Thatcher, Charles M.

Charles M. Thatcher
EHS Class of 1939
Our father, Charles M. Thatcher moved to Escanaba with his family in 1929. By the time he graduated from Escanaba High School (as Valedictorian in the Class of ’39) he had enjoyed a wide variety of activities (serving in the National Honor Society, lettering in football, playing trombone in the band, singing in operettas, acting in the senior class play, sailing, swimming, skiing, and editing The Escanaban, to name but a few). Education in the Escanaba school system provided an outstanding foundation for a life filled with music, humor, and a love of learning.

Dad left Escanaba to attend the University of Michigan (Class of ’43, BSE in Chemical Engineering) and continued to pursue many of the interests he had begun to pursue in the U.P. (marching band, editor of The Michigan Daily, and All-Campus Honor Society). He enlisted in the ROTC (becoming Cadet Colonel in a 1,200-man regiment), became a brother in Sigma Chi Fraternity (receiving the National Balfour Award for Leadership), and started singing barbershop quartet. (He’s still singing close harmony to this day.)

Following his service in the Army as an Ordnance Officer from 1943 – 1946, attaining the rank of Captain, Chuck returned to the University of Michigan to earn MSE and PhD degrees in Chemical Engineering. He began a lifelong career in education as an Assistant Dean of Students before joining the Chemical Engineering faculty (Instructor 1947 – 1955, Assistant Professor 1956 – 1958). He left Ann Arbor to take a position as Professor and Department Head (1958 – 1965) at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. While there he received a National Award for Teaching Excellence, authored two textbooks, served on an advisory committee for the Arctic Environmental Lab at the University of Alaska, and was the chairman of the Chemical Engineering Division, American Society of Engineering Education.

Professor Thatcher was promoted to Dean of the School of Engineering And Science (1965 – 1970) before leaving New York (forsaking the sailing opportunities he had exploited in Long Island Sound and in the Bermuda Races) for a Distinguished Professor position at the University of Arkansas (1970 – 1992). While there he twice served as interim department-head, authored a third textbook, received the All-Campus Award for Teaching Excellence, served as University Faculty Chairman, helped create a University Faculty Teaching Academy (1st president), received Reynolds Metals Company Plaque Award for Consulting Service, and delivered frequent speeches on such topics as time management, scholarship, and leadership.

Dad retired in 1992 in deference to the age-70 mandatory retirement policy then in effect. He was so well remembered, however, that he was called back to teach (so much for the mandatory retirement age!) in 2005 and 2006. His enthusiasm for teaching continues to this day, as he has considered getting the credentials to become a substitute teacher in Milaca, Minnesota, where he currently resides, and he has also done some tutoring in algebra.

In addition to his dedication to and love of education (and his family), our father also enjoyed a wonderful relationship in his service to Sigma Chi Fraternity (1948 to present). He was a faculty member for the Sigs’ National Leadership Workshop every summer we can remember growing up (even though it always fell on his wedding anniversary). He served on the National Executive Committee (1964 – 1979) and was the Fraternity’s International President from 1975 to 1977. Even this year, he will attend the Executive Council meeting in Washington, DC, and probably the annual Workshop in August (but only if he is assigned something meaningful to do). We were glad to learn the Escanaba Sesquicentennial Celebration was scheduled between the two Sigma Chi commitments because we are all looking forward to being in his hometown again. We think it is safe to say that Charles M. Thatcher, our Father (who art not yet in heaven, but one day will be) has enjoyed great success in life and has been and remains a fine “Native Son” of Escanaba. We, his children, are grateful for everything he gained from his roots there.

Submitted by Carol Thatcher and Char Thatcher