ch’ing-feng shan-chuang” poetic name
From “Pure-breeze Mountain Villa” it came
Then there is the stone seal “Hsin-lun Chiu-k’o”
For the “Old Sojourner” we are so happy to know!
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A Delightful House Guest
— Sue Weinberg Mindlin ’53
My husband and I had the privilege of hosting Charles Chu when he was in Kansas City to attend a Chinese symposium at our Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Charles was a delightful houseguest. He decided to go running with my husband, and as he had no running clothes he borrowed clothing and a pair of my husband’s extra running shoes!
Before Charles left us, as a thank you he bought paint and paper to paint us a wonderful picture, complete with colophon, which we immediately had framed and hung in our front hall, where it still hangs. We treasure both the painting and Charles’ friendship, thoughtfulness and enthusiasm.
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‘His Students Can Be Found in All Corners of the Earth’
— Luther Deese, USAFSS 1958-1966
Prior to his moving to Connecticut College, Professor Charles Chu was one of our most respected and beloved professors in the Yale University Institute of Far Eastern Languages. During the 1950s and early 1960s he taught over 2,000 U.S. Air Force students courses in basic, intermediate and advanced Chinese. Our lives and careers were deeply influenced by Professor Chu. He not only taught us his native language, he instilled in us a great appreciation for Chinese history, literature and culture. He could never know the contributions he made to the national security of the United States through instructing so many of us but, suffice it to say, they were substantial. The Chinese have a saying about a great and influential teacher, “?????” or “Tao Li Man Tian Xia,” which means, “his students can be found in all corners of the Earth.” And this is certainly true of Professor Chu. We, the former cadre of United States Air Force Security Service Chinese linguists, will continue to honor and cherish his memory.
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Appreciating Charles’ Work
— Scott Williamson ’81
Even though I never took direct advantage of what the Chinese department had to offer while at Connecticut College, I always appreciated Charles’ work, demeanor and the people he attracted to the College. Maybe this is a good time to bring back the campus map he created back in the mid to late ’80s. I searched the College bookshop and did not see it.
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‘No Room for Timidity’
— Marjorie Morse Bell ’82
In the fall of 1980, as a junior at Connecticut College, I had the good fortune of literally stumbling upon Professor Chu’s Chinese Painting and Calligraphy class. The small group of us met in a room in Crozier-Williams one night each week for hands-on practice of the ancient art.
What struck me most about the class, other than realizing that I had a lot to learn about the correct way to hold a brush, was Professor Chu’s inexhaustible enthusiasm and seemingly boundless energy with which he conveyed the principles necessary for artistic success. He motivated and encouraged us all, each in our own limited abilities, to strive for fluidity of line through daring and unhesitating brushstrokes. The more quickly we worked, the better the outcome: There was no room for timidity in Professor Chu’s studio!
Of course, we all marveled at the professor’s own unique talent, and coveted the “prize” he would make of his examples to a lucky recipient each class. I have treasured mine over the years, and feel blessed and honored to have corresponded with Professor Chu just a few months before his passing in order to tell him how many times I have thought back on those days, so many years ago now, with immense fondness and gratitude for his uncanny ability to inspire his students to listen to the artistic voice within us all.
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For Charles, a Student Was a Friend for Life
—Pam Brooks Perraud ’70, Trustee 1970-1972
I was a student of Charles Chu for three years, but I like to think I was a friend of his for the last 30 years. For me, Charles represented what the ideal professor should be — expert in the field, dedicated to the College, and able to bring out the best in his students.
Charles was an inspiration to me as well as other students, not only in the classroom but outside the classroom. He encouraged me not only to learn Chinese but to pursue other interests, particularly an interest in politics, which he also shared. When I was elected a young alumni trustee he immediately offered his home as a place to stay during meetings. Along with his charming wife, Bettie, he always opened his home for colleagues and friends to meet. He also opened his home to my parents and even greeted my first-born with a special Chinese song and dance years after I had graduated. For Charles, a student was a friend for life.
