Obituary published in the Syracuse Post Standard
Alexander N. Charters
from Aug. 20 to Aug. 21, 2018
(1916-2018) passed away on August 7th in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania at the age of 101. Dr. Charters was an internationally recognized expert in the field of adult and continuing education, a devoted husband and father, and an active member of the Syracuse community for more than six decades.
Dr. Charters was born on August 22, 1916 in Verdant Valley, Alberta, Canada. He was interested in adult education from early college days in British Columbia when in a summer job as a spark-chaser in a logging camp he tutored immigrants in the evening. During World War II as an officer in the Canadian Navy, he was seconded to the British Royal Navy where he served on LSTs throughout the Mediterranean campaign from Anzio to Normandy. On repatriation as a Lt. Commander he enrolled in the University of Chicago and earned a PhD (1948) in adult education under Dr. Cyril O. Houle. That same year Dr. Charters was appointed Assistant to the Dean of University College at Syracuse University, and for over thirty years served Syracuse University in numerous positions of leadership, including Dean of University College, Professor of Adult Education and University Vice President for Continuing Education.
Over the course of his career, Dr. Charters provided leadership, expertise, and inspiration to colleagues and students, as well as national and international adult education conferences, congresses, and organizations, sharing his experience and energy with educators as nearby as Chicago and Montreal, and as far-flung as Venezuela, Tanzania, Bangkok, Ghana, Sydney, Tokyo, and Paris. He authored numerous articles on adult education, spearheaded initiatives to make a wide range of resources available to practitioners and researchers alike, and was an energetic believer in the power of education to transform the lives of adults. Dr. Charters was the founder and active supporter of the Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults at Syracuse University's Special Collections Research Center, now the largest English language adult and continuing education archives in the world. He was also a key force behind the establishment of the University Regent Theatre, known today as Syracuse Stage, which has for many years enriched the cultural life of Syracuse as well as offering valuable experience to students through its partnership with SU Drama. Upon his retirement from Syracuse University in 1983 he was honored with the title Professor Emeritus, and in 1986 he received Syracuse University's prestigious William Pearson Tolley Award for Distinguished Leadership in Adult Education. He was recognized many times over the years for his dedication and contributions to the field, including three successive appointments as Delegate to the United States National Commission for UNESCO (1965-1974), the Walter Bittner Award for Outstanding Service (National University Continuing Education Association, 1973), Citation for Leadership (Association of Continuing Higher Education, 1974), Pioneer Award (American Association for Adult Education, 1980), Diplome d'Honneur (Institut International d'Andragogie, 1986), Scroll of Appreciation (International Council for Adult Education, 1990), and the Julius M. Nolte Award for Extraordinary Leadership (University Continuing Education Association, 2004). In 1999, the University Continuing Education Association created in his name the Alexander Charters Award for Outstanding Continuing Educator New to the Field.
Outside of his professional interests, Dr. Charters was involved in numerous community activities including the Council on Aging, the Metropolitan Syracuse Committee on Adult and Continuing Education, the Urban League, and the Thursday Morning Roundtable. He was a long-standing member of Rotary, a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow (1992), and an active member of Syracuse's Park Central Presbyterian Church. Above all, he took great joy in his family: his wife of 66 years, their four children, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Alex is survived by his wife, Margaret; sons, Bill (Michelle), David (Mary Beth), and John (Cindy); daughter, Lou Anne (Jim) Vike, and many loving grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A family service will be held in Pennsylvania in September. Donations in memory of Alex may be made to the Syracuse University Libraries with the notation 'in support of the Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults'.