Newspapers and media across the nation reported the death this week of the respected journalist Chuck Stone, who died April 6 at the age of 89. For many on the University of Delaware campus, the news was personal -- they knew him as a colleague, mentor and friend.
While still a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, Chuck Stone was named Distinguished Visiting Minority Professor of English at UD in 1984. He then served as professor of English, teaching journalism courses until 1991, when he was named Walter Spearman Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of North Carolina.
In 1989, Prof. Stone received UD's Excellence in Teaching Award and was named the 1991 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer in Arts and Science, awarded to an outstanding University faculty member to celebrate the intellectual and artistic achievements of the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences.
In 2000, the University's Board of Trustees honored him with the University of Delaware Medal of Distinction, awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions to the community, state or region. The board resolution read, in part, "In his columns, Mr. Stone targeted discrimination in all its insidious forms. He gained fame for ending hostage situations and serving as the middleman for suspects who wanted to surrender but feared police discrimination. In the classroom at the University of Delaware, Mr. Stone won the respect of his students…."
For many years, Prof. Stone was married to Louise Stone, who served as director of Publications at UD from 1985-90. She died in 2011.
Some members of the University community share their remembrances of Chuck Stone below.
'A fearless advocate for social justice'
Carol Rudisell, librarian in Reference and Instructional Services, University of Delaware Library, met Prof. Stone shortly after she arrived at UD in 1987.
"As a young African American professional who was new to Delaware, I sought out the Black Faculty/Staff Coalition, a loosely organized group comprised of faculty, professional staff and other employees of the University. The organization was co-chaired by Chuck Stone, who was teaching journalism in the English department, and Crystal Hayman, who was then working with the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program.
"What I remember most about Chuck was that he was a fearless advocate for social justice. He wasn't afraid to speak out against injustice wherever he saw it, whether it be here at the University or in the larger community. The Black Faculty/Staff Coalition, later renamed the University of Delaware African American Coalition (UDAAC), examined issues surrounding the hiring and retention of faculty and staff, but also advocated for the University to drop its investments in companies doing business in apartheid South Africa.
"Chuck was a great supporter of libraries, and I remember feeling so honored when he agreed to speak to the University of Delaware Library staff as part of our newly created diversity program. He was our first invited speaker and he addressed the role that libraries have played in promoting civil rights and social justice.
"Even though Chuck dealt with many unpleasant issues, he had such a joyful personality! He was very charismatic ... very funny .... and he kept you laughing. As one of my colleagues recollected, he had a very infectious laugh and a true joie-de-vivre. And who can forget his ever-present bow tie!"
'The most joyous person I've ever known'
Dennis Jackson, retired professor of English, directed UD's Journalism Program most of the time that Prof. Stone was at Delaware, teaching courses in news writing and editing, advanced reporting, opinion writing, censorship and more.
"Anything we asked of him, he was always happy to do. He was busy -- besides writing his columns and numerous articles for academic and trade journals, he gave several public speeches a week and the demands on his time were great.
"He was constantly on the move, but never too busy to stop on a campus sidewalk to talk with a student or colleague. He never seemed to feel stress, and moved through life with (I think I'm stealing from Mark Twain here) the confidence of a Christian holding four aces.
"One could not miss Chuck on campus -- his three-piece Brooks Brothers suits, his graying crewcut, his colorful hand-tied bow ties (he would never wear a clip-on), his swinging stride through the hallways of Memorial Hall with the metal taps on his shoes clicking rhythmically.
"Being around Chuck was fun for all -- department secretaries would answer a telephone and joyfully announce, 'It's Jesse Jackson, and he needs to talk to Chuck Stone,' or 'Sen. Ted Kennedy wants Chuck to call him back at this number,' or 'The Philadelphia Police are calling to get Chuck Stone to help them break up a hostage crisis at a bank.' (All true--and typical stories.) Few UD students have had the experience of having a class end early so their professor could rush off and save lives, but that truly happened several times while he was here.
"One of the things that made Chuck Stone so successful as a professor -- he won the award for excellence in teaching at UD and then won an equivalent award at the University of North Carolina his first year there -- was that he was so knowledgeable about so many subjects. Students picked up on this breadth of Chuck's interests, and he never intimidated anyone with his intelligence. Rather, he inspired students to want to go out and study and know things and be like Chuck.
"He was an active and willing participant in the life of our UD community. He was a co-leader of the Black Faculty and Staff Caucus, an active advisor to the Review, a member of numerous committees (often high-level ones), and I never saw him turn down a request by anyone on campus seeking him to offer a speech for their group or department. His favorite quotation -- and one he fully lived up to, in his life and engagements on the University of Delaware campus, was this one from Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: 'As life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived.' Here, in 2014, no one could reasonably judge Chuck Stone of not having 'lived' his life fully.
"Most of all, Chuck Stone was the most joyous person I've ever known. Witty, good-humored, life-loving. He was alive every day he was alive. He enjoyed people, loved being around students and even his colleagues."
Carol Henderson, chairperson of the Department of Black American Studies, remembers Prof. Stone's work in social justice.
"Chuck Stone was a trailblazer who forged a path of social justice on this campus and elsewhere ... bright enough for all of us to see. We are his living legacy ... and it is one that we must honor daily by the ways in which we treat our fellow human beings. Mr. Stone's life spoke volumes in this regard."
'Clear and open demeanor'
Joann Thomas, who was Prof. Stone's assistant, remembers "a warm, engaging professor who changed my life."
"Newly arrived to Delaware and seeking a part-time job, I checked the University's job site which listed a job working '…for a eminent journalist.' I thought that was mine. Little did I realize how much it would change my life.
"Arriving late for our interview because of difficulty finding a parking place, I was struck by Chuck's ability to draw out my life's history. He then told me he would hire me only if I returned to school and completed my interrupted degree. I did and he encouraged me all the way through my master's. I owe him my education and my teaching career.
"Chuck Stone was the most consistently cheerful person I have ever met. He was a joy with which to work. He ennobled every person who came into our office by his clear and open demeanor. His life adventures in the political and law enforcement arena and his popularity with students assured that our office was a busy and constantly interesting place. Our phone rang with requests for Chuck from criminals from death row whom he had befriended or from people on the national political scene. He was greatly missed when he left for the University of North Carolina.
"The week he died I found a print I'd framed of a political cartoon honoring Chuck. He'd signed it for me. The inscription written in the sienna ink he always used said, '...you did more to save me, keep me straight, and help me to succeed at Delaware than anyone…' It brought back memories of some of our escapades. It was a chapter of my life in which I proud to have participated. Chuck Stone will live in my heart forever!"
'Champion of human rights'
When Prof. Stone was at UD, he and James M. Jones, professor of psychology and Black American Studies and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity, were among the few African American full professors here.
"Chuck Stone was an elegant, affable and charismatic figure on campus during his short time at UD. He was a good friend and mentor, an engaging teacher, and a great colleague. Our conversations about where UD was and needed to go to achieve a representative and inclusive campus were always tinged with humor and resolve. He was an activist, a scholar and a leader who always 'spoke truth to power' and was an effective advocate for social justice. We have lost a great leader and champion of human rights."
Article originally published April 11, 2014 in UDaily.