With Charles, students learned not only Chinese verbs but also Chinese culture, cooking and calligraphy, which were all taught with great expertise and even greater enthusiasm.
He was warm, funny, gregarious, challenging and yes, to use a cliché, sometimes quite inscrutable both in and out of the classroom. An artist, a character, a comic but always the genuine product. He treated each student as someone special, when in reality it was he who was the true one-of-a-kind.
Irreplaceable, he will be sorely missed by all of those who had the privilege of meeting him and missed even more by those who had the honor of being taught and befriended by him.
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A Visit in a Dream
— Susan Lasovick ’68
I was in Charles Chu’s first class at Connecticut College, and have two artworks I loaned to the memorial exhibition, one acquired as a student, and the other 25-30 years later. Around the same time as the acquisition of the second piece, I presented Chu with a graphite portrait I did of him, which hung in the dining room of their previous home. This portrait expresses succinctly everything I have to say about Chu. The artwork acquired as a student is calligraphy, and depicts the story of a mountain princess, as I recall. The second depicts a bird in autumn.
Chu would invite his Chinese students to his home, stir-fry succulent dishes, make fried and steamed dumplings by hand, and then begin to paint and draw. He also taught us Chinese songs. He was somewhat of a stern taskmaster as a professor, but I reveled in those extra-early 8 a.m. classes, in the challenge, the demands and the thrill of learning Chinese. After two weeks of attending both Chinese and Russian, I opted for Chinese, and graduated with a double major in French and Chinese. The sounds of the language, as well as the intensity and power of Chu, drew me in. Whether in person or on the phone, Chu never ceased to correct a pronunciation or point of grammar, even 40 years after he was no longer my Chinese professor. Officially, he retained that role, I think, with all his students. I think I began to fear his leaving several years ago. I left him a voicemail message, and he tried to return the call, but could not reach me. He then left me a voicemail, “Ni mei gei wo hui dian hua,” “You haven’t called me back,” in a poignant voice that continues to resonate. I could not call him back, although I thought of him frequently, and it is impossible to verbalize why.
After graduate school, I entered the private sector in international marketing, and currently work for Bloomberg LP after many years of international travel in Europe and Asia, as well as living in France. Twelve years ago I adopted a 3½-year-old girl from Hubei Province, and for two years after her arrival in the U.S. she only spoke Chinese to me, despite rapidly becoming fluent in English. My sister reflected, “Susan, we always wondered why you picked Chinese [in 1965], and now we know.” My daughter met Charles and Bettie, and, of course, loves them, and was absolutely mesmerized by Charles, particularly as he worked in his studio. She is now a sophomore at LaGuardia High School, and is an art major. Charles started working on a painting for her, but we did not return in time. We were unable to visit Charles and Bettie before he died, but will attend the memorial.
About two weeks ago, I had a dream about Charles. My daughter and I arrived in New London, having learned that he had died, and we were distraught. However, just as we started to mourn him, he came into the house, smiling and chatting away in Chinese and French, accusing me of showing off in languages, but showing his own superiority by speaking in several himself. We were all so delighted that he had returned, and were sure a mistake had been made. Although he was a bit tired and weak, he was absolutely alive and well. I believe firmly that Charles visited me that night, from where he is now, and that he is fine.
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Learning More than Chinese
— Rob Ingram ’83
The beauty of Charles Chu was his incredible enthusiasm, coupled with the fact that we sometimes could not understand his accent in English or in Chinese! To learn a language one must be willing to take risks, and can’t worry about occasionally looking foolish. If your accent was wrong, or you said something that just didn’t translate right, it was impossible to feel embarrassed in front of such a loving, forgiving, sometimes silly man whose own accents were not exactly perfect. He created a fun, safe environment in which his students could take risks. As long as you tried your absolute hardest (and were not late to class) he was happy to teach you. We learned much more than the Chinese language from Charles Chu and Henry Kuo. We learned Chinese culture, and we learned how to challenge ourselves and how to become adults. I am forever grateful to both Charles Chu and Henry Kuo.
