Charles McKinley '49, Lifelong Educator, Dies at Ninety-One

Charles F. McKinley '40, whose distinguished career in education took him from the American Midwest to the Middle East and back again, died on October 17, 2004. A resident of Hudson, Ohio, he was ninety-one.

Charles, who was a native of Mansfield, Ohio, began his undergraduate career at the University of Virginia, studying to be an architect. He made no bones about the fact that he flunked out at the end of his second term, unable to cope with college-level mathematics. Charles then went home to Mansfield, where he worked for several years in a variety of jobs to rebuild his confidence before applying, at the age of twenty-two, to become a Kenyon freshman.

An active student who wrote for the Collegian, Hika, and Reveille, sang in the choir, and joined the Dramatics Club, International Relations Club, and Delta Phi, Charles graduated from the College in 1940 as an English major. That same year, he published a book, A Voyage to the British Isles, with a preface by John Crowe Ransom. A record of a trip in 1939, the book details Charles's experiences both aboard ship and on dry land, where his adventures included a visit to Lord Kenyon at his home in Shropshire. Amid the light-hearted descriptions of English country life is a telling detail: The Dowager Lady Kenyon must rush through lunch because she is to distribute gas masks to local residents. As Ransom remarked, Charles had the good fortune to glimpse a world that, little more than a year later, was "irretrievable."

For several years following his graduation, Charles served as an administrative assistant at the College, working with the dean of freshmen, the director of admissions, and Alumni Secretary Robert B. Brown, as well as President Gordon Keith Chalmers. Later, he taught in Kenyon's World War II pre-meteorology program and at Munson and Western Reserve academies. Beginning in 1946, Charles went on to graduate study, earning a master's degree from the University of Iowa in 1948 and a doctorate from Trinity College at the University of Dublin in 1951.

Charles taught at the University of Iowa until 1954, when he won a Fulbright lectureship award to travel to Iraq. There, he took up positions at the Higher Teachers College and Queen Aliyah College and became involved in the efforts to create the University of Baghdad from the city's disparate array of institutions. Charles also taught at Al-Hikma University, a then-new Jesuit college for Christians, Jews, and Muslims that survived until 1968. Although he had made tentative plans to settle there, Charles was forced to leave Baghdad as a result of the 1958 Iraqi revolution, which overthrew the monarchy to form a republic.

Upon his return to the United States, Charles frequently lectured on his experiences, with talks whose titles-such as "The Colors and Complexities of Baghdad" and "A Look at the Palestine Problem"-have a distressingly contemporary ring. He also wrote an article for the Bulletin, "A Trouble in Eden," for which he won the award for the best article by an alumnus or alumna in the 1959-60 college publications contest sponsored by Mademoiselle magazine. Later trips to the Middle East took him to Jordan, where in 1967 he established the English department at the national university in Amman.

Charles joined the faculty of Hiram College in 1959 and remained there-except for his time in Jordan and at the Hiram study-abroad program he founded in Dublin-until his retirement in 1978. Although a professor emeritus, he continued to teach in Hiram's Weekend College for another fifteen years. Charles also demonstrated his commitment to Hiram by creating an endowed scholarship to fund international travel, which he had long urged on his students as an essential part of a liberal education.

In 1999, Kenyon Publications Director Dan Laskin wrote a profile of Charles for the Bulletin, calling him a man of "striking personal gentleness, keen sensibility, generous spirit, and aesthetic acumen." In the article, John Strassburger, president of Ursinus College, spoke glowingly of his former colleague. "He had a wonderful way of encouraging students, of giving them confidence," he said. "He saw himself as a guide to the beauty that was in a work of literature, and he had real moments of joy when he saw students make that leap to feeling the beauty in, say, a poem by Yeats." Strassburger noted that Charles also "loved teasing and being teased by students."

A memorial service was held on October 23 at Christ Church Episcopal in Hudson. Charles is survived by a nephew, John Hayes Jr., and by John's three children and eight grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to the McKinley Scholarship, Box 67, Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio 44234, or to Christ Church Episcopal, 21 Aurora Street, Hudson, Ohio 44236-2902.

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