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A Unique Chu Painting: ET
— Ben Robinson ’82
I have six Charles Chu paintings. One of them is very rare, which Charles asked me to show at the initial fundraiser for the Chu Asian Art Reading Room. It is of ET, The Extraterrestrial. Others said that to draw a pop icon was to “dishonor” his brush, and the painting did not sell at the Yale Art Gallery. I bought it with glee in 1987 to give to my cancer-ridden mother coming home from the hospital on Mother’s Day that year. It greatly aided her recovery. This single painting has now been shown over 20 times and I am glad to hold on to it as memory of my dear friend whom I spoke to almost every month since 1978. I have more than 75 letters from my friend, replete with little drawings of how he was feeling, or just a doodle. He was a large figure in my education and life and I am so honored to have known him and his wonderful family.
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Learning to Stir-Fry … And More
— Ellen Leader Pike ’68
I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of my dear friend and former professor, Charles Chu. Charles gave so much of himself to his students and to the College that he was a truly unique “institution.”
I was in Charles’ first class in the fall of 1965. There were 10 of us then in a basement room in Winthrop House and by the time we graduated in 1968 there were only three of that first class still studying Chinese! I was the only one of that first group to go on to graduate school (in East Asian studies) and later spent 29 years in independent school history teaching. Many times I told Charles what a role model he was in my own teaching, most recently on May 31 when I had a wonderful visit with Charles and Bettie when I was back in New London for my 40th Reunion. We all had tears in our eyes as we parted, and it was obvious then that this would likely be our last visit.
As you no doubt know Charles was an extraordinary teacher. His elfin antics always enlivened our classes and almost anything could become a “teachable moment.” I have so many memories of sitting up in Charles’ office on the fourth floor of Fanning working out arcane bits of translation while cracking open peanuts! But Chinese language teaching was not Charles’ only teaching skill. I came to marriage with no domestic skills save one. Three years of classes with Charles meant many dinners at the Chu home. First observing and later cooking with Charles I picked up a lot of Chinese recipes and a pretty competent stir-fry technique, which was still pretty novel in the late 1960s!
One of my most memorable teaching moments was when I took my class of Asian history students to nearby Lebanon Valley College back in the mid-1990s to see an exhibit of paintings from the Chu-Griffis Collection, which included some of Charles’ own work. What a thrill it was for me to “introduce” my professor to my students through his art.
I am very fortunate to have both tangible and intangible mementos of Charles. Paintings of his grace my home. He closely followed my career and the lives of my husband and children. He was a dear, dear friend whom I will miss more than you can imagine.
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Opening the World
— B. Jesse Monfort Bopp ’70
Professor Chu meant the world to me. He literally opened the world to me.
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An Enormous Presence
— Pat O’Brien Longabaugh ’72
I am also saddened by the loss of Professor Chu, whom I remember fondly and always thought an enormous presence at the College.
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A Great Teacher and Friend
— Wilma Cohen Probst ’66
I was at Connecticut College when Dr. Chu first came, and we became good friends. For quite some time, I kept in touch with Dr. Chu. My best wishes go out to the College. They have lost a great teacher and friend.
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‘I am Enormously Saddened’
— Joan Carris ’60
I am enormously saddened by the news that Charles Chu has died. I loved him tremendously and had the honor of being a guest at his home. Also, I am the enormously fortunate owner of one of his signed paintings.
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‘What a Legacy!’
— Tina Gould Reardon ’79
What a loss and so sad to see the end of an era — an era that was so important in my personal and professional development. I had just seen Charles and spoken to him briefly at Henry Kuo’s memorial service. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Michael and I organized the surprise party for Charles’ 80th birthday. I remember we raised (with the College’s help) a lot of money — maybe $26,000 — in just a few weeks and, of course, he had it spent on works for the Chu-Griifis collection in about five minutes! What a legacy!
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— Sue Askin Wolman ’51
I am so sorry to hear of Professor Chu’s passing. What a special person he was. Although he didn’t start teaching until after I graduated, I had the pleasure of knowing him through the local Connecticut College club when he came to Baltimore and seeing him on campus at Reunions. He was a true icon.
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Bringing Down the House
— Karen B. Knowlton ’70
One of my big regrets in life is not taking Professor Chu’s Chinese classes. And one of my fondest memories is of his appearance in the February 1968 faculty show as a geisha girl (singing and all). It took several minutes before anyone in the student audience recognized who it was — she shouted out “It’s Mr. Chu!” and he brought down the house.
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A Gracious Landlord
— Nancy Hershatter ’76
Charles Chu was my landlord senior year and a more gracious and gentle soul would be hard to find.
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Lunch at the Chinese Table at Knowlton
— Martin Lopez ’97
I did not have the opportunity to take a formal class under Professor Chu. However, every encounter with him as a student at Connecticut College and in the years since graduation proved to be even more precious and memorable than any singular class. A genuine friendship developed over lunches at the Chinese table of Knowlton and heartfelt chats over tea and cookies in the Chu-Griffis house and his own abodes. I always looked forward to returning to New London from the Philippines where I live so as to visit Connecticut College and the Chus. No visit was ever complete without catching up with Charles and Bettie. Charles made sure I never left without learning new phrases in Mandarin in my mind, a lighter disposition than when I arrived, and a handmade gift from him — either calligraphy or a painting. I will miss him deeply and will always carry with me such beautiful memories and teachings. His mentorship and friendship have made me a far better person for which I will always be grateful.
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‘He Was There for Us at Every Step’ – Right Up to the End of His Life
— Frances H. Fremont-Smith ’79
I am writing from China where I have lived since graduating early from Connecticut College in 1978 (class of ’79).
On a cold snowy day in winter of 1974 I met Charles as he spritely ran up the steps of my school (The Brimmer and May School in Chestnut Hill, Mass.) to greet his friend Mr. St. James, the headmaster of our school. Mr. St. James knew of my passion for languages and my interest in both Chinese language and Connecticut College, so he arranged that I meet Charles during his visit. One meeting with Charles set my future path in stone! I knew I must study with him and set my goals on being accepted to Connecticut College the following year.
Once at Connecticut College, struggling to climb the four flights of stairs to Chinese class every morning, Charles would encourage the extra exercise by insisting it would come in handy in China. How many times to I remember his words as I hike the many stories to meetings, classes or visitations over the years in China. The excitement, determinations, patience matched with occasional use of guilt to keep us all motivated to learn, was an absolute inspiration to me. This was the beginning of my future.
I can imagine, as if Charles were sitting opposite me right now, the look on his face as he lowered his glasses to the end of his nose and looked with soulful eyes into mine and said, “Frances, I have been up all night worrying about you!” He was there for us at every step of our learning process, before and after graduation and right up to the end of his life.
The wonderful balance between the excited exuberance of Charles and the traditional, more tacit Henry Kuo was a wonderful combination that helped mold my understanding and appreciation of China, its language, culture and all the nuances in between. I had to learn more about the country where both my professors came from. I knew my future lay in China.
Taking what turned out to be my last semester of Connecticut College on the Yale-China program in Hong Kong in the fall of 1978, I had the fortunate opportunity to travel into mainland China just prior and during the announcement of renewed diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China. No sooner had I crossed the boarder in Lo Wu than I realized that I had finally come home! And as fate should have it two weeks later I was hired to be the first American Foreign Expert to teach in northeast China. Charles and Henry were the spirits who drove me forward.
Thirty years have passed and I still live in China. I became close friends in the early days with Professor Kuo’s parents and family, and kept in touch with Charles and Bettie as often as possible right up to the end of Charles’ life. Would that I could have been nearer this last year. My last phone call with Charles was very emotional as he knew his life was nearing the end. “Frances, I miss you! I am so proud of you! I love you!" were his last words to me. Well back at you, Charles! The love and appreciation I carry for the man who entered my life at the age of 16 and transformed it, molded it and guided it all these years will always be at the forefront of my heart.
There are many of us from the classes of ’77, ’78 and ’79 who continue to correspond with each other through our connection to our beloved Professor Charles and his wife Bettie! Though Charles may no longer be here with us, the impact his life has had on so many and the legacy he has left behind is reassuring knowledge that Charles will live on for many generations to come. — From his loving student, Frances H. Fremont-Smith ’79, more commonly known in China as Fan Wanzhen or Fan Laoshi (“teacher fan,” my Chinese name for which I am known here in China was given to me by Professor Kuo in 1975).
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Charles and Bettie: Nurturing Me, and Then My Family
— Linda (Bordonaro) Dwyer ’76
How to sum up memories of Charles and Bettie Chu? They were both intellectual parents to me: warm and encouraging, full of practical advice, and always ready to express delight at an accomplishment. Charles was also a taskmaster who demanded a great deal from his students and made learning so enjoyable that we could not let him down by performing at less than our best. My earliest freshman impressions of Charles were of a man bursting with energy and enthusiasm for us as students, for the Chinese language, and for the art of teaching. Each class that year was tinged with terror and fun: fear that I'd utterly embarrass myself in an effort to respond to one of Charles's impromptu questions, and fun in the adventure of exploring this language with such an improvisational master of teaching. I've borrowed every one of his teaching tools in the years since.
The door was always open at that big yellow house across from campus. Charles and Bettie fed me, and then my family, for decades. His weekly teas for majors were an institution. They not only provided students with an opportunity to simply speak in the language, they were also opportunities to bond, to learn more about the culture and to relax. On one memorable occasion, Helen Foster Snow spoke to us of her experiences in China. On another, we learned from a factory worker who had left China of the absurdity, waste and terror of the Cultural Revolution.
After students graduated, Charles stayed in touch with every one of his majors. He kept us informed about each other and put us in contact if we moved into an area where a Chinese alum resided.
There are so many memories. One of my fondest is the night my husband Jim and I stayed with the Chus, only days after our wedding. At that visit and every visit thereafter, Bettie told us how joyful Jim and I had appeared together when we decided to marry, that we had glowed with a sense of rightness, and belonging. As the years passed, it was tonic to revel in that memory with her. On another visit, my children fell in love with the Chus, with learning Chinese, and with painting. My daughter Maureen studied Chinese for a year in college after her visits with the Chus. They had that sort of effect on people. I left every visit with scraps of paper containing new phrases and chengyu, four word proverbs.
One of the most important lessons I have taken from Charles relates to life and its deepest value. As he endured the loss of his country and isolation from friends and family for so many years, I saw how he chose to center himself in joyful work. His playfulness and enthusiasm for life was one that was rooted in a humanism that confronted the horrors and disappointments in China's civil war and its later policies. With eyes wide open in the artist's minute observation of the world around him and armed with a generosity of spirit, he chose to create, to share, to give, to laugh, to celebrate us all. I believe that Bettie found a soul mate in those transcendent values. It is these values, more than the language and scholarly discipline he demanded from us with such lighthearted humor, that I am so grateful for. I shall miss Charles and Bettie. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have known them.
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Instructor, Comedian, Mentor, Friend
— Allison Lieber Prout '85
Charles Chu's influence on my lifepath/career is second only to my mother's(Linda Schlereth Lieber,CC class of '59). He was the reason I came to Connecticut College and the reason I stayed. He taught me intensive first year Chinese, facilitated my junior year abroad in Taiwan, and my graduate studies at Thunderbird School of International Management. He basked in my glory when I landed my "ideal job" with Avon China.
Charles was blessed with a very rare Chinese personality type, the comic. I compare him to Martin Yan of "Yan can Cook". Classes with him were full of laughter. One time he put a little box on the table full of candies that said "Chr Wo," or "eat me" on the top. He used to give us hilarious sentences to translate into Chinese.
He was a connoisseur of Chinese food and often invited students for cooking/eating lessons at his house on Williams Avenue. I remember learning to make jaudz or potstickers there. I met up with him and a group of alumni for dim sum in Hong Kong, while I was working for Avon China. Every year I received one of his signature Chinese note cards. He was a great correspondent as well as artist. To me, his art was special because you could see his personality in it.
My education in Chinese was the most challenging and rewarding endeavor of my life. It came alive for me my junior year abroad in Taiwan, when I committed to learning to "think Chinese". After graduation, I returned to Taiwan for three years to master the language. Following that, I went to Thunderbird to combine my language skills with some practical business management. My post-graduate education spanned five years and culminated with landing my "ideal job" with Avon China.
I lived in Guangzhou (Canton) from 1991-1995. I saw tremendous change in China that echoed the changes I saw earlier in Taiwan. I made friends with people from all over the world and was able to communicate with the Chinese in their own language. When I asked my colleagues at Avon what they thought about working alongside a foreigner, they replied "You are not like other foreigners."
Charles Chu put together an excellent Chinese department at Connecticut College. He was an inspiration and mentor to me and countless other students. He was instrumental in creating the ultimate experience in education and bringing it to life. He cared, he made a difference; it meant a lot to me.
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Always the Little Frog
— Holly Wise '76
Would that I can retain the energy and joie de vivre Charles always had! Just a few years, when Charles was about 86, my son and I were at Conn for a legacy weekend visit. I stayed with Charles and Bettie (as I had done often before), and Charles went with me to the boathouse one morning where my son was fitting in a rowing practice. He was so excited to see Ian as he finished "erg-ing" he insisted on jumping on himself and started rowing. My son and I were panicked that he was going to have a heart attack and eventually suggested that it might be good for him to stop. He jumped off, said he felt great, that he needed to "get back in shape" and told us of placing among the top in the Beijing marathon some 70 years earlier. So impressive.
Another of my favorite memories of Charles was the time he brought a tour group to China in the early 80's. I was at the American Embassy in Beijing, and came to understand that one of our local staff was Charles' long ago schoolmate. The two of them had a reunion for the first time and spent the evening reminiscing (and, apparently, drinking a bit). I got a call in the middle of the night from a very tipsy Professor Chu who had missed the last bus and had no way to get back to the hotel. My valiant husband trekked out in the early hours of the morning to pick up the two drunk school boys and return them safely back to their respective lodgings. Charles apparently giggled and carried on the whole way!
So many of us were blessed to have Charles as a professor and a friend. Seeing art through his eyes, appreciating simple things as most important, these are some of the gifts he gave me and many others. His description of happiness when he and Bettie first married --they were so poor their Friday night entertainment was making dumplings together and listening to the radio. This image has stayed with me as a powerful reminder of what matters and how to be content. What a life well lived. What a legacy.
Well done Charles!
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Homage to a Great Man
— Gary Goldsmith '75
I leave tomorrow to pay homage to a great man. Charles Chu was my teacher from 1974 - 1975. But he was far more to me.
Charles was my dear friend ever since that time. He was my artistic mentor who influenced me more than any other person.
For almost a quarter of century, I would make visits to his home. We would discuss many artistic topics, but when he reviewed my current photographs, he was so insightful and had a major influence in my photographic directions.
He made me lunch and then proceeded to paint a work right in front of me.
On my last visit, we spent an entire day together. While taking a walk on the campus, everyone knew him. He already had some of my photography, but that day I gave him a special work that had been selected to travel across the U.S.
I am indebted to Charles Chu in so many aspects of my life. I know I am not alone. He and his wife Bettie will live on with so many people. He truly touched our lives. His energy, intelligence and artistic genius will continue with his students and friends. I will deeply miss my teacher, mentor and friend.
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Exhilarating and lasting effect
— Dr. Michèle Lewis O’Donnell, Alum ‘77, psychologist living in France
Charles Chus’s “exhilarating and lasting effect” on the College extended far beyond those students and professors involved in courses related to Asian Studies and Mandarin Chinese. As a student in the mid-70’s studying other disciplines, I had the good fortune of connecting with Professor Chu and his family. His enthusiasm for life, passion for people, and love of art and literature was contagious.
I recall when Professor Chu brought a Chinese opera company to Palmer Auditorium he showed the audience, in his exuberant style, how to respond in a culturally appropriate fashion with the equivalent of “bravo” in Chinese. I have never forgotten that word or the greetings I learned in Mandarin and have found them useful connectors in my travels. The Chu family was all embracing like Charles and Bettie and the door was always open for students or alums passing by. The legacy of beauty, warmth, hospitality, and intellectual debate and discussion in the course of everyday living is a treasure from Professor Chu and his family which will continue to inspire the College community through the years. Professor Chu was a rare and gifted mentor who will be fondly remembered and profoundly missed.
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To Charles, my beloved professor
— Leslee Weiss’78
I think about my semi-private classes -- just you me and Nettie -- sipping tea and gabbing in Chinese (well, our broken Chinese; your beautiful Chinese). I think about how you taught us to sip the tea while straining the leaves through our teeth! I remember working on your English pronunciation -- especially the word "green"... it always sounded like "grain" and Nettie and I made you say it over and over and over. That was only fair, right? Because you had us repeating our vocabulary and sentences and characters over and over and over. I remember you'd talk to us and if you used a word that you suspected was new to us, you'd write the character on the palm of one hand with the forefinger of the other hand ... and then, with that impish grin on your face, you'd show us the palm of your hand as if we could see what you'd just written!
We learned so very much from you. Not just the Chinese language, but also about kindness and caring, loving and living, enjoying life and making the most of the moment. And you knew so much about me that I never told you; but you knew. You knew I was hurting inside and you gave me counsel that I didn't understand until years later. You always had confidence in me and my abilities -- far more than I had in myself! I was afraid I couldn't live up to your expectations, but, in fact, you knew what was hidden inside! I will always remember and appreciate. And then, when I took your calligraphy course, you told me I was “hopeless” but then I saw that you had framed an “ancient style” character I had written and hung it on your living room wall! I couldn’t have been that hopeless if it was good enough to frame. … You love to tease!
I remember in the mid-90s my sister, Wendy, and I accompanied you on a Conn College-sponsored trip to China. My first time there and I was spending it with the man who opened my mind to the wonders of China! I spent much of those 3 weeks crying because I was so very happy to finally be in China … and you were so concerned about me; you kept asking Wendy if I was ok and she assured you I was merely crazy. And the food! What a fantastic cook! Never before or since have I had such wonderful Chinese food! Have you written your own cookbook yet? And then there was the night, maybe 5-7 years ago when you and Bettie invited me for dinner. ... little did I know that Bettie and I would be the only native English speakers there! Henry Kuo was there too; and I recited one of the many lines we had memorized ... "junggwo shr yige difang da, renkou dwo, chuchan fengfu, lishr changjyou de gwojya!" And guess what -- Tek remembered me because of that recitation. Now how embarrassing is that?
You were ever the teacher -- more recently I'd bring Ted to your house and you would babble away at me in Chinese then point to Ted and say, "Translate for him! Fanyi!" And I'd get nervous and turn red and usually translate correctly ... and if I didn't understand you would patiently explain -- in Chinese of course -- what you had said. Then make me try to translate again! I love you, Charles Chu. You will always be "my beloved Chinese professor" and "my Chinese dad!”
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